Morrissey Hasn’t Changed — We Have

Morrissey is always going to dis­ap­point those who want him to be some kind of ‘singing Stephen Fry with a quiff’, argues Mark Simpson

grey Morrissey Hasnt Changed   We Have

 Originally appeared on The Spectator Arts Blog

Because the 80s is the dec­ade that actu­ally ended the 20th Century – the 90s was just an after-party clean-up oper­a­tion – it’s also the dec­ade that never came to an end itself. In fact, the 80s is the dec­ade that just won’t die.

Economy in (‘Big Bang’) reces­sion. Tories in power. Cuts on the table. Riots on the streets. Royal wed­dings on the telly. The Falklands becom­ing a fight­ing issue. And my mother com­plain­ing about Morrissey: ‘I see that chap you like so much has been in the papers again. Ridiculous man! And he still can’t sing!’

As Madonna might put it, it’s all a bit reductive.

In fact every­one has been enjoy­ing moan­ing about Morrissey lately – just like the good old days. In case you some­how missed it, at a per­form­ance in Argentina last week, his band appeared in t-shirts prin­ted with the charm­ing mes­sage ‘WE HATE WILLIAM AND KATE’ (remem­ber 80s protest t-shirts?).

Perhaps wor­ried this might be over­looked back home, the former Smiths front-man also offered this bou­quet to his Argentine fans about those bit­terly con­tested, sparsely-populated rocks in the South Atlantic: ‘Everybody knows they belong to you’.

The Times, Mirror, Telegraph, Sun and Mail all duti­fully denounced Morrissey’s big mouth. The Guardian for its part ran an earn­est dis­cus­sion between two music crit­ics titled: ‘Is Morrissey a national treas­ure?’ (The answer seemed to be ‘yes – but a very naughty one.’)

Not bad for a 52-year-old crooner cur­rently without a record con­tract. But then, just like that other 80s diva keen on hair­spray and frilly-collared blouses, we’ll never entirely be rid of him.

The British exper­i­ence of the 80s is forever dom­in­ated by two very dif­fi­cult per­son­al­it­ies. Both from the north, both unafraid to speak their mind, and both pos­sess­ing a gender all of their own.

And while one was a working-class mil­it­ant veget­arian anarch­ist Sandie Shaw fan with a flair for homo­erotic imagery, and the other a bossy petit bour­geois social Darwinist and devotee of General Pinochet who fam­ously out­lawed the ‘pro­mo­tion of homo­sexu­al­ity’, both of them were rad­ic­als on a revenge trip.

But if Margaret Thatcher owned the 80s, Steven Patrick Morrissey stole its youth. Or at least, the youth that didn’t want to be a part of Thatcher’s 80s. The Smiths were not just an‘alternative’ band: they were the altern­at­ive that Maggie said didn’t exist.

In fact, The Smiths were reviled by almost every­one at the time – Fleet Street, the BBC (they were effect­ively banned from day­time Radio 1), the record busi­ness (they were signed to a teeny-weeny Indie label), and indeed most of the record buy­ing pub­lic (their singles struggled to even get into the top 20).

But they have become the heart of a dec­ade that didn’t have one. They are now the band that every­one liked – two or three dec­ades after the event.

Including, most fam­ously, David Cameron, who used The Smiths and Morrissey as a Tory re-branding and detox­i­fy­ing tool at least as import­ant as those melt­ing gla­ciers he went to gawp at. Declaring The Smiths his favour­ite group not long after gain­ing the lead­er­ship of the ‘Nasty Party’, he was even pic­tured, if memory serves me right, with a copy of Morrissey’s 2005 album Ringleader of the Tormentors on his desk.

But Morrissey, whatever you may think of him, isn’t a man to be assim­il­ated lightly. Especially by a Chipping Norton Tory.

When, in 2010, his estranged former Smiths col­lab­or­ator Johnny Marr tweeted that he ‘for­bade’ David Cameron from lik­ing the Smiths, animal rights act­iv­ist Morrissey endorsed him, adding:

David Cameron hunts and shoots and kills stags – appar­ently for pleas­ure. It was not for such people that either Meat Is Murder or The Queen Is Dead were recor­ded; in fact, they were made as a reac­tion against such violence.’

