David Cameron arranged Prince William’s Wedding to Distract Attention from his Plan to RAPE Britain

23 January 2011

Oh dear. That is to say, three cheers for this comedy post by the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny. It turns out there is scarcely any limit to David Cameron’s deviousness. I mean, consider all this:

Over the next two and a half years, a full calendar of bread and circuses has been scheduled to keep the British public happy and obedient while the government puts its economic shock doctrine into effect. This year, it’s the Wedding of Mass Distraction; next year it’s the Diamond Jubilee and after that the Olympics. The timing is a gift for any government attempting to push through punitive and unpopular reforms – the chance to smother dissent with a dampened commemorative tea towel of pomp and circumstance. This is the highest function of what Guy Debord called the society of the spectacle: not just to distract popular attention from the machinations of government, but artificially to invoke the imagery of a national consensus that doesn’t exist. In David Cameron’s Britain, respect for the popular mandate is in no way important. All that matters is the iconography of public ritual, just enough to make everybody shut up and shout hurrah.

This is enjoyable piffle and weapons-grade piffle at that. How cunning of David Cameron to arrange Prince William’s wedding! How smart to have arranged for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee! How devious to have persuaded Tony Blair to bid for the Olympic Games! My word, at this rate he’ll be so smart he’ll find a way of selling the Big Society…

But, wait, there’s more gold here, Jerry, much more gold!

Precisely the same logic of baseless deference is at play when the press condemns student protesters who swing from war memorials during anti-cuts marches. While everyone gets worked up about a few kids harmlessly tampering with symbols of wartime sacrifice, the greatest war memorial of all – the welfare state – is being ripped to shreds.

Universal health care, universal education, out-of-work benefits, voter enfranchisement and respect for women’s unpaid labour were all legacies of public consensus after the two world wars; all are directly threatened by the brutal programme of cuts about to be enacted by this government. As far as regards respect for the fallen, Cameron may as well have burned down the Cenotaph and replaced it with vending machines and a flashing sign reading “Big Society".

Venerating the static symbols of Britain’s uncomfortably bloodstained imperial traditions requires much less compassion, and much less effort, than preserving the living institution bequeathed to us by former generations. Give the public a ceremony and a huge parade, the theory goes, and general complaisance will follow. This time, though, our leaders are beginning to worry that it might not be enough.

I don’t really give a damn about some foolish protestor swinging his way around the Cenotaph – bloody-stupid-but-heat-of-the-moment-and-carried-away-stuff – but I doubt the average Briton sees the Cenotaph as a "static" symbol of "Britain’s uncomfortably bloodstained traditions" and not just because most people are sensible enough to see the Empire as a creature of its times, for worse and sometimes for better, and all the rest of it. No, they probably – and rightly – view the Cenotaph as being as close to a sacred thing as we have in this country tday.


For that matter, whatever his faults, I’m unpersuaded the public see David Cameron as a latterday Nero. Nor that they really believe that the age of universal health care and universal education is over. Indeed, it’s also hard to see how this government is attempting to eliminate voter enfranchisement, unemployment benefit or even, whisper it, "respect for women’s unpaid labour".

So I assume that Miss Penny’s post is really a too-subtle-for-me jape and not at all evidence that aspects of the left have lost their minds just as surely and completely as some parts of the right did during the Blair-Brown ministry.

Oh, and she might as well read some history: large parts of the welfare state pre-date WW2. But in her own way Miss Penny shows herself to be just as extreme as those American nutters who think Barack Obama is unravelling all that was ever sweet and good and holy about the United States. The mentality is just the same and so is the divorce from reality. 

But who can fail to be stirred by her concluding rallying call?

This is exactly why the possibility of disrupting the stultifying public pageantry of the royal wedding must remain on the table. Do we want to be part of a culture that sits in front of the TV, whining while the big decisions are made for us and cheering on cue? Or do we want to be part of a culture that stakes a claim, stands firm and answers back to injustice?

Yeah. Whatever. Or you could, as I believe the kids say, get a life. Or manners, since deliberately trying to spoil someone else’s enjoyment of something you consider trifling or boring or irrelevant might be thought rude. What’s the point?

