Thursday, November 01, 2007

May I inherit your inherent selfishness?

Today would apparently have been the day of the general election had Gordon Brown gone through with his plans for a snap election (whereby, I presume, traditional democratic procedures are ditched in favour of a big game of cards... oops, cracked that one before). The media's immense disappointment at the decision was tangible. Faced with the prospect of having to find something else to fill their front pages with, and something else to cover as a diversion from the despicably hypocritical fanfare afforded to the Saudi King and his entourage by our government in the last couple of days, they quickly turned on Brown.

Old Etonian wonderchild David Cameron's Tories are marking the date with a poster campaign, which is an idea I appreciate, if not for the reasons they hope. Honeymoon period slowly dying out? Still detached from the electorate? Here, might as well try another poster campaign. It reminds me of the 'Speed 3' episode of Father Ted where the problem of Dougal's runaway milk float is proving difficult to solve and, after copious amounts of masses and brainstorming sessions, with no ideas left on the table, one of the priests says "is there ANYTHING to be said for another mass?"

Around the time of all the election speculation I became disturbingly tribal towards Labour. I'm so petrified by the British public's stupidity and apparent willingness to sleepwalk back into the arms of Tory government that I found myself defending Gordon Brown's every action. Saying things I didn't quite believe and supporting cynical party-political manouvres I'd normally lambast as being symptomatic of the death of mainstream politics in this country - all because the alternative is so much worse. When everyone was saying Labour would win an autumn election I thought 'go for it, needs must'. Then when Brown called it off amid suggestions it'd be a closely run thing, I concurred 'best not to take any risks'. The mock disgust at Brown's "playing politics with the public" from the opposition and sections of the media was laughable. Almost as much as his denial that the polls had influenced his U-turn. But what exactly did we expect him to say?

The most depressing aspect of all the election tomfoolery was the obsession with inheritance tax and its apparent vote-winning potential. The opinion polls swung to the Tories practically overnight after proposing they'd raise the tax threshold to £1m. There seems to be a blanket perception that inheritance tax is unfair, when in reality it's an extremely sensible and rational mechanism that at least hints at an intention to aid social mobility. It has a semblance of redistribution about it, however small (only 6% of British property value is currently paid in inheritance tax, afterall). The public's obsession with the tax and its trivial impact on the pockets of Middle England reinforces how much our mindsets are dictated by irrationality and selfishness. Admittedly, the taxation rates needed to be tweaked and scaled more sharply to affect super-rich property owners, but Brown's fawning response of copying the Tories was downright depressing. Never mind though - I'd still prefer his big rubbery, miserable face in Number 10 than Cameron and his slippery Oil Of Olay sheen.

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