No-one can be genu­inely sur­prised that someone who called an album The Queen is Dead is fiercely anti-Royalist. No-one can be shocked that the man who sang ‘Irish Blood English Heart’ is no fan of the rem­nants of the British Empire. And let’s not for­get his fam­ous 1984 quip: ‘The sor­row of the Brighton bomb­ing is that Margaret Thatcher escaped unscathed’, or the track ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ for his 1988 album Viva Hate.

Unless, that is, they hoped that Morrissey had mel­lowed with age and become some sort of singing Stephen Fry with a quiff. Morrissey’s views haven’t changed. Morrissey hasn’t changed. He still hasn’t grown up. He’s still an adoles­cent cur­mudgeon, an oth­er­worldly prophet from Stretford — he’s just older and thicker around the middle, and with a bit more cash to spend. He did, after all, prom­ise us again and again that he wouldn’t change, couldn’t change.

It’s we, his fans, who have changed. If we’re embar­rassed by his antics it may be because we’ve finally become the people we used to hate.

Download Mark Simpson’s acclaimed ‘psycho-bio’ Saint Morrissey on Kindle

Put a Ring On It

My old friend the (gay) human rights cam­paigner Peter Tatchell, once loathed by the pop­u­lar press for his ‘rad­ical extrem­ism’, is the biggest, loudest voice in the UK call­ing for same sex marriage.

Or was, until he found him­self in bed recently with David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister, who stole his thun­der some­what by announ­cing at the Tory Party Conference this month his sup­port for gay mar­riage – “Not des­pite my being a Conservative, but because I’m a Conservative.”

In the UK civil part­ner­ships were intro­duced in 2004, giv­ing same sex couples who signed up for them effect­ively the same legal rights – and priv­ileges over single people – as mar­ried couples. Civil part­ner­ships have been regarded as a suc­cess, and while it’s true that many les­bi­ans and gays prob­ably would want the option, unlike in the US there has been no great clam­our for same sex mar­riage – no riots in Soho or MLK-esque speeches at the BAFTAs.

In fact, the lack of much of a clam­our for same-sex mar­riage (except for per­haps the one com­ing from Tatchell) is one of the reas­ons why Cameron was able to so eas­ily co-opt – or ‘out’ – gay mar­riage as some­thing essen­tially Conservative/conservative. And in the pro­cess com­plete his swishy remod­el­ling of the Tories as the socially lib­eral, Nice to Gays, MetroTory Party, rather than The Nasty Party people remem­ber from the 80s, 90s and much of the Noughties. While throw­ing his Coalition part­ners the Lib-Dems a boner.

And in an import­ant sense he’s right about gay mar­riage: Conservatives don’t like new insti­tu­tions, they like old ones. Really dusty, cob­webby ones that don’t work any­more. Although age­ing hang ‘em and flog ‘em Shire Tories whom Holland Park ‘Dave’ clearly des­pises and who des­pise him back with interest won’t agree, bet­ter that gays line up to get mar­ried than go off and do their own civil thing. Especially when no one else is both­er­ing to get mar­ried any more.

Unsurprisingly, half-hearted pro­pos­als to extend civil part­ner­ships to cross-sex couples have been dropped – the reason cross-sex couples were barred from civil part­ner­ships in the first place was due to fears that this would ‘under­mine mar­riage’. The Tories, remem­ber, want to prop up the lame duck industry of mar­riage by intro­du­cing a state sub­sidy for it.

But should Cameron suc­ceed in leg­al­ising same-sex mar­riage, Tatchell isn’t going to get gay mar­ried him­self. Despite his very per­sonal iden­ti­fic­a­tion with the cause of same sex mar­riage in the UK for sev­eral years, and his use of melo­dra­matic rhet­oric such as ‘sexual apartheid’ and ‘rid­ing at the back of the bus’ to describe civil part­ner­ships, he rejects mar­riage alto­gether – on polit­ical  grounds. Debating with Suzanne Moore (another old friend of mine) in Saturday’s Guardian in the wake of Cameron’s pledge, he repeated an argu­ment he has made many times before:

Personally, I don’t like mar­riage. I share the fem­in­ist cri­tique of its his­tory of sex­ism and pat­ri­archy. I would not want to get married.’

In other words, he sees mar­riage as a sys­tem of oppres­sion and inequal­ity which he wants noth­ing to do with. Though of course, this doesn’t mean he can’t cru­sade self­lessly for the right of oth­ers to get oppressed:

But as a demo­crat and human rights defender, I sup­port the right of oth­ers to marry. This is a simple issue of equal­ity. The ban on same-sex mar­riage is dis­crim­in­a­tion and dis­crim­in­a­tion is wrong, full stop.’

