Friday 29 November 2019

Gaslighting the nation

My first and, I promise, last post about party politics and the 2019 General Election...

With all apologies to fans of Hugh Jackman
(and for very hurried, Photoshop-less graphics work)
I suppose you have to have some kind of grudging admiration for Johnson and his Tory-boy chums. I mean, they have learned. They have really learned. Not just from their own past campaigns, and from those of New Labour (when did you last hear the phrase "spin doctor", by the way?), but also from the right-wing upstarts of the Brexit Party and, most of all, from the Republicans' Trump campaign. For right now there is nobody, literally nobody better at repackaging a narrative and peddling it as truth than Johnson et al. Or more accurately, because Boris is not actually as clever as some people once thought, Conservative Campaign Headquarters, CCHQ. Someone there is really earning their 30 pieces of silver.

Take last night's climate debate on Channel 4, an event to which all party leaders had been invited and all bar Johnson and Farage showed up. Now it's easy to see why Farage ducked this - the more the general public see of him, the less they like him. Far better for him to concentrate on blowing his dog-whistle to ensure the continued support of those that already back him; he knows he's not going to win anyone over, least of all on the environment. But Johnson? The man who is, lest we forget, still Prime Minister and leader of the largest party in the last Parliament (and the man whose backers have plenty of investment in fossil fuels, and the man who wants to be best buddies with eco-catastrophe Trump...). For him to duck a debate on what should really be the defining issue of our time? Scandalous. And he was rightly called on it. Social media was awash with the scorn being poured on him for ducking this. #ChickenBoris was trending, and CCHQ didn't like it. What was to be done?

And this is where they earned their money, again. Because, uninvited and unexpected by Channel 4, they sent Michael Gove along at the eleventh hour. And to ensure their preferred narrative could be repackaged and peddled to depict the Tories as the aggrieved party, Gove even had his own camera crew with him; his, or rather CCHQ's, perspective could be captured rather than Channel 4's. Because look, here was Michael, all eager, politely asking if he could be allowed to participate in the climate debate because, after all, he had been Environment Secretary, and wasn't it important for the Conservative position to be heard... well yes, Michael, but if it was so important, why not send the party leader to a leader's debate?

Credit to Channel 4, they played it with a straight bat. The production team were consulted. The other party leaders were consulted. And the answer was, rightly in my view, thank you but no. As you may have seen, they empty-chaired Boris and Nigel, replacing them with ice sculptures that symbolically started to melt during the debate.

And so there should be two stories this morning: one, what the attending leaders actually had to say at the debate; and two, the cowardly non-appearance of Conservative party leader, Boris Johnson. But the whole thing has been repackaged by CCHQ and the public is being told no, that's not a fair depiction of what happened, the things you have seen and read with your own eyes are not correct. Look, enviro-Gove attended the debate but nasty old Channel 4 wouldn't let him in. Don't you see, it's Channel 4 and the other party leaders that were the cowards, for refusing to debate Michael. Oh, and look, we sent Boris's dad along too, to say charmingly baffled things about WhatsApp, in the hope that it might evoke a rose-tinted nostalgia for that time when Boris was on HIGNFY a lot, you know, when he was more popular. Don't believe the truth, people, believe our truth. And if that's not gaslighting, I don't know what is.

Of course this repackaged narrative of the Tories as media victims is also quite handy for legitimising a threat to review Channel 4's public service broadcasting remit (and, by inference, funding). This from the party that has also banned the Daily Mirror from their campaign bus. The message is clear. Report us the way we want or else. That sort of thing reminds me of Soviet Russia. Or 1930s Germany.

The underlying message of this whole sorry story though can't trust Boris. More than that, you can't trust the Conservative party. Whilst Johnson might be their notional leader, he's just a figurehead - witness his squirming response on the further cowardice of dodging the Andrew Neil interview ("Other people than me are responsible for those discussions and negotiations" - Christ, man, you're supposed to be the leader!). And you really can't trust him/them on the NHS. How many new hospitals, really? How many new nurses, really? Not up for sale, really?

I almost started this post by saying I don't have a particular political axe to grind. I'm not trying to get you to vote for a particular party. But I guess I have ended up here, imploring you not to vote for a particular party. Don't be conned. Don't be taken in. Don't vote Conservative.

More than that, though. Do vote tactically. Give our country its best chance of not having a Tory majority or Tory-led coalition. There are three main tactical voting guidance sites, so take your pick of these:, and - unhelpfully, they don't always agree, so visit all three and then use your common sense.

EDIT: Oh, and if you think I'm over-reacting to the manipulation and treatment of "dissenting" media by those in power, I've just read that the i newspaper has been bought by the owner of the Daily Mail... good luck to us all.


  1. This would be the same Michael Gove who, less than 3 years ago, said that Boris Johnson was not capable of uniting the party or the country. Both are proven liars and completely without morals, so they're perfect for the Tory Party.

    1. Indeed, very true.

      Just to add, I'm not saying politicians from other parties are all paragons of virtue, telling it straight and true at all times, or that other parties don't still have their own departments of spin... just that this lot seem by far the worst, and would be terrible for the nation if given free rein for another five years ... <>

  2. Well said, Martin. I can't even begin to articulate my feelings and opinions on BJ and all that's going on right now, I overwhelm myself! So I really appreciate when someone else puts it into words so coherently. A brilliant graphic too.

    1. Thank you, C. I know I'm preaching to the converted, a bit, in that our corner of the blogosphere (is that still a word?) is very much of one mind when it comes to Boris. Having said that, when I ran that "How will you vote?" poll a couple of weeks ago, two respondents plumped for Nigel, so maybe not such a mirrored bubble after all.

      Thanks re the graphic - it was a very hasty job, with basic tools, so I'll take that! :)

  3. The thing is, I just cannot understand how anyone except the amoral filthy rich would consider voting for this goverment. I have little time for Corbyn anymore, but he is is at least trying and he isn't an evil scumbag who wants to sell off the NHS piece by piece and raise the pension age to 75.

    Johnson, Gove, RMogg etc al... there is a special place in hell waiting for you all. I only hope you all arrive there very soon. And God help anyone who votes them back in. I despair for ths human race even more than usual

    1. I know, I can't understand it either. And yet the opinion polls...

      In the words of the great AP: "This country..."

    2. Can't we all get together and start our own enclave?