Just think, though: what if they all start doing it?

So, Davis has resigned. He’s called a hissy-fit by-election – the first in history apparently. Yes – this is an unprecedentedly vain and hollow piece of political bravado. It is historic. No one wants to fight him (who can blame them? he’s former SAS), no one understands why he has to fight a by-election to demonstrate his fondness for civil liberties; but he’s going to damn well do it anyway. No one – not Gordon Brown, not the Murdoch press, not hundreds of years of accepted Parliamentary practice, not common sense, not even David Cameron – is going to stop him.

Just think, though: what if they all start doing it? What if he’s just the first Tory MP to have this particular eureka moment? We’re all vulnerable to crazes, fads and bubbles. No one wants to be different. The compulsion not to be left out, not to be jeered and heckled as a crank or an eccentric by the herd, is very powerful. History is full of examples of bizarre group behaviour: the 17th century Dutch tulip mania, McCarthyism, the 1979 general election, the dot-com bubble – phenomena that can’t be explained rationally, only as collective outbreaks of madness. And no one really understands how these things get started, what triggers off a panic or sets alight a group fanaticism.

Just think about it for a moment. Someone in a prominent position does something that no one expects, something extravagantly weird and completely unaccountable according to the normal canons of behaviour. But everyone looks at him, turns their head a little to the side, scrutinises him, tries to fathom his decision. ‘What does he know that we don’t know? What is the great, concealed world-changing truth that he has gained access to? It looks like madness, but what if it’s not? Just what if it’s not? This might be genius: once-in-a-generation, paradigm-creating, tectonic-plate moving genius. Davis might just have completely transformed the way that politics in this country gets done. And just think what it could mean for me if I’m the first one to recognise that, the first one to join him…’

Soon an obscure two-term Conservative MP from Derbyshire, frustrated at his lack of career progression, sore about the media’s indifference to his brilliant press releases, thinks, ‘Resigning to fight a by-election? Telling people he is in favour of liberty? Chuh. Anyone could do that. Even I could do that.’ And so he does. He resigns the next day with noble words on his lips. Half-a-dozen more junior MPs can’t resist the boldness of the gesture; a couple of senior MPs follow because they’d quite like to lose the by-elections and get out of Parliament. The media goes into a frenzy of twenty-four hour coverage and caffeine-fuelled speculation; Nick Robinson goes without sleep for three days. No Conservative MP can visit a television or radio studio without being asked with Paxmanesque persistence to deny rumours that they’re resigning their seat to fight to save our beloved, fragile Britishness from violation by the tentacular clamminess of Brussels or to demonstrate to the British the sweet melancholy pleasure of renunciation. Letters start pouring in from constituents – some swept away with the romanticism of it, others mischievous Tory-baiters – calling for MPs to emulate Davis’s high moral example. Momentum grows, rumours circulate, violence against recalcitrant MPs erupts on the floor of the House of Commons, the Speaker rises to an impossible new zenith of pinkness. A tipping point is reached; the by-electioneers have hit critical mass. Individual resistance becomes futile; spokesmen announce resignations without waiting for authorisation like Latin American coups. Shadow Ministers resign their seats despairingly, terrified of being dubbed refuseniks or salary-gluttons; Cameron vows to give a lead to the party in this its ‘finest hour’ by resigning ‘with gusto.’ The stampede begins; every individual will is dissolved in the irresistible logic of the group. No one understands the reasons why anymore, but everyone finds them utterly compelling. On Kamikaze Tuesday, the flower of the post-Thatcher Conservative Party puts itself to the sword in a completely inexplicable – but unavoidable – act of mass Parliamentary suicide. The Electoral Commissioner groans pitifully.

The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats look on quizzically. Parliament no longer contains any Conservative MPs. The remaining Parliamentarians appreciate the increased elbow space at the bars; there is a fire sale of Tory offices; Labour MPs stretch out in the Chamber, taking to sitting on both sides of the Speaker’s Chair; a wonderful spirit of bonhomie and harmony descends on the House of Commons. Without the Conservatives, MPs finally get round to doing all of the things that they had always been meaning to do, but had never been able to find the time for. A fair tax system is introduced. Child poverty is abolished. Comprehensive environmental legislation is passed. Nuclear disarmament begins. All of a sudden no one can remember why they used to think governing Britain was such a tricky business…

It could happen. If we want it bad enough it just might happen.

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6 Responses to “Just think, though: what if they all start doing it?”

  1. Ally Says:

    Love it. The whole thing is just bonkers. So glad someone else can see it.

  2. Parasite Says:

    I am never sure with Labour bloggers as to whether they’re taking the p*** or genuinely believe this soixante huitard oh-so-radical-man sanctimonious tripe, but if the PLP actually wanted a fair tax system introducing, child poverty abolishing, comprehensive environmental legislation and the start of nuclear disarmament, then –

    LABOUR HAD A 180 MAJORITY FOR EIGHT YEARS AND HAVE A 60 MAJORITY STILL.

    If Labour genuinely wanted these things, they’d have happened by now. It isn’t the evil nasty fascist Tories fault. It’s not f***ing Thatcher’s fault, she’s been in the Lords fifteen years. It’s the Government’s fault.

    And why? Guess what? The leadership DON’T want it. They are plus Thatcheriste que la reine. Back to the drawing board.

  3. Lucy Dawkins Says:

    Please can you stop clogging up newspapers’ comment threads with advertising for your lame blog?

    I might also add that nobody’s going to take you seriously (or take you on as a political hack, if that’s your ambition) unless you learn to write better. That means shorter paragraphs, tighter sentences and no more than one semicolon per 3000 words.

  4. adammcnestrie Says:

    No, Lucy, I don’t think I will stop advertising my blog in comment threads. It’s one of the only ways to generate interest in a new blog and seeing as I make substantive comments when I do it, I don’t feel that I’m taking advantage.

    I find it amusing that you criticize my prose style by calling it ‘lame.’ Are all of your most poisonous epiphets nebulous Americanisms?

    Not a fan of the semi-colons, eh? Well, not everyone has to belong to the Orwellian school of prose. Lots of great modern writers use semi-colons – Salman Rushdie, for example. And Theodor Adorno thought that the fact that the semi-colon was falling into desuetude was a sign of the decadence of modernity. You don’t agree, I take it?

    As for the accusation of hackery, I find it very strange. A hack is someone who’ll write anything for money, right? Someone with no fixed principles of their own? It seems to me that writing a blog – where there is no editorial control, and for which I will never receive any money – is about as far away from that as you can get.

  5. Serf Says:

    History is full of examples of bizarre group behaviour: the 17th century Dutch tulip mania, McCarthyism, the 1979 general election,

    I know you are young, but the 1979 election bizarre behaviour? The country was in ruins, and the people through out the incompetents whose fault it was. Its called democracy.

  6. adammcnestrie Says:

    I am young, but that’s not why I said it was bizarre behaviour… I was kidding. The 1979 result was one of the most predictable General Elections of the last fifty years. The psephologist in me doesn’t find it in the least bizarre; the humourist does.

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