Even without dwell­ing on the slight con­tra­dic­tion of cam­paign­ing for the exten­sion of a sys­tem of oppres­sion and inequal­ity under the ban­ner of equal­ity, Tatchell is not present­ing much of an argu­ment here. Rather — and I say this as someone who owes Peter a debt of thanks for help­ing to get my first book pub­lished and for provid­ing a crack­ing essay for my 1996collection Anti-Gay — it’s a school­marmish piece of mor­al­ism designed to close down debate: ‘…dis­crim­in­a­tion is wrong, full stop’. Oh, no! The dreaded full stop! That’s it then. My powers of dia­lectic have turned to dust!

I’ve heard sim­ilar from lib­eral het­eros who like to wear their sup­port for gay mar­riage as a badge of their lib­er­al­ism, and are crest­fal­len when you don’t pat them on the back for it. The poor dears usu­ally end up irrit­ably dis­miss­ing queer kill­joys like me as ‘per­verse’ and ‘eccent­ric’. Liberal do-gooders know best, even when they’re straight lib­eral do-gooders talk­ing about gay mar­riage to gayers.

Thankfully, not all straight lib­er­als think alike — in the Guardian debate Suzanne Moore dares to be the straight party-pooper at the gay mar­riage recep­tion, air­ing many of the argu­ments that lots of LGBT people agree with but tend to keep quiet about in front of the Goyim. Like her, I’m not so much against same-sex mar­riage (what would be the point of that? Unless you have a kink for chain­ing your­self to church rail­ings), as just not for it.

But agnosti­cism about gay mar­riage isn’t really per­mit­ted. After all, gay America, Tatchell, straight lib­er­als and even David Cameron all say we have to be for it. Full stop.

Thing is, if you get with the pro­gramme and make equal­ity for its own sake your god you can end up say­ing really daft things which you clearly don’t believe. Worse, by mak­ing it the meas­ure of ‘equal­ity’, you make even more of a fet­ish out of mar­riage than the traditionalists.

And someone like Peter Tatchell, who has a long, rad­ical his­tory, who rejects mar­riage as ‘sex­ist and pat­ri­archal’, who would like to see civil part­ner­ships made more flex­ible and exten­ded to cross-sex couples (so would I, but it’s not going to hap­pen under this Government), ends up say­ing stuff like: ‘mar­riage is the gold stand­ard.’

Perhaps, des­pite his deni­als, Peter really does want to get mar­ried after all. Sometimes he cer­tainly sounds like a very old-fashioned girl.

CleggCam: The ‘Progressive Partnership’ Giving it to You Both Ends

grey CleggCam: The Progressive Partnership Giving it to You Both Ends

A few months back I wrote a piece for The Times arguing that straight couples should be allowed to have civil part­ner­ships. But now that I’ve seen the UK’s first straight civil part­ner­ship cere­mony in the Rose Garden of Number 10 Downing Street I’m not so sure.

In the romantic Spring sun­shine the groom and the groom declared their ‘pro­gress­ive part­ner­ship’ to the world and explained why they had decided to tie the knot with a full coali­tion – the first since the Second World War – instead of just hav­ing a more cas­ual, living-together ‘con­fid­ence and sup­ply’ shag-on-demand thing. “We both looked at each other and thought that it was unin­spir­ing,‘’ said Dave Cameron, while Nick Clegg nod­ded and smiled serenely.  Something he will prob­ably have to get used to doing a lot of.

Labour supremo Lord Mandelson’s fam­ous warn­ing, ‘Vote for Nick Clegg and you’ll wake up with David Cameron’, proved only half true. He should have told us: ‘Vote for Clegg and you’ll wake up with Cameron and Clegg giv­ing it to you both ends, no lube and def­in­itely no pop­pers’. Two super posh, priv­ileged trust-fund kids preach­ing from lecterns about the sac­ri­fices the rest of us are going to have to make while they shack up in Downing Street every so kindly provid­ing us with the ‘strong and stable gov­ern­ment’ that they were so clearly born to deliver.

Although clips from the Leader’s Debates are being played now to con­trast the bit­ter anti­pathy of the Lib Dem leader and the Tory leader just a week or so ago with their smug love-in now, it was very appar­ent back then, even as they rowed, that these two had much more in com­mon with one another than with 99% of their audi­ence.  It was less X Factor than Blind Date.

