Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Darius Cameron stalks Blairshazzar’s throne, Iznogoud prepares his bid for the Caliphate.

It’s been a while since the Militant Pine Marten last piped up, but since it is mostly concerned with politics, and that for the duration of the summer the politicians have by and large been more concerned with their suntans, it decided to take a leaf out of their forest and do very much the same. Besides, since any theoretical readers will mostly have been enjoying their holidays rather than scanning these pixels at their office desks, there was really very little incentive to engage with the wider world. However, it is now September, and as millions of children endure the collective annual trauma of returning to school after a season of freedom, and as we return from attempting to recapture the feeling that they have just lost albeit for a shorter period and with a much lower likelihood of success, so have the politicians also resumed their posts. And so once again, the Militant Pine Marten must prick its’ little mustelid ears and hold forth on what it hears.

On both sides of the Channel, jostling for position as inevitably the tenures of two political heavyweights come to an end, although these two face the inevitable differently. The chief difference in the current situations of Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair is that whereas the date of the former’s retirement is set by the French Constitution, the latter does not seem to have yet come to terms with what must come to pass. But then, the current Prime Minister has never shown any inclination towards relinquishing any sort of power, and it was always quite clear that he would never leave Downing Street with good grace. Indeed, the alleged pact between Blair and Brown for an eventual orderly transfer of power has always struck the Pine Marten as self-delusion on the part of the Brown camp and Blairophobes. And so Blair desperately seeks to avoid the topic, like countless children last Sunday evening, who upon being told to prepare their satchels and go to bed early covered their ears and shouted “La-la-la! I’m not listening!”, and as the volume of their parents’ voices rose, so did their cries to drown out this new intruding, unwanted sound. “I’M NOT GOING! I’M NOT GOING! I still have other very important things to do!”. Only Tony isn’t referring to one last game or one last cartoon, what he has in mind is, in now typical, self-caricaturing style, one last paranoid, sinister plan to rid Britain of the scourge of yet-unborn juvenile delinquents. But the writing’s on the wall for Tony Blair, he just refuses to ask for a translation.

Outside the walls of Babylon, Darius Cameron may well be poised to set his Patrician behind on Blairshazzar’s vacated throne. He comes not at the head of a mighty host, but armed with pleasant sounding platitudes, vague proposals, and chubby shiny glowing cheeks. In fact, he’s really quite reminiscent of the Old King in an earlier incarnation. This is the new Tory house style: smiles, cheerios and sweetly scented hot air. Perhaps the finest illustration of the new prevailing mood was young Georgy Porgy Osborne’s rather disarmingly charming boyish enthusiasm for magnetic levitation railways. Frankly, maglev trains and scrapping ID cards is starting to look like quite an attractive set of policies. In fact, if the Tories are serious about this, and we have no reason to suspect this of course, it almost makes sense. Take the money earmarked for universal State surveillance, and use it for maglev railways! There are far worse ways of spanking away enormous sums of taxpayer’s money. Just make sure to bring over some Japanese and Chinese engineers to design and build the network.

That last suggestion would no doubt not be very palatable to some of Nicolas Sarkozy’s young supporters who appear to have confused his address to the UMP’s Youth organisation with a rock concert. Indeed, the event was blessed with the hallowed presence of Johnny Halliday himself, and even the rapper Doc GynĂ©co. Serious street cred there. Although it’s going to take all of the good doctor’s lyrical expertise to convert to Sarko’s cause those that the Great Pretender wished so famously to hose into the gutter.

The content of Sarkozy’s harangue was disappointing. Part of his appeal has always been that he was seen as a man of innovation, indeed he himself never tires of claiming that he would be the candidate of “rupture”, or fresh beginnings (and there’s Blair’s legacy by the way: all that “sweeping away the ashes of past”, “moving boldly into a Brave New World”, “a modern, forward-looking country”, that’s what will remain, together with the utter vacuity of such rhetoric). The problem is that what he has outlined in his speech is a simple old-fashioned backward-looking rightwing, nationalistic programme: “no” to gay weddings and adoption, strict immigration controls, compulsory “civic service”, and repeated invocations of the Heroic Youth of 14-18, the Heroic Resistance, and other venerated ancestor spirits. Finally, on the one area that really requires a little vision, a little daring, not to say a little sensitivity, that of cultural integration of the French of immigrant origins, he resorted to old-fashioned monolithic Republican dogma. “France is your Fatherland and you have no other, even if your parents and grandparents came from elsewhere”. The Militant Pine Marten happens to be in a position to claim authoritatively that it is perfectly possible to have two “fatherlands”, to have two cultures, to be not without solid roots, but to have two sets of them, each as strong as the other. Arguably, it makes for a healthier tree. But it does not appear that Sarkozy is a great one for multiculturalism. In today’s France, a president with that degree of shortsightedness would be positively dangerous.

One way or another, it’s going to be an interesting political year on both sides of the Channel, although the calibre of those that would replace those currently in power is not particularly reassuring. Hopefully, by the time all the aforementioned schoolchildren come to vote, we will have left them with some worthier candidates.