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There’s no such thing as “suspending” a political campaign.

May 27, 2017


Exploiting a national tragedy for political purposes is a sin of a high order.  Accusing a party or parties of exploiting a national tragedy for political purposes is a correspondingly serious charge.

Perhaps it takes courage to forego political advantage in the national interest.  And -perhaps it also takes a kind of courage to risk being accused of exploiting a security emergency by taking steps which are profoundly necessary while happening to be politically advantageous.

In any case, no “interruption” of politics actually puts a campaign in suspended animation.   A hiatus in a campaign has political implications even if it doesn’t have political motives.  To adopt North-American sporting parlance – “suspending” the campaign is like calling a “time out”.   And “time outs” serve a particular purpose for particular teams at particular times.  In any kind of competition, one player or players enjoys that nebulous yet potent thing called “momentum” (itself the name of a political movement) at any given time.  A hiatus checks that momentum and is therefore deployed for tactical purposes.

Claiming to be “above politics” is a profoundly political claim.  Even if made unilaterally, it needs to be instantly multi-lateralised, even if (especially if) you take a completely cynical view of the political process.  Does this mean that we should always be cynical about such announcements?  No.  Does it mean that Theresa May was wrong to suspend her campaign following this hideous mass murders in Manchester?  No.  Does it mean that the political dynamics of the 2017 UK election campaign were actually  frozen for the duration of this suspension?  No.

The situation becomes more fraught with anxiety when it’s considered that the Conservative Party campaign had been reduced to repeating the words “strong” and “stable” at regular intervals.  Conservative policies have not been costed, not been detailed, not been consistent, and have taken no account of an economic slowdown already visible and which Hard Brexit is likely to exacerbate.  Nor is Theresa May good with humans.  She doesn’t seem to like humans much, doesn’t seem to know much about them, and is profoundly ill-qualified to be seen in public trying to talk to them.

Am I in any position to criticise an official security report that says that Britain‘s security situation is “critical” and troops are needed on the streets.  I am not.   Is it the case that this apparently necessary show of strength happens to be congruent with the pre-existing mantra of the Conservative campaign?  Yes it is.

The monstrous pathology that spurred the slaughter in Manchester is one that cannot tolerate differences, political or otherwise.  It’s a pathology that insists on a totalitarian and all consuming vision imposed on everyone it can reach and which cannot live with any notion of dissent.  A polity created in the image of the Manchester mass-murderer would permit no politics.  It is a world with a single unequivocal vision of intolerant “righteousness” that would exterminate anything that risks complicating such a vision.  It is arguable, therefore, that one of the best and truest responses to murderous totalitarianism is to restart vigorous but peaceful political campaigning as soon as possible.  Britain is a profoundly divided country – disagreeing about a great many things.  This is no time for Britons to rally around supposedly “core values” and smother fundamental social, cultural and economic differences about how Britain is to serve its own people as well as to begin to imagine a generous and honorable international role. Frank and passionate political campaigning is more cherishable than anything else right now.  And at some point, when deciding what it is that is in urgent need of state protection at a time of elevated security alerts, the preservation of passionate political disagreement itself  should be listed.

Of course it also becomes critical therefore, to consider whether any particular government deserves to be trusted to put national interest ahead of narrow party advantage, and what their track record consists of in this critical respect.


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  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Posted this a week ago…

  2. NMac permalink

    Unless, Conrad, the bullying Tories are losing it and they are regretting ever having called the unnecessary election, which in their arrogance they thought would be a walk over.

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