‘That was the week that was’ legend Sir David Frost questioned on Monday if the coalition had forced UK satire into “intensive care”. In an interview with the BBC, he claimed that the Conservative-Liberal alliance was “too bland to mock”, warning that journalists would suffer from the upturn of the historic red-blue divide. His comments would have gone down like the Cheonan with sharp-eared hacks had this week been very different in Westminster.
First, we had the Chancellor asking the public how the government should spend money as it prepares to make “painful” cuts. Apparently, reducing the £156bn budget deficit is a “very serious national challenge” and not up to the people who have jobs in the Treasury. Fine, I’m all for public involvement in an age where the public feels grossly unrepresented. Any reform our democratic system for the better includes we, the people. But we didn’t vote for us. We apparently had a vote where the majority swayed from a ‘pimp my economy’ Labour model to a ‘£6bn slash and burn’ Tory method, putting our trust in Osborne’s master plan. Cameron’s inability to cite figures in his ‘Speech of Pain’ casts doubt as to whether there actually was a plan in the first place.
But there is a silver lining- the government do have their fingers on Britannia’s button. When Mike from Lancaster writes to his MP, the Minister will justify the spending plan before a “star chamber” of senior figures. Excellent. Not only does this powerful committee sound like the opening gag of Big Brother 134, but Ministers will be collating the views of idiots. Middle aged men write angry blogs. More young people know where the privacy button is on face book than their MPs address. Who writes to their MP about the affairs of the country and not just hedge disputes? Who expects their Mps to directly convey these fears to their masters? I’d like to think that we’d be too sceptical of these proposals to email in, or at least too humble to assume we have more economic clout than those we put in power.
It’s a bad idea to copy Canada’s 1990’s deficit-cutting strategy. What was a success for them will be a confused rabble of anarchists quipping that “we don’t need public services, lol”, and haters complaining about the costs of voluntary groups for blind refugees. I nag on about my council all the time (tax doesn’t seem to go anywhere, bins etc etc), but I have no genuine insight into their annual expenditure. Neither would any company worker or civil servant outside of the council records office.
Oops, sorry Sir David- must mention satire. Erm, George Osborne looks like a lost baby.
Secondly, we had Jack Straw imploding in the House of Commons against Nick Clegg’s ‘Reform’ plans. On the issue of mathematically chopping the country into equally-populated constituencies, he wielded the power of angry Scots (Orkney and Shetland, if to become the same size as the Isle of white, would be swamped into a mass constituency 300 miles across). Let me explain this to Sir David- this is funny because Labour is having to watch their own manifesto being implicated by the opposition, having failed to act on promised Lords reform for 12 years. What hurts even more is a commitment to the gritted-teeth pledge Brown made on the election campaign- that you can sack your bad MP.
You could picture the Cif cartoon being drawn up as Clegg battled with the SNP and other minority parties. They too got riled and came at him with a huge net, claiming they’d been left out of the Cross-Party committee of MPs and Peers on Lords reform. Many jibes were all ready for print- the little men claiming Clegg would be wise not to let power go to his head now he’s appointed himself committee chairman (put to The Speaker: “He’ll be on the backbenches before long”) .
Oh, wait I forgot about Sir David. Erm, Clegg looked like a lost baby.