The decline of political oratory and artistry
Words, words, words.
It may be informative, but it is tediously boring, functionally unmemorable, and few will stop and read it. While Dan Hannan MEP bemoans the self-expression straitjacket into which Boris Johnson has been tied, it is becoming increasingly evident that individualism in political expression is being subsumed to the lowest denominator bland verbiage of the PR company in fulfilment of the zeitgeist demand for artless and patronising pap.
Compare that poster with some of these period gems from Conservative campaigns of yesteryear. They are quaint, but brilliantly incisive and as relevant today as they were a century ago (hat tip to The Daily Mail):
With one foot stamping on the Union Jack, the sinister beast launches itself at the virtuous maiden. Hairy arms outstretched, the demon of socialism throttles the pure and upright Britannia, her belt of prosperity providing her with no protection from this monster's onslaught.
Much as it might resemble some lurid advertisement for a B-grade British horror movie, this strident image is in fact an election poster issued by the Conservative Party in 1909. It is one of dozens from the early 20th Century released from the Bodleian Library's archive, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Bold, brazen and often over the top, these posters range from the overtly triumphant - such as the one which proclaims the Conservative Sun-Ray Treatment of peace, pensions and pure food - to the ferociously politically incorrect.
Beacon of hope? Guiding us in financial stormy waters.
Sniffing around: today it's the HIP inspectors who call.
A "Chinaman" poster from 1909 - featuring a character who has an uncanny resemblance to Tony Blair - was designed as an attack on Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith's Free Trade policy. It implies the policy will result in a flood of substandard, cheap Chinese pork replacing English bacon. Here is proof, should any be needed, that there's nothing new about dirty tactics in the battle for power. And while many of the posters seem outdated, there are some which seem strangely pertinent to British politics today.
Free for all: Will allowing foreign imports push us over the edge?
Overtaxed (left): Lloyd George is the bogeyman here; The rich get richer (right): A dig at champagne socialism.
Through foreign eyes: It's the poor that pay the price.
Pipe dream: Promises, promises.
Is it that PR has strangled creativity, or has politics become bland? Is it that the micro-narrative of spin has subsumed the political grand narratives which used to excite people? Is it that society has become increasingly superficial, and profundity is left to the out-of-touch philosophers? Is everyone so afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder that they can no longer read eloquently-crafted prose but can only ingest information through crass soundbites? Is the media doing this to humanity, or is it simply adapting to the needs of humanity?
While drawings and paintings are replaced by 'hi-tech' graphics, it is a tragedy for England and the English language that Boris Johnson (for whom His Grace has prayed every day since he announced his candidacy) has permitted himself to be bowdlerised, managed, censored and cloned. As Mr Hannan observes:
The greatest journalistic phrase-maker of our age, a man with a Shakespearean eye for a fresh image, is forcing himself to use the pedestrian idiom of the jobbing hack.
“The police do a brave and difficult job, but they are burdened by bureaucracy. Too much time and money is spent on form-filling, when it could be used to employ more police on the beat… Getting from A to B is a daily struggle for many who live in this city, whether they live in zone 1 or zone 6… I will stand up against local hospital closures.”
All worthy stuff: you can’t disagree with a word. And all, you can be sure, agonising to the author.
Then again, this is what voters seem to like: familiar phrases extolling unexceptionable aims. Depressing, really.