In one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world the presidential candidates are reduced to making jokes about the size of one another’s genitals. What a joke. In the business of politics it pays to have a sense of humour.
In addition at least one member of the general public is reported to believe that when it comes to US presidents, ‘it’s all about who has the balls’. Is the American public not embarrassed to have nothing better to say for itself than this? Does this explain the success of Donald Trump in the primaries? This is absurdity in politics that is scarcely believable. Kafka’s fiction is starting to look like realism in comparison with politics today, although perhaps somewhat less far-fetched! While absurd political grandstanding continues unabated, the electorate is lacking a forum for addressing important issues in a serious way.
Meanwhile in Britain it is Animal Farm that springs to mind as the appropriate allegorical text. Chancellor George Osborne is the living embodiment of many of the features of Napoleon Bonaparte, George Orwell’s enduring depiction of a leader whose language and behaviour grows increasingly untrustworthy over time. Last year Osborne lauded a payment by Google of £130 million, to cover ten years of underpaid taxes, as a great victory. The public, quite rightly, scoffed at the paltry amount Osborne had secured.
This year the chancellor gives similar fanfare to an announcement that Facebook has agreed to pay a bit more tax to the UK in the future. Last year Facebook paid only about £4000 in taxes, less than the tax bill of the ordinary British taxpayer. Facebook has now offered to pay a bit more by shifting part of its tax base from Ireland to the UK. Can there be any doubt that this is another sweetheart deal between HMRC and Facebook, one designed to appease the British public while continuing to favour the corporate sector by minimising the incidence of tax?
A few days ago Osbourne, in triumphant tone, claimed that reducing the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% has had the effect of increasing tax revenue for the government. Within hours his claims have been exposed as being totally unfounded and a ludicrous interpretation of the data. What in fact has happened is that income earned in the previous year has been brought forward to come under the lower tax regime. It is not credible to believe that the chancellor was not fully aware of his deliberate misuse of the data to try to sell his view that a progressive tax system is ineffective.
To be blatantly misleading about the data has become commonplace. Hunt has been accused of using the weekend death rate data as a statistical weapon to support his case for imposing new employment contracts on junior doctors in a deliberately misleading way. Those who back Hunt’s highly contested reforms rest their case on the old maxim that if you repeat a lie at least six times it becomes a truth! This is where Orwell’s allegorical warning comes into its own.
Cameron’s threats to leave the EU, his gagging of members of his own party during the negotiation period, followed by his enthusiastic support of the stay-in campaign, looks like party political game-playing rather than honesty and sincerity in government. The Civil Service, which is supposed to be politically neutral, has been prevented from providing research material for those not colluding with Cameron’s position. It is not unreasonable to claim that the manipulative deceit brings the entire process of government into disrepute.
On both sides of the Atlantic the voting public is being played for fools by the false and feeble level of debate. The line between fiction and reality is being cynically and wilfully distorted for political gain. Democracy is a fragile creature. It needs to be nurtured so that it works well rather than badly.The electorate needs to give this some serious thought, but its seems more likely that pigs will fly.