Ed’s ‘Great Plinth’

‘We will restore faith in politics by delivering what we promised at this general election’

Ed Milliband 2015.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I could not help but notice something that resembled Moses’ stone plinth. No, it was the Labour Party leader Ed Milliband commissioning a giant stone inscription bearing Labour’s six election pledges. Part of me wanted to see the Labour leader standing on Mount Sinai and thereafter wandering the desert with the Promised Land in sight. Historians and archaeologists will unearth the piece of stone in years to come trying to decipher what its intentions actually were. In an election that is nail-bitingly close, what drove the ‘omniscient Ed’ to carve his intentions onto a slab of limestone?  Limestone, a material easily dissolved in acid rain, a fluid capable of carving large holes into the material and eventually dissolving it completely. Some might say that limestone is rather apt for Labour’s election plan so far.

The ‘plinth of promises’ is expected to be unveiled like a prized turd in the back garden of 10 Downing Street where only the ‘inscribers’ and ‘apostles’ will be able to regale in its absurdity. Hardly a move to represent the people Ed; rather, if it was branded onto your forehead, voters might actually believe your message. Carving your ideologies into a block of stone had its conceptual roots in the Enlightenment idea of a world in movement and open to change where the free circulation of ideas and people created the possibility of ‘progress’. Monuments of this type aided us in establishing a meaning for the present; if this is what the meaning of the ‘present’ is, to have blanket statements etched onto a ‘plinth of progress’, then I am sure there will be no need for any more rigorous political satire; the actions will speak for themselves more so than they already do.

‘A better plan. A better future.’ What might help Ed win the election are policies the people can believe in rather than woolly sentiments chiselled into a rock; some might say it was brave to make such promises and then add a degree of permanence to them, many others will call it stupid. The fourth pledge, as if it were set in stone, oh sorry, it apparently is – ‘controls on immigration’- one of the ‘hottest potatoes in politics’ at the moment, for all the wrong reasons. The third pledge, Labour’s ‘promise’ to stop the relentless privatisation of the NHS – despite the fact the party started it in the first place –  is another key aspect of the manifesto that the British public are struggling to get on board with. Nevertheless, this is the story that is emblematic of Britain’s Establishment. Its ideology claims to liberate the individual from its embrace. And so the state is relentlessly privatised, fully moulded into a distributor of taxpayer’s money, becoming less accountable as it does so. The needs of profit, rather than of people, are being catered for. With Ed’s plinth saying very little and the people feeling ever more disillusioned with politics, is it any wonder that the supposed alternative to austerity has the people wondering who to vote for at the ballot box.

One of the main problems with politics is ‘that there is a lack of trust in leaders’, Ed Milliband stated on BBC’s recent broadcast of Question Time. A part of me was thinking yes, here is a Labour I can get behind and then in a fleeing moment it was gone. Over the last three to four months, we have heard many promises, pledges and assurances and this is just a mere extension of that. Some will say that politicians are not cut from the same cloth as the ‘ordinary people’. What Ed may think as fashionable common sense today, will become the gravestone of yesterday, and with surprising speed if Labour lose or have to enter into coalition on the 7th May. ‘I want to be the first politician to under promise and over deliver not over promise and over deliver’, the Labour leader stated on Question Time on 30 April. Stone has a sense of permanence and yet Ed is keen to gain a majority. This stunt is hardly a way to bridge the gap between the voter and the politician especially when the ballot box is no longer a mere dot on the telescope lens.

By Callum Hyde

[image credit: Labour Party]

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