I’ve clung to the belief, despite everything, that Ed Miliband is an intelligent man. He’s not a natural in the limelight, perhaps, but he’s a serious, thoughtful, principled, well-meaning man, whose unalluring manner may not necessarily disqualify him from high office. In fact, I believe it’s likely he’ll be our next Prime Minister following the General Election on Thursday.
Why then, does he do the silliest things?
Take this slab of limestone onto which he’s inscribed the pledges that will bind him if he’s granted the keys to Number 10. It’s so religious. It might be the Ten Commandments, the Book of Mormon, the smooth slab at the start of 2001 A Space Odyssey, or indeed a tombstone and the inscriptions his epitaph. And what to make of the pledges themselves (pledge, too, has a portentous sound)? They’re all disarmingly vague, if you examine them in detail. You might as well be reading the carefully self-fulfilling nonsense you get in horoscopes.
Here they are:
1. A Strong Economic Foundation
So, who would disagree with that?
2.Higher living standards for working families
Who would disagree with that, though I don’t know what ‘working families’ means or how many it applies to?
3. An NHS with the time to care
This is utterly ghastly. I presume what’s meant is that nurses and doctors should have more time to spend with patients. But who can guarantee that they will care, or that it won’t come at the cost of less effective equipment and medicine? What possible policies could actually be derived from this pledge?
4. Controls on immigration
There are already controls on immigration. I showed my passport to the Border Force last night. This means nothing at all.
5. A country where the next generation can do better than the last
Interesting choice of words. Why ‘can’ rather than ‘will’? In any case, who would disagree with this, once we know what ‘better’ means?
6. Homes to buy and action on rents
What action, actually? Rents up, or down?
All meaning, all differentiation, all implication for practical policy have been leached from these anodyne phrases. Who would disagree with any of them? Not Dave, not Nick, not Nige, not Nicola. But civil servants will scratch their heads when asked to draft policy.
Clearly stonemasons will be busy. We’ll all want a pledge stone. I’ll put one in our reception area:
- A company that’s nice to its customers
- A company that’s nice to its staff
- A company that’s nice to animals
- A company that’s nice to the environment
- A company that’s very nice all the time
- Above all, a company with time to care
Don’t take this to mean I mightn’t vote Labour though.