Some say that Cameron hasn’t any real interest in Clegg and is just using his, er, man­date, but I think that’s a little unfair. Cameron is very inter­ested indeed in Clegg and will hug and hold him closer than his favour­ite pajama case. After all, Clegg was fash­ioned largely as a Lib Dem knock-off of Cameron (and Cameron of course was a Tory knock-off of Labour posh boy Tony Blair). Cameron really does love Clegg — because it’s like look­ing in the mir­ror.  And because Clegg is the Tory wet that Cameron wants you to mis­take him for.

They make a lovely, cloney-sloaney celeb couple, CleggCam, and they’re now liv­ing at the top address in the coun­try.  Their moth­ers must be so proud.  But my cyn­ical eye can’t help but alight on cer­tain details that don’t augur quite so well for their ‘pro­gress­ive part­ner­ship’. Such as the scary way that Cameron sprang out of No.10 to greet Clegg this morn­ing like a smi­ley but very hungry trap­door spider, quickly drag­ging Clegg into the bowels of Downing Street.

Yes, it was cute the way that they both tried to place their hand on each other’s back, to broad­cast to the world they were both ‘ver­sat­ile’ – but as the big, heavy door to No.10 began to close, it was Cameron’s hand ever-so gal­lantly, but ever-so firmly in the small of Clegg’s back, push­ing him for­wards into their ‘new polit­ics’. And prob­ably, after the door slammed shut, over.


Dave’s Posh Skin, Nick’s Cute Hair, and Gordon’s Bleached Rictus

by Mark Simpson

It’s dif­fi­cult not to feel a little sorry for Gordon Brown. Even if you really don’t want to.

I mean, ima­gine spend­ing over a dec­ade try­ing to wrest the lead­er­ship of the Labour Party — and the UK — from that insuf­fer­ably posh boy Tony Blair and when you finally suc­ceed the global eco­nomy goes down the toi­let.  Worse – much, much worse – you find your­self at elec­tion time appear­ing on The X Factor faced by not one but two all-singing, all-dancing Baby Blairs. Even posher and pret­tier than he was.

If the instant polls after last nights final lead­ers’ debate on TV are to be believed, Cameron and Clegg are in first and second place respect­ively, with Brown trail­ing in third, but with only a few points between them.  A Tory/Lib-Dem alli­ance seems likely, with Labour head­ing to a his­toric defeat.  You the audi­ence seem to have decided that you want to see the super-posh boys from Eton and Westminster get into bed together.

Or per­haps you just decided you don’t want to see Brown any more.

I won’t bother rehash­ing what was said. Instead I’ll talk about what really mattered: How they looked on my 42 inch LCD TV.  Here are my notes, writ­ten in my best Simon Cowell:

General appear­ance

Cameron has round doll-like eyes, a round doll-like face, and a small doll-like mouth. He’s a nicely painted Edwardian doll that looks a tad sin­is­ter — as if it might be hid­ing one of those jack-hammer jaws in Alien. This is par­tic­u­larly appar­ent when one of the other’s is say­ing some­thing Cameron, watch­ing them out of the corner of his nar­rowed eyes, doesn’t like.

Clegg looks like the head boy every­one likes. I can’t bear him.  I want him to be caught deal­ing drugs.

Brown looks like death on toast.

Skin

Clegg and Cameron both have a high, creamy skin col­our­ing which is incred­ibly posh in that straw­berry blond sort of way. It pos­it­ively glows priv­ilege. Good genes, good diet and the kind of really res­tor­at­ive sleep that only ser­i­ous trust funds bring. Cameron’s skin is a little too buffed and hydrated – his chin looks alarm­ingly shiny. Perhaps though it makes it easier for him to pen­et­rate people’s rib-cages and tear out their vital organs.

Brown doesn’t have skin of course. Brown has pal­lor and gloom knit­ted and stretched around his skull, with handy, capa­cious pock­ets under the eyes for all his regrets.

Teeth

Cameron’s teeth are sur­pris­ingly snag­gly. Perhaps though if you’re really posh you don’t need to have per­fect teeth – and Cameron’s small mouth is quite good at hid­ing them. Clegg’s teeth are bet­ter, but there is a dis­tract­ing stain at the front of his lower set of gnash­ers . Clearly British dentistry has some way to go to prop­erly catch up with American Presidential politics.

