Yesterday, Maria and I were chatting over a hospital meal about (of all things) Labour's disastrous local election results. The conversation was animated because there's an element of schadenfreude here: as far as I'm concerned, the authoritarian thugs who run this country deserved what they got.
But that's by the by. Specifically, what Maria and I were talking about was Labour's explanation for the results, which amounts to one word: the ECONOMY. Everything boils down to this. Every single Mouthpiece of Sauron who's spoken up after Labour's defeat on behalf of the government - every single over-paid flunky who's risen to obscurity in Gordon Brown's cabinet - comes out with the same "spinned" (spun) explanation of what has happened: people are dissatisfied with the state of the ECONOMY at the moment - i.e. at the price of petrol / bread / baked beans - and they want someone to deal with it. When, in their infinite wisdom, Labour have dealt with it, then the voters will return by the million.
This is rather brilliant as an explanation and as political spin: it informs people retrospectively why they were disgruntled, in the hope that those people will trundle away and say "Ah, yes, that was why I was disgruntled." It is a way of reducing people's disgruntlement to a manageable unit which can be gradually eliminated - which is much more containable than a generalised, diffusive disgruntlement and feeling that lots of things are wrong, but no one is quite sure what.
It's also a subtle version of what Labour do every day: tell people what they are thinking, why they are unhappy with the state of things. People don't quite know what they're thinking - so the Labour logic goes - so we need to "help" them. We know better than them what they're really thinking, so we can instruct them, guide them.
No doubt this all stems from the old left-wing ideas of false consciousness and ideology - those old notions that the people don't really know what they want, what they think, but the leaders / the state / the government / the party / Karl Marx's representatives on Earth (please delete as appropriate) do. As I get older, more and more I think this deeply damaging and deeply authoritarian ideology (and it is itself an ideology) lies at the root of all left-wing politics, from New Labour to Old Labour to radical feminism to Socialist Worker to the green lobby to Ken Livingstone to northern councils and so on and so forth.
I hasten to add here that, as everyone knows, I'm no true-blue Tory - God forbid. Thatcherism and its predecessors espoused other forms of authoritarianism (despite claims of laissez-faire capitalism and free-trade - never trust anyone whose claims include the words "free-trade"), many of them more outwardly, physically violent than the mental violence of New Labour.
But at least the Tories - in their most liberal, old-fashioned, inept incarnations - pretend to uphold individual liberty, whatever that means (the liberty to make money at someone else's expense, the liberty to starve). Labour don't even pretend. Instead, they determinedly tell us what to do, what to think, what to believe all the time. They determinedly believe that they (the party) know best, and that anyone else who disagrees is not only wrong, but morally wrong. This is a form of religious fundamentalism, of self-righteous sanctimoniousness, of ethical conviction. Anyone who disagrees needs to be forced to agree (at C.C.T.V.-point), and will go to hell if they don't.
It never strikes New Labourites (and here I mean the cabinet, not the back-benchers) that maybe one of the reasons that people voted against them in the local elections is that they are thoroughly bored with sanctimoniousness, with moralising, with being told what to do, what to think. It never strikes New Labourites that maybe, just maybe, they might be wrong on some points and the people right (erm, Iraq?). It never strikes Labourites that telling people why they voted against the party might just be adding salt into the wound. No, it never strikes them - not for a moment - that they might, for once, actually listen to people, actually ask them why they voted against the government.