How David Cameron Deflects Hatred by Surrounding Himself with Bastards
The Prime Minister's bland void of a personality is the future of political charisma.
According to this week's iteration of the interminable YouGov poll, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is the least popular frontline politician in Britain, which should make him the most hated man full stop – barring, possibly, a few serial killers and paedophiles. He has, seemingly, gone out of his way to directly antagonise our junior doctors, which to the general English consciousness is an act of political evil that could be surpassed only by taxing dogs or banning tea. After all, many people have had positive, personal experiences of interacting with their family doctors, while possibly nobody, perhaps including his family, has had a positive, personal experience of interacting with Jeremy Hunt.
Besides, he's not a nice person to look at: his facial features are all scrunched up too close together, his hair looks like it's made of toothpicks, and he tends to be photographed with the expansive hand gestures and furrowed lips of a self-satisfied stage magician pulling his new NHS policies out of a previously empty hat. He is, essentially, unbearable. So it makes sense that so much of the resulting social anger has been projected on the person and body of our Health Secretary that he's more hated than George Osborne, or Michael Gove, or, say, David Cameron.
It's not my job to tell you who to hate, but it is notable how successfully our Prime Minister has managed to insulate himself from the hatred he deserves. He's managed to turn his Cabinet into a cast of comic-book baddies, while himself floating serene and orblike above it all. He might get his usual share of abuse on Twitter, hundreds of people lining up to call him dishface or pigfucker, but so does everyone. And at the same time polls consistently tell us that people still actually like him, far more than any other party leader – while the British people might think that his party is governing the country in the interests of a tiny financial elite, they still trust them to do this efficiently.
For a long time, I couldn't understand this. But then I watched the leaders' debates before last year's election, and I understood. Lined up on the stage was a horrifying cast of theriomorphic creatures: Nigel Farage, with his bulging fishy eyes and his sad gulping mouth; Ed Miliband, wearing the long head and short limbs of a shuffling seaside donkey; Natalie Bennett, who is Australian – and then there was Cameron. I don't remember anything he said, or how he said it, but there was this safe, still, merciful blankness about the man. He didn't look like a Prime Minister; he looked like someone playing a Prime Minister in a BBC drama. Which is, of course, what people want. The Tories won that election by campaigning on keeping "David Cameron as Prime Minister" – they even put it on their posters – and it worked, because it's a tautology. All it meant was that the Prime Minister would be the Prime Minister, because Cameron has no real qualities whatsoever.
"I want hobgoblins around me", says Nietzsche's Zarathustra, "for I am courageous." Cameron has ringed himself with hobgoblins. Besides the spikily unpleasant Hunt, there's Michael Gove, a slimy Gollum-thing who once tried to evade Freedom of Information requests by sending emails under the name "Mrs. Blurt", and Iain Duncan Smith, a slow-rolling ball of gelatinous putty glomming on to people's benefits payments.
American politicians tend to look like sleazy auto salesmen. Even if they've never sold a car in their lives they have that lubricious grin, they want you to like them, and they're ripping you off the whole time. Britain is different. Our parliamentarians are represented by the pale, bloated slug of a landlord, which is in fact exactly what many of them are. They don't care what you think about them; the power is theirs and it has been for centuries; pay up or get out. It's not damaging the government to hate these people – with an impressive military discipline, they're paraded in front of us precisely so that we can hate them.
David Cameron is different. Before he decided to have a stab at running an entire country, he was a PR man for Carlton TV. Far more than even Tony Blair, his premiership is a triumph of form over content. At the last election, advanced statistical techniques called "the Knowledge" allowed the Conservatives to send out different messages to different people depending on their the darkest secrets buried in their internet histories. Each Facebook status update, or tweet, or even online shop was used to determine the kind of campaigning material you'd find most convincing. If you've got a Diptyque loyalty card and just booked a long holiday in the Cayman Islands you might be susceptible to a different type of online ad than if you spend most of your day tweeting about working at a bar. But you can only allow all these competing messages to be projected onto you if you start out as a blank, white screen. His world is the simulacrum, images without referents, a vast ring of light and colour and hatred that's all hollow inside.
Critics of Conservative policy have stressed the point that the austerity being imposed on Britain isn't a technical solution but an ideological one. This is true, but it's an ideology that matches the sinking spiral of the entire world; under global capitalism Tory policy is just the path of least resistance (if you want to see what happens when you try to swim against this current, just look at Greece). The Conservatives are just the political wing of the entropic collapse of the Universe. Who better to lead them than a non-entity like David Cameron? In the early modern era power was a big, lavish spectacle, all those monarchs of the anciens régimes weighed down by gold and lace and perfume; by the 20th century it had become anonymised into the figure of a shadowy Man with a business suit and a face clouded in smoke. The current Tory government represents the synthesis of these forms: a shit ensemble of ministerial monsters to do the dirty work of dismantling the country, while at the centre stands a man who represents absolutely nothing.
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