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Monday, January 07, 2013 

Mid-term review: couldn't be much worse.

What is it about certain pairings that brings out the worst, both in them and in everyone watching?  Regardless of what you think personally of Nick Clegg and David Cameron, on their own they come across as being almost human, Clegg especially.  Cameron you can respect, if nothing else, and when faced with such idiocy as Philip Schofield passing him a piece of paper with internet research on paedophiles on it, he just about managed to make the obvious point that there was a danger of encouraging a witch-hunt by descending to such depths.  How Blair or Gordon Brown would have replied is anyone's guess.

Put Clegg and Cameron side by side though and I want to do them both a severe injury.  Ever since that hil-arious shtick in the rose garden they seem to imagine that everyone will warm to them if they make jokes or what they imagine to be up to the minute pop culture references.  Cameron duly says to Nick Robinson that the coalition isn't a marriage because it does exactly what it says on the tin, like a tin of Ronseal.  Clegg responds with, and oh, my aching sides, that's the unvarnished truth.  It's at that precise moment that I want either the Bottom Inspectors to burst in and drag everyone off to the ringpiece gulag, or for the driller killer to enter stage right and reproduce the famous Vipco video cover only with Cameron as the man having his brain liquidised.

At least, if either of those two things had happened there would have been some point to the proceedings, as I really can't understand why Cameron and Clegg were yet again re-launching the coalition.  Is there an adviser somewhere who keeps finding a single focus group that says all these side by side appearances are exactly what the general public want to see, their leaders steadfast and united in their disunity?  Is it that Cameron felt a pang of guilt that he hasn't bothered to keep up the practice started by Blair and continued by Brown of having regular press conferences, and so invited along Clegg to keep him happy?  Is it that they still haven't twigged that the mere sight of them together is enough to make a significant proportion of the country instantaneously vomit?

It certainly can't have been to put out the "mid-term review", of which only the first part is accurate.  One thing the 52-page document distributed to the media most certainly isn't is a review, as genuine reviews are independent rather than produced by the same people as made the film or the album.  As pointless exercises go, it's up there with trying to turn shit into gold and reading Fifty Shades of Grey, although EL James seems to have proved that alchemy is possible provided you suitably disguise your piss-poor Twilight fan-fiction as porn that can be read on the tube without embarrassment.

The review is at least better written than Fifty Shades, which is the one positive thing you can say about it.  Other than that, I can't for the life of me work out what the point of producing it was: the only members of the public likely to view it are saddos like me, and we've seen it all before as it's little different from the other tripe put out by the coalition.  If it's intended for journalists to pass off as their own work then it's similarly pointless, as it's so shallow and without details that only the Daily Star could reproduce it without expanding on it.  As for self-serving, it rivals New Labour at their worst: the word recession predictably does not feature, the supposed 25% reduction in the deficit that's been remarked on so many times becomes ever more out of date, the work programme which doesn't work is described as the "most ambitious ever", and it notes how 145,000 people have had their incapacity benefit stopped through the work capability assessment, without making clear how many have had the decision overturned at appeal, or how many of those 145,000 have since found work.  And so it goes on.

As for setting out the coalition's priorities for the rest of the parliament, it's even vaguer than the leaks to the press have been.  There might be vouchers for childcare up to a certain amount, there might be a cap on care costs for the elderly, there could be a flat-rate pension of £140, there could be road building projects financed through tolls, or there might be none of these things.  We can though rest assured that the coalition will stop 250,000 babies dying unnecessarily (how, and why exactly 250,000?) and will support 13 countries to hold free and fair elections (why 13?).

One thing we can be certain about is that the war on benefit claimants will continue unabated, until at least the claimant reaches pensionable age, at which point they become entitled to even more.  If by contrast you're one of the unlucky people not to have a job, and the question is why not when there's been 1 million new jobs created in the private sector (another incredibly dodgy statistic) then life for you will become ever more miserable.  It's a real oddity that someone who's currently 64 and out of work is a burden on the system, to go by the Tory rhetoric, while the person who's just turned 65 is to be showered with gifts, whether it be a free bus pass, the winter fuel allowance or free prescriptions.  It isn't just that those over a certain age are more likely to vote and more likely to vote Tory, it seems to be something deeper within modern society.  Yes, there is still appalling ageism and the standard of care for the elderly is often not good enough, but it's also the case that pensioners in the main really have never had it so good.  The young unemployed meanwhile are to be hounded and demonised, and increasingly denied even the basics of subsistence, forced to work for their benefit.  Anyone who objects is either a snob or in the words of Cameron when it comes to the disabled and sick, believe that it's "cruel to expect people to work".

The coalition then rolls on, for the simple reason that the alternative for both governing parties is too grim to contemplate.  The Tory gamble was that they could steamroller through their reforms with minimal opposition, and hope the economy would have recovered enough by the end of 2014 to cut taxes across the board.  They've achieved the first bit, while the second remains elusive. Without the recovery, and by refusing to alter Plan A they're left with all but nothing to do in between now and the election, hence why gay marriage has become such a totemic issue. The Lib Dems meanwhile have lost all credibility for continuing to prop up the Tories, and know an election now would result in their oblivion. The new gamble is that by staying together things can only improve, at least for themselves. The opposite surely has to be the case, as incredible as that sounds.

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