Last week you may have noticed that the Tory Press – that bastion of Free Expression which empowers avaricious psychopaths to pay their lickspittles to write lies about the people they hate – got a serious attack of the vapours over Labour’s leaked manifesto, filling their front pages with “Corbyn Goes Back To 1970s!” shock horror headlines. Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that researchers have shown that Britain was actually as its quantifiably happiest in 1976, when inflation was pushing 28% and everything was allegedly shit, but the gap between the richest and poorest was at its lowest ever; we should also remember what else was great about the 70s.
Bowie, Dark Side of the Moon, Punk, Tom Baker as Doctor Who, the Godfather films, Nixon getting found out, the Health and Safety at Work Act, Abba, 28 million people watching the Morecombe and Wise Christmas Special in 1977 (which is ten and a half million more people than voted to leave the European Union last June, though fewer than the number of people who watched The Mike Yarwood Christmas Special earlier that evening – now that’s what I call the Will of the People), me being 18 – the list goes on and on. And in that prelapsarian time before neo-liberalism enslaved and robbed us blind to enrich the rich yet further, one of the finest cultural achievements was the BBC’s television adaptation of Robert Graves’ “I Claudius”. In addition to making stars of Derek Jacobi and John Hurt, it also gave useful advice on how to kill a paranoid emperor (paint poison on the figs while they’re still on the tree) and contained too many showstopping moments to list. One of my favourites, however, remains the scene when everyone finally realises how completely mad Hurt’s Emperor Caligula truly is, after he declares war on King Neptune and returns from fighting the sea with the spoils and booty of war: basket after basket full of seashells.
It’s possible that we might all clock precisely how mad Theresa May is before she returns from her Brexit Negotiations with a skip full of onion skins, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Not least because the narrative arc we’re being sold is that this election is little more than a formality in the coronation of a leader so brimming over with strength and stability she can’t be trusted to meet the electorate, debate her opponents or even answer a question without prior notice of what it is. Nor are we allowed to know how she’ll negotiate our national suicide in the least damaging way or anything much else beyond registering our trust in Herself and her claim to ineffable wisdom, where even her party has now become the small print, little more than a disco mirror ball existing solely to reflect back her effulgent glory. Nor, for that matter, does anyone dare whisper that the only people who can actually vote for Theresa May are the poor sods of Maidenhead, because that’s not the kind of democracy we live in.
What kind we do live in should have been obvious to everyone for ages, though no one seems to care any more. By couching the whole election as presidential – but think Papa Doc Duvalier rather than Abraham Lincoln – this level of lying about the basic nature of things should be alarming far more people than it seems to be, because the lying soon becomes so constant and all encompassing that it’s almost impossible to imagine that anyone could lie that much – mostly about their own capabilities – without being personally delusional. May’s manifold shortcomings – her joylessness, heartlessness, mithlessness and overall tin ear for human – suggest to me someone wholly lacking in the low but very human animal cunning, half-charm, half-thuggery, needed to negotiate a deal with anyone about anything, let alone govern a country in the interests of its citizens
But as I say, no one seems to care any more. I thought that the last election, two long, manic years ago, was the vilest of my lifetime, where politics finally crumbled into a playpen for hobbyists, whether it was Cameron doing faux rage rolling up his sleeves to an audience of a dozen party workers in an abandoned warehouse or even Ed taking a selfie of himself posing by his policy rockery. I clearly didn’t know what vile meant.
But maybe this corrupt, squalid kind of pig-in-a-pokery baseless trust isn’t just where we are, but where we want to be. Maybe too many of us now figure politics and all the other aspects of our shared national life is like a kind of Situationist alcopop: everything happens just for the fleeting second of it happening, and it happens to make me, specifically and often exclusively, feel good about myself for the bat of an eyelid. Then I do it again forever. In which case, the purpose of you, me and our country is to make Theresa May feel good about herself. That you and me and our whole country along with our hopes and dreams will, by definition, need to be hammered into a bent and distorting mirror for her to preen in front of is, as it happens, apparently none of our damned business.