Leveson, and why the public do care
I was reading a piece by Paul Goodman on the Leveson Inquiry, when one particular line leapt out at me. It came at the very end, almost as an afterthought.
“P.S.”, it read, “I may write later about the rest of the Prime Minister’s appearance in front of the inquiry that very few people outside the Westminster Village have the slightest interest in.”
There it was again. The assumption that I have seen from so many politicians and media commentators that almost no-one outside the political world cares about what is happening at the Leveson inquiry. I think that this assumption is wrong. Worse than that, it is staggeringly, appallingly, dangerously wrong.
I have never known people to care more acutely or passionately about the way in which our country is being governed. I suspect that Mr. Goodman and his peers have drawn this conclusion of Leveson mass apathy from polling figures, from low electoral turnouts. If so, they would be in error. Public anger is intangible – but palpable – over such matters. I see the fury over Leveson all over my Twitter timeline, as people from both Left and Right converge to voice their disbelief at the manner in which the reins of power are allegedly being passed between the hands of a chosen few.
I write this piece with something like rage at the failure of Westminster to understand just how badly this is playing out among the general public. I don’t actually think that most people are baying for blood, for the head of Jeremy Hunt as some symbolic gesture. I actually think that most people would just like feel that they are being governed with an appropriate amount of checks and balances.
I think that many if not most people are angry that the NHS is apparently on its way to dissolution and there was very little if anything that they could do about it. I think they are angry that tuition fees are rocketing north and jobs are so thin on the ground that they’re having to scrabble for the chicken feed offered by the welfare state. I think that Leveson is a very important symbol, because at a time when many people in the UK have been brought financially to their knees there is the uncomfortable and unfortunate image of an elite deflecting and sometimes even smiling on the stand, blithely oblivious to the damage that they are doing with their conveniently collective failure of memory. Leveson is a metaphor, the same metaphor that we saw at the outset of the riots last summer: it is the hard, unyielding face of Establishment denial.
The anger at metaphors like Leveson is there, all right; it’s just not there in the places that Mr. Goodman and his peers are looking for it. It’s not primarily in the polling booths, or in the spreadsheets predicting which way votes will go in marginal seats. It is in the lyrics of grime artists, in the classes that I take in East London schools, in the Tumblr accounts of people like Aaron John Peters, in the feet of the kettled marchers, in the words of writers like Luke Turner at the Quietus.
The greatest mistake that politicians can ever make is to think that, just because they may be re-elected with ever-lower numbers of votes, they have somehow “got away” with Leveson. After all, as perhaps the sharpest commentator has noted, people register their discontent with this type of metaphor in far less sophisticated ways than tactical voting.Tagged in: election, government, jeremy hunt, Leveson Inquiry, media, nhs, notw, Rebekah Brooks, recession, rupert murdoch, tuition fees
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