Monday, 2 May 2016

Zac Goldsmith, clickbait and the perversion of politics

The relentless media frenzy over the Labour party's travails just seems too convenient.  Last week the Tories faced what could be a highly embarrassing legal process over the 2015 General Election, and the apparent ambiguity of their campaign funding (naturally working in their favour).  There is about to be another assault on the BBC, with the compromised Culture Secretary doing the business on behalf of Murdoch and others to whom he owes fealty.  The EU referendum debate is proving to be less straightforward for the Brexit brigade, whose risible parade of the undead and the never-alive gets more desperate by the week.

This is the inevitable result of degraded politics.  I had intended returning to a critique of economic policy over the last four decades, but despair about the level of discourse and potential for political debate means that this will need to await this week's elections and a more composed attitude.  Instead, the focus on the media's repugnancy and the despicable techniques being used to cheapen debate and marginalise those whose involvement in politics is more than merely a toxic, self-obsessed pursuit of power, should be ringing alarm bells.

Engagement in politics diminishes, and the parties become marginalised.  This is inevitable when the level of conduct is defined by what can be got away with, rather than what should be expected.  All shades of the political spectrum have their exponents of this perversion.  There are also those in all parties whose motivations are to serve the public, and who are prepared to acknowledge that their views, however sincere, can be challenged, argued with and should not be used as the basis for closing down debate.

The final nadir of this was not Livingstone's or Khan's behaviour, stupid and insensitive though they may have been.  In my view, politics has been dragged from the sewer into the rectal realms of the Devil by the Mail on Sunday and Zac Goldsmith, whose blatant attempt to smear Labour's mayoral candidate as a terrorist fellow-traveller would, in a world where normal, civilised standards applied, result in revulsion or disgust - if Khan had used any similar slurs against the plutocrat, trustafarian hypocrite the Blackshirt attack dogs would have been calling not merely for his removal from the candidacy but for his prosecution.  The silence of the Prime Minister is nothing short of what is expected from a man who cannot comprehend how he should be setting an example of better practice.

As a cynic, this has all the hoof-prints of Lynton Crosby about it.  Last week's furore over Labour was  inflamed for partisan advantage - not that there was anything to be proud of for Corbyn, but Khan was demonstrating resilience in the face of increasingly hysterical attempts to smear him from both Cameron and Goldsmith.  Khan may be pedestrian, but he is not smug, manipulative or obviously sectional in his interests, and as London stood apart from the pro-Tory mood in England in 2015 he was obviously in with a chance.  Given he had been reaching out to London's large Jewish communities, what better than to whistle this particular dog?  Especially in the context of the difficulty in disproving anti-semitism given the McCarthyite views of parts of the media, conveniently jumping on the bandwagon.

Goldsmith's racist rant would not have disgraced Nick Griffin, although it is amusing to note that the latter scumbag has endorsed Livingston's views.  Indeed, as was pointed out, the picture of the bombed bus from 7th July 2005 had also been used to adorn a broadly-similar BNP leaflet in Barking.  Goldsmith is clearly banking on either winning, in which case that will be a legitimate tactic, or losing, in which case his career is stalled (hopefully over), and when a racist, Islamophobe slur will be the least of his worries.  What disgusts me is that this could even be seen as a proper political tactic, let alone moral or evidenced.

Politicians aren't trusted, and they need to be.  A political class has developed that is broadly isolated both from reality and from the perceptions of the impact of their behaviour.  This has led to fragmentation and insurgency, which is doubtless one of the factors in the SNP's success - although as a party with a programme and objectives they will not unravel as other protesting destinations like the Liberal Democrats and UKIP have done, but more crucially towards disconnection from politics.  The belief that both the system and its participants stink is widespread - Goldsmith has sunk to a depth designed to secure clicks to the Sunday Blackshirt.

For anyone to come out of this with credit in the Tories, they need to disown him before the election. This is on the same scale as Boris's public racism, and equivalent to anything that individual members of the Labour Party (or indeed the more hidden Tory antisemites) have come up with.  Goldsmith should be isolated - staff, support and funding - and left out to dry alongside other right-wing demagogues whose true colours only come out in the public contest of an election.

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