As for Brown’s: I can’t remem­ber.  I don’t want to remem­ber.  His lower jaw has a dis­con­cert­ing habit of mov­ing under its own voli­tion, appar­ently uncon­nec­ted to his head.  Everyone of course has made fun of his bleached ric­tus smile so I won’t.

Hair

Dame Cameron’s hair is a hel­met of stream­lined ter­ror.  So strongly fixed in place it pulls his face back­wards like someone exper­i­en­cing G force.

Clegg’s cute hair makes you want to reach out and ruffle it.  And I think that’s the inten­ded effect.  My eye keeps being drawn to a tiny lick in the middle of his fringe that has been oh-so-carefully teased for­wards like a comma. Like an embryonic kiss-curl.  What did it mean? What was it for? A visual reminder that Clegg was in the centre of polit­ics? A trick to break up his Tefal fore­head on our widescreen TVs?  Or is this part of the care­fully con­trived hands-in-pockets cas­u­al­ness of  Cleggy?  (I sus­pect the latter.)

Brown’s hair looked like a tabby cat that had been through the boil-wash-dry cycle on Gillian Duffy’s wash­ing machine. Twice.

Ears

Cameron’s ears are even more stream­lined than his hair. They’re not so much flush to his skull as internal.  Clegg’s stick out the right amount and aren’t too big.  Prep school ears.  Neither of them appear to be troubled by any­thing so vul­gar as earlobes.

Brown on the other hand has ear­lobes that appear to run all the way around the out­side of his ears. Ears so vast and para­bolic they should really be part of the SETI project.

Clothes

Cameron wears a suit so well-made, so expens­ive and so New Tory that it sucks in all the light from around him. Making his chin even shi­nier.  His shirt is simply divine.  You can almost smell the Irish linen dampen­ing slightly against his pol­ished, scen­ted, pampered and priv­ileged body.

Clegg’s suit is nice too, but is osten­ta­tiously less expens­ive than Cameron’s. And a shirt that doesn’t quite fit his neck. But again, this is prob­ably part of Clegg’s attempt to por­tray him­self as a gram­mar school boy, rather than a Westminster old boy who actu­ally has much more in com­mon with Dame Cameron than with 99% of the viewers.

Brown mean­while wore his under­taker out­fit that he’d slept in the night before.  On Gillian Duffy’s front-room floor.

The Tories’ New Section 28

by Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 25 March 2010)

Whatever happened to the Tory party of the 1980s that refused to use tax­pay­ers’ money to prop up fail­ing indus­tries mak­ing things people didn’t want? That told us sternly, usu­ally in a hel­met of hair-lacquer, “the mar­ket must decide”?

It turns out the Tories aren’t so laissez-faire if the mar­ket makes a decision they don’t approve of – par­tic­u­larly when punters turn their backs on one of their most cher­ished insti­tu­tions. With fewer people get­ting mar­ried now than at any time since records began in 1862, the Tories – who des­pite what they say about free mar­kets, always seem to know best how people should live their lives – have decided to effect­ively take this failed enter­prise into pub­lic ownership.

This week­end a former Tory MP from the 1980s, who con­siders him­self cul­tur­ally pro­gress­ive, came out in sup­port of David Cameron’s prom­ised tax breaks for mar­ried couples. “From this day for­ward, reward mar­ried couples” announced Matthew Parris in the Times. He failed, how­ever, to explain why mar­ried couples should be “rewar­ded” – as well as given wed­ding presents. But then DavidCameron hasn’t explained that one either.

But the article’s stand­first suc­cinctly sum­mar­ised both Parris’ and the Tory pos­i­tion, and made it clear why an explan­a­tion isn’t neces­sary: “Everyone except a sour minor­ity knows that mar­riage is good for soci­ety”. Marriage is good for soci­ety because it is a “good thing” in and of itself – as such it doesn’t need to be demon­strated, even at a time when mar­riage is less pop­u­lar than ever. Marriage is, for most Tories, an art­icle of faith. And any­one who dis­agrees with this pos­i­tion or even ques­tions it is obvi­ously sour or leftwing, which amounts to much the same thing.

What made Parris’ sup­port of this tax on unmar­ried people (for that is of course what it trans­lates into) novel was his inter­est­ing claim to speak on behalf of the vast major­ity of gay people: “an aston­ish­ingly con­ser­vat­ive sec­tion of soci­ety”, com­mend­ing their “tra­di­tion­al­ism”, warn­ing the (pre­sumed het­ero­sexual and con­ser­vat­ive) reader who begs to dif­fer they’ve been pay­ing too much atten­tion to a “sour slim minor­ity”, and assert­ing gays’ over­whelm­ing endorse­ment of the pro­posed sub­sidy for mar­ried couples. Parris even went a step fur­ther than Cameron and called for civil part­ner­ships to be excluded from the “reward” – per­haps because being fam­ously gay him­self, Parris can’t be eas­ily accused of homophobia.

