This week, Phil watches a renewal of political vows in London
POLITICS | 2 Become 1
First there was Brangelina. Then there was TomKat. And now Dick. This week, David Cameron and Nick Clegg became the latest celebrity marriage played out in front of the cameras when they chose the halfway point of the Coalition’s administration to renew their vows.
In front of a banner proclaiming ‘The Coalition: together in the national interest’, Dave ignored his partner’s puppy-dog eyes and told the assembled throng: “This is a government, not a relationship.” Like a gay marriage without the lattes, Nick hovered nervously while his other half told the crowd, “We haven’t chosen to separate anddo something different” – quite forgetting that neither had enough votes for that in the first place.
Akin to ambitious new parents desperate to convince friends, family and the social services that their adopted child – Britain – had not been left out in the cold with no food, the couple presented a round robin-style list of achievements as proof there were no funny goings-on behind the well-varnished door of Number 10. Adopting a triumphant stance just in keeping with austerity, Dave announced that the Coalition was like Ronseal: it does what it says on the tin. So what does it actually say on the Coalition’s tin?
- We liked pasties, then we didn’t, but now we do again.
- Under fives don’t need free milk. Actually, they do.
- Let’s scrap the fighter jets Labour ordered. Second thoughts, let’s not.
These are just three examples of the 32 major policy U-turns the Coalition has taken in two years. In fact, the government’s habit of doing pretty much the opposite of what it says on the tin has earned it the record of most-turned administration in living memory.
Sick with dizziness, Nick picked up the conch with a quip best described as unscripted: “The Ronseal deal – you could call it the unvarnished truth,” he said, confusing everyone. You could call it that Nick, thought the audience, but Ronseal is famous for being a quick-drying woodstain that rainproofs your door in 30 minutes – so your comparison is the exact opposite of what Ronseal and the Ronseal metaphor stands for. Port would much rather a varnished truth, sealed to watertight perfection, than a soggy supposition destined to splinter under stress.
Delivering words without meaning is a dangerous game for a politician (or a popular entertainer – think what comes out of Elton John’s mouth without Bernie Taupin). Rereading the Coalition’s statement later on and realising it made little sense, this columnist can’t help but think the fag-packet approach to speechwriting extends to policymaking too.
Fooling no one except perhaps himself, Dave called the Coalition a “strong, decisive, active government” – and to be fair to him, he looked like he really wanted to believe it. But a man who combines running the country with getting to the next level of Angry Birds doesn’t sound “strong”, “decisive” or “active” at all. Whether the marriage lasts the full five years remains to be seen. The traditional anniversary gift? Wood.