Not just the economy, stupid: David Cameron and George Osborne jeopardise their chances by focusing exclusively on economic issues (photo: Nigel Roddis/PA Wire)
As we go to press, with the campaign not yet in full swing, the public has already had enough of the 2015 general election. Parliamentary democracy, for which so many generations fought and died, is greeted at best with weariness, at worst with disgust. Yet we make no apology for running half a dozen articles about the UK election this month. Britain’s survival as an independent nation state is at stake.
A glance across the Channel suffices to remind us of how precious our political system, for all its imperfections, remains. In Athens, the birthplace of democracy, the leather-clad leftists of Syriza and their anti-Semitic allies resemble barbarians far more than Pericles and Plato. Their method of dealing with their country’s predicament is to try to blackmail Berlin into bankrolling them by threatening to flood Europe with refugees and jihadists, or to confiscate German assets. The godfather of these petty gangsters—who have been instantly adopted by would-be Byrons everywhere—is of course Vladimir Putin. Edward Lucas’s Dispatch ("Let's Make Putin's London Cronies Sweat") should cure any temptation (Nigel Farage, please note) to flirt with the Kremlin’s ideology: not so much idolatry as necrolatry, the worship of the dead. Lenin’s mummy remains enshrined in Red Square because Putin is fixated on his KGB past. He does not care how many lives he sacrifices to his secret policeman’s obsession: the restoration of Russian autocracy.
In such a deranged and dangerous world, an island nation does well to arm itself against the unexpected. But there is nothing unexpected about the kind of threats that Britain faces: nuclear proliferation, Islamist terrorism, Russian aggression. Not to rearm, as Australia is already doing, now seems perverse. The Nato target of 2 per cent of GDP is arbitrary and takes no account of value for money; but it is an earnest of commitment. As economic growth returns, politicians prefer tax cuts or pet projects to maintaining the proportion of spending devoted to the defence of the realm.
Defence has at least figured in the campaign (thanks to a media blitz by the top brass). What, though, of the moral issues that matter so much to the public but little to the political class? In his eloquent j’accuse ("Mr Cameron, Show The Country You Care"), Stephen Glover draws on a new book by Eliza Filby to show how Margaret Thatcher was the last Prime Minister to care deeply about issues other than material welfare. Hence she now seems far more serious than the present cast on the political stage. Her politics had a moral framework rooted in the Bible, Magna Carta and the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill.
Indeed, our contemporary political elite strikes many people as unable or unwilling to face up to such intractable problems as the collapse of the family or the loss of national identity. Nor are politicians frank about the flaws that have crept into our electoral process, which Michael Pinto-Duschinsky ("Don't Rig The System In Favour Of Coalitions") argues could call into question the legitimacy of the result and hence be damaging to democracy itself.