Now, maybe I’m just a sour lefty minor­ity homo of exactly the kind that Parris warns you against, but at least I know bet­ter than to pre­sume to speak on gay men’s behalf – espe­cially when it comes to count­ing your­self out of tax breaks. But since Parris has raised the mat­ter of sexu­al­ity, I feel obliged, like the bad fairy at the wed­ding, to point out where this policy is com­ing from: essen­tially the same bit of the Nasty Party that brought you Section 28 in the 1980s, with its jihad on “pre­ten­ded fam­ily rela­tion­ships”, though it is now much more closeted.

Section 28, you may remem­ber, is the same anti-gay law that the main cham­pion of the Tory mar­riage sub­sidy, the Catholic con­vert Iain Duncan Smith, wanted to rein­state in 2002 when he was Tory leader. This piece of legis­la­tion grew dir­ectly out of Tory and tabloid fears that mar­riage was being under­mined by accept­ance of homo­sexu­al­ity. Section 28 was essen­tially a nan­nyish back­lash against the scan­dal­ous notion that schools might tell young people they have choices about who and how they were going to love.

Now that “pre­ten­ded fam­ily rela­tion­ships” – straight and gay and everything in between – are prob­ably in the major­ity and Section 28 is a dis­cred­ited, embar­rass­ing memory, Holy Family Tories such as IDS have to adopt a dif­fer­ent, “nicer” approach – one that seems more car­rot than stick, more util­it­arian and less homo­phobic. But don’t doubt for a minute that one of the biggest attrac­tions of what we should prob­ably call “Section 29″ for the IDS tend­ency is that tax breaks for married/decent people is a sat­is­fy­ing way of stick­ing it to unmarried/indecent people.

Tories, par­tic­u­lar the older ones who make up the major­ity of the party’s aging mem­ber­ship and who give IDS his power base, have never really recon­ciled them­selves to the massive cul­tural changes that happened post-1960s – and which were much accel­er­ated by their mar­ket and con­sumer reforms in the 1980s. For all her “Victorian val­ues”, Broken Britain was broken in large part by Thatcher. I doubt that Cameron believes for a minute that his Terry and June sub­sidy will turn back the clock and make mar­riage or Austin Allegros fash­ion­able again, and he prob­ably doesn’t really want to any­way, but it’s nice that he’s figured out a way to buy off the IDS tend­ency that so dis­trusts him and what they see as his cul­tural lib­er­al­ism – with tax­pay­ers’ money.

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Parris though. It can’t have been easy being a gay Tory MP in the 1980s – at least if you had, as I’m sure he has, a con­science. But it seems that all his futile attempts to con­vince his Cro-Magnon col­leagues back then that most gays are nat­ural Tories and wor­ship­pers of the Holy Family des­pite their pen­chant for bug­gery has taken its toll. He now believes his own rhetoric.

Marriage: David Cameron’s Lame Duck Industry

grey Marriage: David Camerons Lame Duck Industry

From The London Times

David Cameron has pro­pelled mar­riage to the centre of the elec­tion cam­paign after sur­pris­ing the Tory party faith­ful with a prom­ise to spell out his flag­ship policy before polling day.

Rallying the troops after a nar­row­ing of the poll lead, the Conservative leader said that he would announce details of tax breaks for mar­ried couples in the manifesto.

Whatever happened to the days when the Tories were the party that refused to use taxpayer’s money to prop up fail­ing, out­dated indus­tries mak­ing things that people didn’t want?  That told us sternly that ‘the mar­ket must decide’.  Well, it turns out the Tories aren’t happy with what the mar­ket has decided in this instance, and instead want to effect­iviely nation­al­ise mar­riage — to take it into pub­lic own­er­ship.  British Layland.

Obviously this isn’t going to do mar­riage much good.  Aside from celeb photo opps and immig­ra­tion fiddles it was already hideously out of fash­ion.  But the Tories want to turn it into an Austin Allegro.

