The Curmudgeon


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rich in References

In our postmodern politics, where election pledges are merely an ephemeral cultural construction compounded from the limitations of natural language and the electorate's naïve attachment to passé standards of "truth", and where the party that calls itself Conservative is run by wannabe Blairites while the one that calls itself Democrat has hitched itself to a gang of swivel-eyed right-wingers whose manifesto was rejected by a clear majority, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the dubious pleasures of the intertext made themselves manifest. Thus Brian Coleman, the Conservative councillor and London Assembly member charged with dismantling and privatising London's emergency services, has become involved in an entertaining bit of bricolage thanks to some comments he made about the Fire Brigades Union in a local newspaper.

Taking a leaf from the Howard Flight book of tact and charm, Coleman described the union as "thugs and bullies" who couldn't "string a sentence together" and were a "thoroughly unpleasant and nasty lot", like the teenagers who held all those riot police against their will yesterday evening. Coleman did concede, as Howard Flight might possibly concede if faced with a particularly clean-living specimen of the breeding classes, or as a Conservative candidate in a previous decade might have said about a nigger who wasn't his neighbour, that firefighters can be decent enough on a "one-to-one level". As with students and other undesirables, it's just when they start acting collectively that things become unpleasant. Coleman stated that he intended to "break" the union, as opposed to solving the dispute, thus calling to mind the recent attempts by Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to inaugurate a return to the golden days of Thatcherite handbagging; and he even dropped a subtle reference to the state of Britain's railways, where officials are always careful to distinguish between fare-payers and taxpayers, by drawing a similarly bizarre distinction between taxpayers and union members.

Finally, Coleman emphasised the indeterminacy of other people's ideas of reality by undercutting the London Haystack's assurances that frontline services would not suffer. The London Haystack, whose own ability to string a sentence together has occasionally been in some doubt, responded by extruding a spokesbeing to proclaim that "abusive and provocative language from either side of the dispute is inappropriate and unhelpful", in the manner of China's determinedly impartial response to the latest enormity by Sarah Palin's allies in North Korea.


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