So now we have the final proof. New Labour is the greatest political party in history. Not content with three historic election victories, bringing democracy to the Middle East and the elevation of a priapic blind man to one of the great offices of state, New Labour can create worlds of their own imagining from the raw firmament.
Last night’s Dispatches showed that the party is adept at creating what Sky News’ Political Editor, Adam Boulton, called “false reality”. It’ll come as no surprise to most I imagine, but New Labour, while not being the only ones at it, seem to have raised it to a sinisterly well-oiled art form.
Dispatches’ undercover reporter filled seats at sparsely attended press conferences to make up the numbers for the TV cameras. She posed as an ordinary joe with other Labour Party workers at press events and poster launches including the unveiling of the notorious (ie, untrue) WARNING poster about “Ã‚Â£35bn” of Tory “cuts”.
Propaganda techniques used by US pharmaceutical companies and political parties were imported. Letters were written by the press office bigging up New Labour or attacking the opposition parties and then sent to local activists who were asked to get them into the local press. Several identical letters appeared in local newspapers across the country. One letter appeared in one newspaper twice. In Leeds letters were printed in a newspaper from a woman who doesn’t exist. All because New Labour deemed that readers “trusted” the letters page – the views of “real people” – in a newspaper more than any other part. Trust was just another commodity to be exploited and abused.
Fake demos were organised to follow the leaders of the opposition parties to disrupt walkabouts and rallies. At the Tory’s spring conference in Brighton New Labour activists organised what was meant to look like a “spontaneous” protest by members of the public outside the conference. The “homemade” banners made no mention of Labour affiliations. Standing front and centre in the crowd was the then New Labour candidate, and now MP, for Hove, Celia Barlow. Some readers will remember my own encounter with Barlow during the campaign and her fuzzy grasp of certain facts. It would seem she has much in common with Tory story-teller, Anne Milton. I’m sure the local party regarded it all as a bit of lark, but why not have the balls to use New Labour banners? Because some Nixonian dirty trick coupled with a rag week stunt was more sexy?
Throughout the New Labour campaign, the national media was bypassed almost completely with only the TV cameras and local press invited to events. After Blair was ambushed by ITV’s Nick Robinson at the “Ã‚Â£35bn cuts” launch, New Labour were careful not to let it happen again and at the next event, once the cameras had got the pictures for the nightly news, party workers were coralled in front of reporters to prevent them getting to Blair. He shook hands with “endorsers” – people billed as “ordinary voters and cross section of the local community” but in reality carefully chosen (black, Jewish, pensioners, families) to present the right image. These endorsers were endlessly recycled at different events.
Adam Boulton spoke of a “synthetic event” and a “sterile environment” for Blair. The Spectator’s Peter Oborne talked of a “pseudo-event for television” and said “the Prime Minister was placed in a bubble and hidden from the electorate”. Nick Robinson wondered if Blair had met a single real member of the electorate during the campaign, isolated as he was, from a potential Sharon Storer. I remember one woman refusing to shake Blair’s hand because he was a “murderer”. I bet there was a top-level meeting to stop that happening again. We all remember his sweaty combat in the bearpit of Question Time but that was part of his widely-publicised “masochism strategy” to win over voters who might feel sorry for him. When I younger we called similar tactics when talking to girls as trying to get a “sympathy shag”.
I wonder if Blair or Brown realised they were meeting “voters” they’d met at other events, some of which were party workers. Did they know they were making small talk with people who had been handpicked because they were telegenic or fitted an ethnic demographic? Would they care? Boulton was generous and described Blair as “above it”. But he was only one level removed, with Alastair Campbell and Alan Milburn “high-fiving” (as the Dispatches undercover reporter witnessed) in the press office.
So where is the culture of respect? It’s clear (again) that New Labour hold the electorate in contempt. They are a variable that the Prime Minsiter should be insulated from at all cost, too frightened or unable to have a real conversation with them. Respect is a virtue expected from disaffected youth and the disenfranchised poor, not for the lofty likes of the Prime Minister and his handlers. The New Labour campaign created a “false reality”. False letters were place in newpapers. False demonstrations were held. Party workers were falsely portrayed as real voters. These were falsehoods. New Labour lied to the electorate in order to try and win their votes.
By now, you’re probably thinking “oh boo hoo, politicians lie, get over it”. But why should we? A shrug of the shoulders and a turn of the page to the story about drunken soap stars is what’s expected of us. Why should we settle for that? Blair is an elected official. A public servant. He seems forget that between elections and we seem to be increasingly willing to let him.
It’s not just about election campaigns either. Charles Clarke’s been caught out this week for creating his universe as he goes along when talking about boiler-suiting offenders. In short, he completely fabricated a pilot programme of youths wearing uniforms doing community service which is to be rolled out across the country. They weren’t youths. They weren’t wearing uniforms. The programme isn’t being rolled out across the country.
He’s the Home Secretary for Christ’s sake, not some bored factory worker on a Friday afternoon for who “fuck it, that’ll do” is a viable option. Reality – and therefore the truth – is subjective and under the likes of Clarke getting more so all the time. British politics is so thick with alternate realities it’s starting to resemble a Philip K. Dick brainfuck. At this rate, the only way you’ll be able to tell if New Labour are being on the level is by doing the I-Ching.
It goes to the heart of everything. When they next say X thousand children have been lifted out of poverty, you’ll have to tour the country and count them all yourself to be sure. More police on the streets? Not until every single one of them has knocked on my door and said, “hello, hello, hello, what’s all this then”, will I believe it. Your family better off? Only if you see Gordon Brown going door-to-door personally delivering bricks of gold.
This “culture of respect” horseshit we’ve been told to shovel down could end up as being as big an albatross around New Labour’s collective neck as “Back to Basics” was for the Tories in the 1990’s. It’s already getting difficult to supress the giggles. In 1993, John Major announced:
It is time to get back to basics: to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting responsibility for yourself and your family, and not shuffling it off on the state.
Notice the “R” word. No sooner had he uttered these words than the Tory party were revealed as a bunch of blaggers, shaggers and carpetbaggers.
New Labour says it wants to restore respect when its upper echelons are manifestly incapable of showing such a quality themselves. The electorate are cattle to be coralled, controlled and kept at arms length.
Quite clearly we’re expected to believe the public is something to be feared. By Blair, in case they ask him a tricky question whose answer isn’t on his idiot board. By us, because they are a darkly amorphous mass harbouring blank-eyed killers prepared to shank us for shits ‘n’ giggles.
Intelligent robots wouldn’t have to connect us all to a computer-generated fantasy in order to suck our energy – the real world is fantastic enough under New Labour (and I don’t mean in a good way). If it turns out that Tony Blair is really a hologram or was grown in a laboratory vat fifteen years ago by the Bilderberg Group, most of us will say, “I bloody knew it”, before returning to our soaps, incessant rutting and drinking like vikings.