For that matter, all the available evidence suggests that the Great British People do like loafing on the sofa while complaining about everything. That’s one mark of this country’s success.

 PS: Fish in other barrels that remain unshot? Your time may yet come. And anyway you are still in a barrel.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • paulg

    This is the most disgraceful thing that I have ever read, penny by name penny by intellect.

    She insults every person who can read, she insults every person who can think.
    She is so insulting one can only assume she can’t read or think herself.

    Her comments are disgraceful.

  • Nicholas

    “. . . but artificially to invoke the imagery of a national consensus that doesn’t exist”.

    We had 13 years of exactly that from New Labour. Their ministers, spokespeople and activists were constantly talking about what the “public” wanted with precious little evidence for how they knew (mostly quoting anonymous constituents, fake charities, single issue pressure groups or from indecently hasty consultations with, usually, New Labour’s police placemen). I suppose it might have been construed as “New Labour’s public”, those British people for whom New Labour was “nothing less than the political arm”, but even so the imaginary national consensus was prevalently trumpeted for all the legislation and the more ridiculous soundbites of those miserable years.

    It probably comes down to something as simple as if you don’t share the politics of the government there is no national consensus and if you do there is. One might hope the penny would drop and facilitate a more balanced appraisal from Ms Penny. But when it comes to leftist journalists and their love for and capability to churn out propaganda rather than balanced objectivity I’m not holding my breath.

    The crack about “uncomfortably bloodstained imperialist traditions” is outrageous given how much blood was spilled in order to allow the likes of Ms Penny the freedom to write such nasty tripe. As a communist she might have been suffering the lice-ridden huts and gas chambers of the concentration camps had that blood sacrifice not been made.

    Comrade insurgents Ken and Fred are absolutely wrong about what Ms Penny implies as a re-read of her first sentence quoted here reveals – “. . . to be scheduled to keep . . . ” implies no fortuitous accident but rather a deliberate intent. Wind your necks in lads.

  • Baron

    Alex, superb piece, wittily crafted, too. Where do these creatures breed? We should be told, have a go at exterminating the lot, and that also includes the BBC.

  • Fred Johnson

    Nice try Alex, but I’ve just read the piece and the lady does NOT suggest Cameron has arranged these events, only that they’re a useful device to divert the public from his austerity measures. Just thought I’d put the record straight.

  • Victor Southern

    Hell knows no fury like a demented socialist feminist.

  • Archibald

    I think Laurie has a point. Does anyone know what it is?

    I think she should be commended for basing what purports to be a serious piece of journalism almost entirely around a combination of the lyrics of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s ‘Television, The Drug Of The Nation’. It can’t have been easy. Apparently.

    One wonders if the wonderfully exotic and kooky and so pathetically exploited hook that she’s a young lesbian who wears lipstick wasn’t one clown-sized foot in the door for her over in the PC World that is the New Statesman, where you get the feeling that they like their range of political views to come in stereotyped form only, please.

  • Sam Davidson

    One can only laugh at these people and pray that, one day, they’ll get the joke. Anyway, I’m glad the N.S. is as temperate and considered in it’s commentary as ever.

  • Ken Bshop

    Ken, you are being silly, Penny does not suggest that these events were created in order to distract the public. She is alleging that they are being used to do so.

  • Ken

    Wow, so this is all a conspiracy that was cooked up as much as 60 years ago? How foresighted was Winston Churchill that he arranged for the death of a king so that six decades later a Diamond Jubilee could be used to cover up an economic conspiracy!

  • Mchael Sweeney

    Penny Red, the hard left’s Bart Simpson. The BBC had her on Newsnight this week for goodness sakes. Next it’ll be the Bash Street Kids discussing NHS reform.

  • Fergus Pickering

    It occurs to me, and many Indians I think, that the British Empire was the best thing that ever happened to them. Didn’t do much harm to British Somaliland either, if Miss Penny has ever heard of it. And the British Empire gave us Australia (which would otherwise be filled with third world persons, and cricket. Good God, what more does the silly cow want? Writing like that ought to be a capital offence. Or she could be banished to Mogadishu, say. Or the Arab country of her choice.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here