It’s nice that Dave has figured out a way to buy off the Ian Duncan Smith/Terry & June tend­ency of his party — with your tax money — but I won­der if he’s thought it through.  Will he be hand­ing out tax breaks to civil part­ner­ships as well?  If he does the IDS tend­ency won’t be very happy about sub­sid­ised sod­omy.  If he doesn’t then, well, his enthu­si­astic sup­port for Section 28 will come back to haunt him.

Of course, he could save every­one a lot of time and trouble if he just gave the tax bonus money dir­ectly to the divorce lawyers.

Queer Eye of the Tory Guy Headed For Number 10

After yesterday’s dis­astrous Nantwich by-election defeat for Gordon Brown by David Cameron’s resur­gent, re-branded, made-over, mois­tur­ised Tories, which came hard on the heels of the drub­bing the Brown One received a few weeks ago in the English local coun­cil elec­tions, the media — and a sub­stan­tial part of the Labour Party itself — is now bay­ing for his head.

I hate to say I told you so.

But I told you so.

Twenty months ago, in the dying days of Tony’s Premiership, when the media was get­ting all excited about Leader-in-Waiting Brown and giv­ing rave reviews to his dread­ful speech to the 2006 Labour Party Conference — and diss­ing Cameron — I pre­dicted that His Brown-ness couldn’t win the next election:

The deliv­ery of his speech yes­ter­day was full of visual proof of this. I have no idea what Brown is like in the flesh, but on telly — i.e. the real world — Brown looks like a loser. Dead, hooded eyes which offer no con­tact with the audi­ence or the cam­era, cho­reo­graphed but strangely ill-timed, claw­ing hand move­ments and weird goldfish-like gulps at the end of each line. After nine years of Tony’s glam­or­ous drag queen cha­risma, he looks like a par­tic­u­larly deluded punter audi­tion­ing for X-Factor while Simon Cowell pulls faces.

Brown may well, as he says, ‘rel­ish’ the oppor­tun­ity to ‘take on Cameron’, but Cameron looks increas­ingly likely to simply sweep him aside. After a couple of years of Brown-ness the elect­or­ate will stam­pede to elect the smooth, mois­tur­ised, green-ish manip­u­lator Cameron, someone who knows exactly what we want to hear and how to coo those sweet noth­ings in our ears. By then he’ll be seen as Tony Blair without Iraq. Tony Blair without the TUC. Tony Blair without the hag­gard face.

Tony Blair without Gordon Brown.

Of course, Brown has been rather unlucky of late. But then, politi­cians are sup­posed to make their own luck. Or at least tell us stor­ies we want to hear — and want to believe. Brown has proved sin­gu­larly, cata­stroph­ic­ally unable to do this. And it was stag­ger­ingly, appallingly obvi­ous all along. True, things could perk up for Brown before the General Election in a year or so.

But I don’t think it very likely. Do you?

Gordon Isn’t a Moron — But He’s a Terrible Liar

grey Gordon Isnt a Moron   But Hes a Terrible Liar

Gordon Brown, Labour’s leader-in-waiting, can’t win the next elec­tion. This week’s address to the Labour Party Conference might as well have been his speech con­ced­ing vic­tory to David Cameron.

Why is Gordie such a liab­il­ity? Not because of the dis­dain­ful ver­dict of dodgy Newsnight focus groups, or his recent impa­tient unleash­ing of political-suicide bombers on Number 10, or even because his Conference speech with its lib­eral use of the word ‘aspir­a­tions’ soun­ded like that of an ambi­tious TUC chief, but because he’s such a bad liar.

The proof? The most embar­rass­ing, excru­ci­at­ing lie from that speech – “It has been a priv­ilege for me to work with and for the most suc­cess­ful ever leader and Labour prime min­is­ter” – has dom­in­ated the cov­er­age of it.

That it should have been Cherie Blair, wife of the most suc­cess­ful ever lying Prime Ministers in British his­tory who poin­ted this out to the world is entirely appro­pri­ate. After all, she must, by now, be some­thing of an expert. She was though entirely right when she claimed she was mis­heard: she didn’t say, ‘Well, that’s a lie.’, you see. What she actu­ally said was, ‘God, you’re such a bad liar’.

