What has happened to the silly season? The usual August fare of wacky surveys, funnily-shaped vegetables and celebrity faces seen in the sky are nowhere to be seen, or if they are, they’re lurking sheepishly on page 10. I am quite certain that there are still rude carrots in the vegetable aisle but they have overshadowed by the rather gloomy state of national affairs. No-one is even talking much about the crap weather, so depressing is everything else. It’s the sort of time when a country could really do with some stirring political leadership…
But the government has been noticeable in the last few days by its absence, despite riots in London and economic meltdown. For those of us who have always rather suspected that being in power is just another little game for Dave and his Chipping Norton chums this comes as no surprise. This government is so out of touch with the lives of the people in Tottenham, or even St Albans for that matter, that they couldn’t touch it with a barge pole.
Forgetting to tip a waitress in a Tuscan cafe could, of course, be an innocent oversight; or it could be a sign of total arrogance. Either way, I’m pretty certain if Dave had ever had to work as a waiter or barman he’d never forget. And making a photo op out of correcting the error is worse, especially when London is in flames…I’m not saying they shouldn’t go on holiday, but come on, surely Dave could put in an appearance between his mid-morning Milano espresso and his Tuscan olive-oil-drizzled, sun-dried tomato, Pecorino focaccia?
However, fear not, our ruling clique have come up with a great idea for getting back in touch: HMG’s e-petition site. What a brilliant idea – let individuals start a petition. Couldn’t we do this already? And what an amazing prize, if you get 100,000 signatures for your ’cause’ then a cross-party group of backbench MPs get to decide if its worthy of debate. Couldn’t we do this already, by raising the issue directly with our own MP?
Ok, so let’s not be cynical for a minute, let’s have a look at the worthy causes that have found no other avenue for getting heard. The petition topping the charts is a call for cheaper petrol and diesel. This is not something I’d necessarily disagree with, given it cost me £70 to fill up my car the other day, but bizarrely it’s been started by the Tory MP for Harlow – couldn’t he just table an adjournment debate or something and let the rest of us have a go? Like, well, yes, calling to keep formula 1 free to air in the UK. That’s certainly something parliament should spend its time debating as our streets burn and our economy nosedives. Oh, and of course, there’s the death penalty.
When I last looked, the petition to restore the death penalty had just over 10,000 signatures and the one to retain the ban just over 18,000. That’s following a blaze of publicity, including coverage on the national news. I know there’s a few months to run, but is either one really going to reach 100,000? Probably doesn’t matter to the crusading chap who started the ‘restore’ petition and has seen his profile rise significantly with, no doubt, corresponding increases in visits to his website and advertising revenue (I’m not going to mention his name, he doesn’t need any more exposure, even if it’s only on my little blog).
So excuse me if I’m a bit cynical about this attempt by the toffs in charge to get ‘in-touch’ with the people. Quite a lot of people who might want to sign a petition, or even start one, don’t have the time to spend browsing a government website, that is if they have access to the internet. And even those of use that do, and I admit I signed the ‘retain the ban’ one, are far more concerned about job losses, riots, increasing NHS waiting times, pension shortfalls, benefit cuts, closing law centres, rising food prices and watching our economy go down the toilet.
The epetition site, like the ‘tell us the crap laws we should get rid of’ website that came before it, are just fig leaves, pathetic attempts by a government that hasn’t got a popular mandate for half of its harebrained ideas to pretend they are listening. By staying on their summer holidays they have also shown a quite dazzling ineptitude for presentation, which is the one thing Dave should be good at. I’m not sure what’s the bigger crime, being out of touch or being seen to be out of touch. Either way, they are starting to look pretty silly.