The Mitt and Rick Show – could it happen here?
The bizarre dialogue from the Mitt and Rick Show on Planet America becomes more and more alien to anyone who might regard themselves as even vaguely right-minded.
As the race for the Republican nomination for an already doomed bid for the White House plays out, the rhetoric lurches insanely to the outermost extremities of a kind of conservatism that only yee-haw, good ol' boy America can do. All resemblance of reasonableness has receded into the far distance as the Romney and Santorum camps outdo each other to appease the stark staring bonkers Tea Party rather than make a credible political pitch to the general populous.
At least it could never happen here. Could it?
We can certainly hope that contenders for No. 10 could never be quite the Looney Tunes cartoon characters that inhabit the upper echelons of the US Republican party. We may laugh at our political leaders being drawn wearing their Y-fronts outside their trousers or with condoms on their heads but, with the exception of the odd Martian, they only tend to go mad after leaving office.
Putting people aside and concentrating on political positioning, it seems to me that Republican party politics boil down to this: the want of a world positioned where the Wild West meets with the Old Testament. It's a place where the fittest survive and prosper through their piety while welfare is unwelcome so the frail fall by the wayside. The European way is the way of communism, and they don't want that.
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So it's not like here. Is it?
I fear the differences may not be as great as it would seem. Here, after all, the conservatives are not in hopeless opposition but hold court virtually unopposed now they have entirely subsumed their weak-willed Liberal Democrat allies. An alliance forged with the general acquiescence, if not the enthusiasm, of the people to guide Britain's fight back from the economic doldrums now uses our fiscal frailty as a smokescreen for the pursuance of a political agenda that is further to the right than at any time since Thatcher.
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As far as religious fervour goes, we can only blame the Cameron regime for the homophobic rant of Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien – for whom gay marriage is a 'grotesque subversion' – in as much as the former has suggested a national consultation about it. Nevertheless, evidenced by Pickles' defence of prayers in council chambers, Warsi's warnings on the evils of militant secularisation and Cameron's lauding of the virtues of Christian society, the present government's record does otherwise err towards being on the side of the gods as far as God is concerned.
But it's the men in grey suits leading the swing to the right in more important aspects of our lives than religion who present the greatest threat. They are pushing us indubitably towards an alignment more with the extremes of our not so distant cousins across the pond rather than towards the realpolitik over La Manche.
The privatisation – or, as they would put it, the denationalisation – of state-owned services like coal, steel, electricity, water, gas, telecommunications and the railways, was the work of previous administrations bent on the destruction of state ownership for undeclared political ends. Private ownership, it was vaunted instead, would lead to greater competition, more efficient operations and, ultimately, cheaper services. It didn't.
No one would pretend that the nationalised industries were as efficient as they might have been, or that unions didn't get too big for their boots, protecting restrictive practices for too long and striking too often.
That said, none of those now private sectors have exactly covered themselves with glory other than in the eyes of their shareholders. The coal industry is all but dead and buried and the steel business buckled, its remnants now owned by India. Electricity, gas and telecoms operators fail to compete in a manner that is in any way comprehensible to consumers wanting to compare their offering. Water companies are the same monopolistic behemoths they ever were except that they must now divert cash that would otherwise be used to improve, repair and replace their crumbling infrastructure to pay annual dividends to institutional stockholders.
As for the railways; don't talk to me about the railways.
Meanwhile, outsourced thousands working as hospital cleaners, bin men and carers in nursing homes are in the same jobs their predecessors did but earning half the money.
Now we are, make no mistake, heading for phase two. The coalition is overseeing the toppling of the remaining pillars of a once proud welfare state. Healthcare, education and justice are all under attack.
Wide-ranging and damaging NHS reforms are being bludgeoned relentlessly through Parliament against the will of large sections of the community and the medical professions. For example, NHS hospitals that currently earn up to 10pc of revenue from private practice will be allowed to increase that to 49pc.
The universal and equal right to free education has already been undermined at the highest level, making it easier than ever for elite universities to indulge their propensity to select an unrepresentative proportion of their intake from the privileged and privately educated.
We already have so-called free schools, a misguided concept intended to advantage the disadvantaged but all too often picking and choosing what they teach, when, where and to whom at the expense of those operating under the umbrella of the local authority.
Now we are to have private policemen.
It does all make you wonder how long it might be before we're appointing tin star sheriffs and singing Hail to the Chief.