Category Archives: clichés

Humours of an election

Mid-morning. A few days before a general election. Dalrymple and a confederate are at his mansion in one of the prettier small towns — as yet unbesmirched by the socialist planners — of the English midlands. The pair have enjoyed a large traditional English breakfast including beefsteak, washed down with pints of Burgundy (from the well-stocked cellars of Dalrymple’s château near Alès), and are now sharing a very decent bottle of port. There is a knock at the heavy oak door. Dalrymple directs a liveried footman to open it. An opposition candidate, with her unpleasing 20-year-old son in tow, present themselves at the threshold. They have come to canvass the doctor’s vote.

CANDIDATE’S SON: (mutters something incoherent and derogatory about the incumbent Member of Parliament, who is standing for re-election.)

DALRYMPLE: The Member* came out very well in the expenses scandal — he didn’t claim a penny.

CANDIDATE’S SON (assuming that the word ‘rich’ is a moral accusation): That’s because he’s a rich man.

DALRYMPLE: Is that not an argument for having only rich men in parliament? Better a parliament of rich men than one of men who enter parliament to become rich.

[Exeunt, amour propre wounded, the candidate and her son.]

DALRYMPLE (turning to his confederate and chuckling): Poor young man! I was only teasing him a little, and getting him, still a student, to exercise his mind and escape for a moment from the clichés with which that capacious instrument has probably been filled from birth.

CONFEDERATE: An oafish youth, to be sure. But what in fact is your view on the matter, doctor?

DALRYMPLE: Rich men, provided they start their political careers in their 50s at the earliest, are the best suited for political life. They are more likely to accept the rôle of servitor of their nation than master of it.

Canvassing for Votes, Hogarth, Humours of an Election series (1755), Sir John Soane’s Museum

*Dalrymple’s home when he is in England is in Bridgnorth, and his representative in the Commons is Philip Dunne, Member of Parliament for the Ludlow constituency (covering the district of South Shropshire, and the district of Bridgnorth wards of Alveley, Bridgnorth Castle, Bridgnorth East, Bridgnorth Morfe, Bridgnorth West, Broseley East, Broseley West, Claverley, Ditton Priors, Glazeley, Harrington, Highley, Much Wenlock, Morville, Stottesdon, and Worfield). Dunne is one of the 50 ‘saints’ — MPs who minimised their (taxpayer-funded) expenditure. In Dunne’s case, his parliamentary expenses were minimised to zero.

We will fight them with bromides

Theresa May: ‘enough is enough’, like a silly schoolmistress

Dalrymple notes that after the London Bridge terror attack, the insipid British prime minister Theresa May

referred to the innocence of the victims, as though there were guilty victims lurking somewhere who deserved to be mowed down or have their throats cut.

In post-Diana Britain, Dalrymple points out,

no tragedy or wickedness occurs without the police and other officials saying (as did May on this occasion), ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,’ when this is most unlikely to be true and is an unctuous platitude that brings no solace.

May said on this occasion that ‘enough is enough’.

Meaning what? That a little terrorism is acceptable, as if the perpetrators were boisterous children finally being called to order after having been given leeway by the grown-ups?

She said that things would have to change,

without specifying which things. To specify would have been to invite criticism, opposition, opprobrium—and just before an election, no less. Best keep to clichés.

The cultural triumph of psychobabble

Theresa May: the little ones shall experience distress no more

The British prime minister, Dalrymple reports, has

spotted an opportunity to demonstrate to her sentimental electorate how much she cares for even the least of them by announcing that she wants to put a mental health professional, i.e. form-filler, in every school.

There is, says Dalrymple, a new social contract:

I will listen to your shallow clichés about yourself if you will listen to mine.

Her

compassion by proxy, at taxpayers’ expense, is typical of the behaviour of modern politicians, who need to show their electorates that they are not the heartless or ruthless ambitious nonentities that they might otherwise appear to be. An uncritically sentimental population is a perfect flock to be fleeced in this way, sheep for the shearing.

May’s project, Dalrymple points out,

is also typical of the process of simultaneous work creation and work avoidance that marks the modern state, a process that turns it into a trough from which many may feed.