Saturday, June 17, 2017

Things Come Apart

It never ceases to amaze me how fast things can unravel.  One minute a situation seems stable and you just can't see how it will ever change, then suddenly it is in complete chaos and seemingly tottering on the verge of collapse.  Only a couple of weeks ago, for instance, Theresa May seemed to be heading for an election victory, presaging decades of unchallenged Tory political hegemony - now, she's struggling to form a government and is beset on all sides with problems.  It is almost unbelievable how things have turned around: Corbyn suddenly appears competent and statesman like, while May cuts a forlorn, shambolic figure, incapable of articulating her message to her own party, let alone the electorate.  It's like we've strayed into a parallel universe.  (Actually, if we have, there are few things in my life I'd like turned around - but that's another story altogether).  Of course, as is often the way, as May tries desperately to cling to power, events seem to conspire to push her closer to the edge.

The thing about tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire is that it requires leading politicians, particularly the Prime Minister, to set the tone for the nation's emotional response.  This generally involves showing compassion toward the victims and their families.  Unfortunately, as the election campaign showed, May is clearly not comfortable mingling with the masses, she obviously finds it difficult to make an emotional connection with strangers.  Which makes her seem unsympathetic and uncaring in the aftermath of the fire.  It doesn't mean that she actually doesn't care - I can't believe that anyone would be left unmoved by the terrible events in Kensington - it is just that she clearly cannot express these feelings.  Sadly, in modern politics, appearances are crucial and when Corbyn and Sadiq Khan have both visited the area and, visibly moved, have spoken to those affected, it leaves May looking distant and disconnected.  Just like she did during the election campaign. 

The fact is that people expect an emotional response to something like the Grenfell Tower fire - people should be angry about it.  And boy, are they angry - we've got people demonstrating on the streets, besieging Kensington and Chelsea Council's offices and marching on Downing Street.  I note, however, that the media have been trying to characterise the recent events as a 'storming' of the council offices, trying to put an aggressive spin out, trying to turn a protest into a mob and implying that these people have no right to be angry.  They are still trying to tow an establishment line, but they are increasingly out of touch with the public mood, just as they were during the election campaign.  I remember when all those riots broke out early in Cameron's premiership and Britain's cities were burning night after night, the authorities apparently unable to impose law and order, I hoped that maybe something was changing in Britain, that established orders could be toppled.  But, in the end, nothing came of it.  The 'natural' order was restored.  This time feels different, perhaps the world finally is turning against the greed and selfishness which seems to have prevailed over our society for too many years now.  It's just a pity that people had to die to start it all off. 



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