This play will close soon enough. The leading actors are exhausted, and can no longer speak their lines with even an appearance of spontaneity. David Cameron yet again pretended to be scandalised by Ed Miliband’s alleged use of the word “weaponise” to describe how Labour wishes to use the NHS. Miliband yet again pretended to be scandalised by Cameron’s alleged “broken promises” on the NHS.
When Boris Johnson was at Oxford, he used to discuss with his friends whether “bogusness” or “bogusity” is the noun that goes with the word “bogus”. Twenty years later, when telling Esquire magazine why the Rolling Stones are one of his favourite bands, he plumped for “bogusness”: “What I like is the bogusness of them. I love the idea of these four middle-class white kids pretending to be rough around the edges.”
Somehow the sight of two middle-class kids pretending to be indignant lacks the same charm. It becomes an insult to their audience: we are not taken in, and they know we are not taken in, and we know they know we are not taken in, but still the performance goes on, and the public’s craving for something genuine grows stronger, to the benefit of whichever protest parties seem able to supply it.
The supporting players could not today supply the wit which was lacking in the principals. They too were for the most part monotonously “on message”, raising either the NHS or Oltep (“Our Long-Term Economic Plan”) depending on how their Whips had instructed them. A couple of Liberal Democrats tried to demonstrate that they are not Conservatives, but in such an unmemorable way that they might as well not have bothered.
Only Jeremy Corbyn (Lab, Islington North) raised the most newsworthy event of the week, namely the Greek general election result. Corbyn asked Cameron to “use his good offices with the European Union” to ensure that the Greeks “do get the debt write-off they’re so desperately seeking”. One need not be a left-winger, like Corbyn, to think the debt will have to be written off. But Cameron is far too prudent to stick his neck out on such a topic. He made a joke in dubious taste about asking Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek leader, “what his long-term economic plan” is, and then retreated into platitude: “I hope good sense will prevail on all sides.”
Even those of us who want the Conservatives to win the general election cannot help feeling a bit discouraged by the tactics they are employing in order to do so.