It's about renewed ambition for Britain.
Because we want to change politics, and change Britain.
Above all, our politics is broken.
Out of step with people.
Out of step with the modern world.
That is why I have one sole ambition: to change Britain to make it the liberal country the British people want it to be.
I want a new politics: a people's politics ..."It makes you want to gouge your eyes out with pencils. Verbless sentences. Vapid sentiments. The usual demand for 'change.' This is a style of speaking created and perfected by Blair and his minions and it utterly dominates British politics now. Ming and Gordon can't do it convincingly - which is one reason they were sidelined. It's the politics of the marketing department: dress up your lack of ideas with idea-free words. Sound inspiring whilst saying nothing. It's Orwellian, in the accurate sense of that overused word: deliberately designed, meaningless language 'falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details.' This way you can claim to represent something different whilst representing something precisely the same as you will get from the rest of them: the vapid market worship of our ruling elites.
Anyway, I'm not going to mouth off about the books. I'm just going to mouth off about Ian McEwan. His novel(la?) On Chesil Beach is the firm favourite, apparently. Judging from past experience this probably means it won't win. I certainly hope not, because McEwan is a dull, pompous and utterly uninteresting ass, whose elevation to Grand Old Man of English writing is either a sad reflection on the current state of literature in
Like I say, I haven't read On Chesil Beach, but I would be willing to bet that it's pretty much like many of his other books, an inexplicable number of which I have. Much of this was due, in my defence, to a period I spent a couple of years ago locked up in a shack on a remote Scottish loch, writing a novel of my own (it wasn't published, incidentally, but don't go reading anything into that. Obviously I am a deeply bitter human being, but that's not what makes me loathe McEwan. That's all down to him). Virtually the only books in the place were McEwan novels, so I was effectively forced to read them, especially as there was no electricity.
And God, they were tedious. I got through A Child In Time, Atonement and Enduring Love, and then had to stop before I chewed my own head off. Why did I hate them? Let me try and explain.
For a start, every one has the same plot. A dull, smug, upper middle class, upper middle-aged wine-drinking intellectual from the south east of
Sounds like it could be quite interesting, doesn't it? Well, it never is. Everything is filtered through the ponderous, underwrought and spectacularly unspectacular mind of the narrator, who is clearly exactly like his hero in almost every respect. Sometimes we are treated to his middle of the road political opinions, or his middle of the road opinions on art or sex. What we really want ' or I do, anyway ' is to see his smugness punctured. But this never happens, and after a while you realise that this is because McEwan doesn't think his hero is smug. There's no unreliable narrator here, or antihero. Nothing interesting at all, in fact. McEwan actually likes the dullards he puts before us.
And he has nothing ' nothing at all ' to say. This is what is so remarkable. Read any of the reviews of his novels in any of the literary mags or newspapers and you'll find a remarkably similar line being churned out: McEwan lays bare the unpredictability that lies beneath the surface of middle class life; McEwan quietly peels away the everyday to reveal profundities; McEwan is shocking, canny, forensic in his prose, unflashy; some kind of tweedy, speccy English Hemingway.
Well, balls. There are two things going on here. Firstly, English literature currently lacks a Father Figure. It always needs one, for some reason, and unfortunately none of the Young Turks of the eighties has grown into a suitable candidate. Amis: hasn't written good novel since Money. Rushdie: too smug. Barnes: who? The crop of suitable middle-aged men is tiny. McEwan is about the only one left who still regularly writes stuff. Thus he has been crowned by default: the John Major of English letters. And the more people say his stuff is great, the more it seems necessary to find greatness in it, for fear of being left behind.
Secondly, it is surely no coincidence that most reviewers and critics are upper middle class, upper middle-aged wine-drinking intellectuals from the south east of
Something tells me it does. Something tells me, too, that we really need to get this over with as soon as possible, so a new generation of actually interesting novelists can replace McEwan and his overrated ilk. Please, God, just don't let it take too long.
In any given week, many things happen which make me think. Last week, for example, I asked myself a number of questions about British politics. Did David Cameron really make that speech without any prompting? If so, is he some kind of robot, or do they just teach you that sort of thing at
But then a couple of things happened which actually did ignite a spark of interest in my hollowed-out husk of a soul. Firstly, the Tory Party promised that middle class people wouldn't have to pay inheritance tax if they got elected. Then, in an entirely unrelated development, a gaggle of heroic young activists occupied the domestic flights terminal at
In my mind, if nowhere else, these two developments are related, because of what they tell us about politics and about the green movement. Greens, you see, like to believe that they are pretty high-minded people. Fair enough: most of them are. Trying going out for a steak and a fag with a couple of them if you want to see my point viciously and rather boringly proven. Fatally, though, many greenies like to think that the public as a whole are quite high-minded too. They think that, if only Joe and Jo Public were given all the available information about our ongoing rape of the planet, they would choose to do something about it. Of course they would: who wouldn't? We're all in this together, and we all want to do good. We have a duty to leave a cleaner planet for the sake of our children. Everybody loves fluffy polar bears. Etc.
Politicians, on the other hand, know this is drivel. Ask Joe and Jo in an opinion poll if they'd pay more taxes to save the climate and they say yes. Ask them to actually pay the taxes and they ring up daytime talk radio shows and call you a communist. Then they vote for someone else. Someone like George Osborne, perhaps. No sooner had the shadow chancellor dangled a bunch of banknotes in front of the already well-stuffed faces of the bourgeoisie than they all decided he wasn't such a bad chap after all. The Tories gained six points in the opinion polls.
Meanwhile, over in
Most people you see, are not high-minded. They do what's easiest and what they like doing and what they can afford to do. That's the way it's always been. Trouble is, most of us can afford, these days, to contribute to the ongoing death throes of the global ecosystem, as a 'lifestyle choice'. We don't do it on purpose; it's just a side-effect of getting what we want. I'm all for D-locks and angry slogans. I'm all for giving people information about the impacts of their actions, too. I just don't expect it to change their actions much. They're not really that interested. I've learned that one the hard way. Sometimes I wish I hadn't.