Certainly, we all squirmed and tut­ted when we heard him. It may or may not have been an endorse­ment that was wrung out of Gordon by the applic­a­tion of a hot poker to the Chancellor’s red box, but it was def­in­itely tor­ture for the rest of us. Even though Tony has yet to relin­quish the reigns of power, and des­pite the fact that we’re all, in one way or another, as tired of him as he now looks, it was dif­fi­cult watch­ing Brown’s near-autistic deliv­ery not to feel like we were miss­ing Tone already. A feel­ing only enhanced by Blair’s Hollywood per­form­ance the fol­low­ing day, com­plete with his trade­mark, quavery-voiced sin­cere insin­cer­ity and impress­ively shame­less use of the word ‘truth’ in the first few seconds of his final speech to Conference.

Those who com­plained that ‘Blair lied to us!’ after it emerged that there those Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq were so fiendishly well-hidden that they, er, actu­ally didn’t exist at all, slightly miss the point. It’s his job. Tone has been so suc­cess­ful and so pop­u­lar for so long pre­cisely because he lies, and lies so well. Even after he has been caught lying in Lying Town, as with Iraq, he comes up with other lies that are equally if not more per­suas­ive, or at least moment­ar­ily divert­ing. He was, if you remem­ber, re-elected with another thump­ing major­ity after the crim­inal Iraq débâcle.

Iraq aside, Tone usu­ally tells us the lies we want to hear – and he tells them extremely con­vin­cingly. That’s what a politician’s job is. That’s what we elect them for. That’s what ‘aspir­a­tions’, the things Brown kept refer­ring to in his speech, really are. Otherwise known as ‘illu­sions’. It’s the basis of most rela­tion­ships. Like most suf­fer­ing wives, how­ever, what we don’t like and will not tol­er­ate is hav­ing our faces rubbed in it . This is why the Hungarian PM and Blair pal Ferenc Gyurcsany got into such a pickle. Not because he lied but because he admit­ted – even behind closed doors – that he lied.

Admitting he lied is not a mis­take Blair is likely to ever make. Blair’s spe­cial tal­ent, the thing that puts him ahead of most other politi­cians, cer­tainly in British polit­ical his­tory, is that he can con­vince him­self his lies are lit­er­ally the god’s hon­est truth, at least for as long as he’s telling us them. And – truth be told – in his mind, he never actu­ally ‘lies’ to us at all. He’s an actor – an actor of the Stanlislavsky school: the emo­tion he shows us is ‘true’, it’s just usu­ally attached to some­thing that is not. This is why he’s such a great per­former and politi­cian – we appre­ci­ate and are flattered by the energy and the psy­chosis he puts into his per­form­ances. He is a great manip­u­lator. (His final tear-jerking address to the Labour faith­ful demon­strated that.)

Brown on the other hand is a great oper­ator. And oper­at­ors, unlike manip­u­lat­ors, are pain­ful to watch. They resent hav­ing to manip­u­late us and we resent hav­ing to watch them resent­ing hav­ing to manip­u­late us. Tony is Princess Di to Brown’s Prince Charles. Brown, who tells us he is ‘quite private’ and who prefers ‘sub­stance over celebrity’ as if these were reas­ons why we should be inter­ested in him, clearly wants power but he doesn’t really want to become the thing that power is in this medi­ated day and age: an actor. He won’t be for­given for that by the electorate/audience. Clearly he will lie and lie to get the top job and to keep it – he has already proved this to us by care­fully par­rot­ing Tony’s lies about Iraq, for example – but unlike Tony he won’t do us the cour­tesy of lying con­vin­cingly, let alone entertainingly.

The deliv­ery of his speech yes­ter­day was full of visual proof of this. I have no idea what Brown is like in the flesh, but on telly – i.e. the real world – Brown looks like a loser. Dead, hooded eyes which offer no con­tact with the audi­ence or the cam­era, cho­reo­graphed but strangely ill-timed, claw­ing hand move­ments and weird goldfish-like gulps at the end of each line. After nine years of Tony’s glam­or­ous drag queen cha­risma, he looks like a par­tic­u­larly deluded punter audi­tion­ing for X-Factor while Simon Cowell pulls faces.

Brown may well, as he says, ‘rel­ish’ the oppor­tun­ity to ‘take on Cameron’, but Cameron looks increas­ingly likely to simply sweep him aside. After a couple of years of Brown-ness the elect­or­ate will stam­pede to elect the smooth, mois­tur­ised, green-ish manip­u­lator Cameron, someone who knows exactly what we want to hear and how to coo those sweet noth­ings in our ears. By then he’ll be seen as Tony Blair without Iraq. Tony Blair without the TUC. Tony Blair without the hag­gard face.

Tony Blair without Gordon Brown.
© Mark Simpson 2006