They say a week is a long time in politics. I have to say it has been a long week — nay, two weeks. The word that has struck me as most summing up what we in Britain have witnessed is what the foul-mouthed spin doctor from The Thick of It and In the Loop, Malcolm Tucker, terms an omnishambles.
A slim majority of the country sleepwalking into the future from a mix of patriotism, xenophobia, dispossession, conservatism and, just occasionally, a cogent grasp of economic possibilities. A ruling party that misread and mismanaged the process and which is currently going through a leadership election. A party in opposition that is riven by disagreement over whether principles of social justice count more than electability. Key figures who have led the debate — such as it has been — either resigning or standing back. No exit strategy from anybody. And to cap it all an enquiry that has publicly castigated the former prime minister who in 2003 led Britain into an ill-advised and illegal invasion of Iraq, again with no clear exit strategy but with dire consequences for both Iraq and much of the rest of the world.
And, more than any general election — where after five years one at least gets to vote in the hopes of possibly getting a better government in power — there is a sense of a nation permanently divided, almost exactly in half (there was only a 4% difference in the votes cast). The mistrust and suspicion is going to linger; I don’t think any glib talk about the nation ‘coming together’ is going to be enacted any time soon.
Omnishambles. The word was named 2012 word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. So, what to do in the face of it? Well, when the going gets tough the tough, as they say, gets — reading. I’ve consumed any number of books in the last ten days and it does at least help numb the pain. I may even get around to writing reviews of them.
- Mark Cocker’s part-autobiography, part-natural history Crow Country helped put things into some perspective, focusing on rooks in Norfolk, in the wider world and in the imagination.
- Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child was a chilling but interesting read which still haunts me a little — it’s distantly reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby.
- China Miéville’s intriguing young adult novel Railsea also keeps popping into my mind whenever another literary association suggests itself.
- And I’m concurrently reading Anne Spillard’s The Cartomancer (shenanigans in a fictional University, since you ask) and Allan Ahlberg’s “memories of an inattentive childhood” entitled The Bucket.
Sorry for the navel-gazing, and for the lack of interaction with fellow-bloggers. Normal service will shortly be resumed, fingers crossed.
Here is potty-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in a 2009 episode of The Thick of It — in which “omnishambles” first appears — berating a minister. Warning: you may be offended by the language. Alternatively, you may be offended that it’s that nice Peter Capaldi (who plays everybody’s favourite time traveller in Doctor Who) from whose mouth said language is emanating. Blessedly this is a very short extract.