Sunday, January 08, 2012

David Cameron's Tourettes Gaff

I'm against the clock again, and the background music's terrible, so here goes.

In his book 'Peace of Soul', the Servant of God Fulton Sheen recorded how 'GK's Weekly' once published a satire on Freudian psychology in which the word 'beer' appeared wherever a Freudian would mention the word 'sex'. The result was, of course, hilarious.

This piece came to mind when hearing that David Cameron had said of Ed Balls's behaviour in the House of Commons that 'it’s like having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you'. He would never dream of saying that 'it’s like having someone with cancer permanently sitting opposite you', or 'it’s like having a schizophrenic permanently sitting opposite you'; so why mention Tourettes?

Utterly predictably, this incident says more about Cameron than it does about the condition. He required to accustom himself to being challenged by other people at an age far older than the rest of us, and accordingly finds the experience unpleasant; hopefully not as unpleasant as developing a Tourettes symptomology in adulthood, but unpleasant nonetheless. His ideology is still sodden with the dreary insolence that has been the mark of the Tory Party since the eighteenth century. When insolence meets challenge, it lashes out in rage, and rage takes no account of propriety when fixing on a target. Balls challenges Cameron; Cameron lacks the character and experience of life to handle it; so Balls acts like someone with Tourettes. QED.

When barracking Cameron in the House of Commons, Balls is not in fact acting like a Tourettist. He is instead using the time-honoured leftist tactic of trying to prevent your opponent from speaking by talking over them all the time. It says much for Balls that he should try this in a noisy room. I can vividly recall the late Mick McGahey doing this to a representative of the National Coal Board on 'Reporting Scotland' during the miners' strike of 1983-84. It was unpleasant to watch then, indeed is something of a bad memory, and it's still unpleasant to think of now. On the other hand, it's impossible to watch the blimpish Kenneth Clarke on 'Question Time' without seeing him do the same thing to whatever sacrificial lamb the Labour Party has put up for the purpose. Clarke's scenes on that show give me the impression that he must be an utterly horrible person to be around. On the other hand, perhaps it's all theatre. On the other hand perhaps it's not.

What is also evident from Cameron's outburst is that he seems to think he is free to say the same things in public as he might do in private. If correct, this may suggest that the circle within which he moves is a very narrow one, and that he does not make a great deal of contact with people who are not similar to him in terms of their backgrounds and experiences. To my mind, the proof of this is Cameron's now bog standard response to this controversy of his own making, that he didn't mean to cause offence. If he did not realise that he would cause offence, then he may be accustomed to causing offence as a matter of routine, or else spend a lot of time around people who are in the habit of saying offensive things. I recall David Lindsay once writing that Cameron's accent was narrowing with age instead of broadening. With trademark certitude, David remarked that this was the consequence of Cameron only having contact with people like himself, and he might have been more correct than he imagined. If so, it says little about the mindset of the circles Cameron moves in if they are all of the mind that their will should be obeyed without question. Two other groups in society are affected by this pathology; the first are tyrants, the second children. Tyrants tend not to do apologies under any circumstances, leaving only children as the ones to expect conduct demanding an apology to attract no other consequences.

But what should we expect of a Prime Minister whose Chancellor, when in opposition, described the then Chancellor as 'autistic' without suffering any penalty? These incidents say much about those in power and their calibre, or lack thereof.

As a sufferer of Tourettes, I find it a bit rich that a person who refuses to discuss his historic use of recreational drugs should describe a person whose conduct he finds objectionable as having my problem. Hopefully he wasn't strung out when he said it; for how terrible it would be if the finger on the nuclear button belonged to a cokehead or a stoner.  

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