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Whatever I said, I didn’t mean it

27 Nov 10 | Re: Farcical politicians and media business as usual

We don’t half have a wretched political-media complex sometimes. The latest hoohah is a big fuss over a Tory peer-to-be saying that taking child benefit away from people who are, to me, impossibly wealthy is bad because they would be less likely to have children while the poor would continue to multiply. That is indeed a mean-spirited sentiment, but it’s the way it’s been reacted to that makes me want to go and re-smash Millbank.

Following media wailing and pressure from his own party, this peer-to-be Howard Flight has now withdrawn his remarks. But what does that mean? Does he now agree that the changes to child benefit are a good idea? Or does he still oppose the changes, but for some other, undisclosed reason? Or does he still oppose the changes, for exactly the same reason as before, but without using the unfortunate term “breed” that made everyone so upset? Although even that was a misquotation, since he never implied that he saw the poor like cattle, as the press reaction has made out. He actually used the term directly of the upper middle classes and then applied it to the poor in the next sentence. He sees everyone like cattle. He is a true egalitarian, this man.

To summarise: what has happened is that a man not used to being in the public eye - not even formally in Parliament yet - has been caught out saying something that a lot of people probably think, but in the wrong words. Everyone got unreasonably angry and now he has gone through the familiar performance of retracting those words, which means nothing. Plenty of people still agree with him, as they have a right to do, and nothing important has changed.

The whole episode is entirely without substance. It’s political blancmange. The only material consequence is that maybe this man won’t get to be a lord after all, but that would be unfair: he’s raised the money for the Tory party that got him the seat, and he’s no more callous or out of touch than any number of existing lords. Could we not instead have a sensible discussion about whether the state should give extra money to people who have children and need extra money, or to both people who have children and need extra money and people who have children and don’t? No, we couldn’t. No one is interested in that.

Meanwhile, though, some good news: an unprecedented number of hate figures have given their support to the anti-alternative vote campaign. Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, John Reid, Lord Falconer and even Lord Prescott are going to campaign vigorously against the advance of proper democracy, giving me fresh hope that AV will win the day. The message is clear: first-past-the-post further entrenches the position of political tribalist idiots like John Prescott and, indeed, this Howard Flight breeding guy I was discussing above. A vote for AV is a vote to give new voices a chance in elections. Vote for AV.

Vote for AV.

Posted by LAZY LINE PAINTER JANE at 20:14

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