13 October, 2012

Politics in the mourning

After a modestly successful speech to his party conference, what do you think was the first thing Mr Cameron did? Planned the celebration in July 2014 of the beginning of the First World War, announcing the happy jamboree in a speech at the Imperial War Museum.

Now every November 11th, British, Americans, French, Belgians, Italians and lots of others celebrate, at 11am, the end of the First World War: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I shall be giving my few euros and observing the minute's silence as I have done all my life. In 2014 am I supposed to stop this because I have celebrated the start of the war a couple of months before?

What is this business of celebrating the start of a war? Do we celebrate the start of the Second World War, the Boer war or the Vietnam War? No. So what is going on here?

Mr. Cameron is hijacking it for his own purposes, that is what is going on. He knows it is unlikely that he will be in power in 2018, the centenary of the end of WW1, which might be worth celebrating, so he is starting some tawdry political démarche of his own. He wants all schoolchildren to visit the battlefields in France and Belgium. Why? Has he ever been there? Mile after mile of flat countryside, interspersed in the grey weather with grey monuments of 'Enfants morts pour la Patrie': in what way is it beneficial for them to experience that? And it won't take place without a certain amount of jingoism, you can be sure, whereas in my own mind there is grave doubt as to whether we should have entered WW1 at all (WW2 is an entirely different matter).

So what has possessed Cameron to do this? He has been advised by his focus groups that these national gatherings are beneficial for the incumbent government (although if that is true you'd have thought that the Royal Wedding, the Jubilee and the Olympics would have been enough even for the most unpopular administration).

And it's not just that: 2014 will be the year of the Scottish Referendum on independence, and Mr Cameron wants the Scots to remain in the UK (he never seems to have explained why he takes this view). This, he hopes, will bind us together and keep the Scots in the fold accepting the annual bribe from England.

Cameron is trying to manipulate the national consciousness for his own purposes. He must be denounced for it.

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