James Williamson ponders how a golden chair has led to a viral attack on David Cameron’s ‘permanent austerity’.
I wonder where you are right now as you read this. Sitting behind a desk and a computer perhaps, marvelling at the exciting manoeuvrability of a reclining office chair. Maybe you’re sitting on the disappointingly scarce padding of the seat of a bus, train or tube (still a mystery to those of us in the North), rejoicing that the futuristic technology of portable access to the internet obliterates the need to engage in small talk. It is of particular interest, not quite where you are, but rather upon what you are sitting.
I ask this rather intrusive question for an entirely valid reason; it would seem that the constitution of one’s chair is almost certainly more important than the constitution of one’s speech, as illustrated by the uproar amongst Britain’s finest first-world socialists this week. There is, of course, an alternative option for your seating arrangements while reading this article – there remains a slim chance that you may be David Cameron, seated in an ornate golden chair. It is in this instance that you may find yourself in something of a pickle.
It is worth initially noting that I am writing neither in condemnation or defence of Cameron’s policy of permanent austerity; the policy would have far-reaching consequences extending entirely beyond my own knowledge. Rather, it is the response in the media and public about which I feel far more strongly. Of course, though discussing permanent austerity in Britain while using solid gold to support his derrière was not the finest public relations move made by Cameron, it is certainly far less of an issue than those quite so enraged about it would have us believe. Indeed, many voicing horror at Cameron having committed the atrocity of sitting down and eating dinner appear not to realise quite what they are in fact complaining about, with many placing virtually no focus whatsoever on exactly what was said.
Discussing permanent austerity in Britain while using solid gold to support his derrière was not the finest public relations move.
Apparently confusing Cameron and a certain miserly figure of A Christmas Carol is a Guardian article written by poverty-stricken waitress, Ruth Hardy (who, like all paradigms of the working class, also happens to have graduated from a top university, is in the middle of an internship and writes regularly for The Guardian). As a student on an incredibly tight budget, I entirely sympathise with the delights of part-time jobs that Ms Hardy also appears to be experiencing, though her anger at Cameron’s ‘champagne reception’ before his speech appears somewhat misguided. The dinner was not, as Hardy was forced to amend in her article, state-funded, though this aside, her primary point is quite how ‘hard to stomach’ she found Cameron’s golden chair.
Despite admitting that ‘the political content of what Cameron is saying is obviously more important than where he was saying it’, Hardy, and the many others who are expressing such horror at the placement of the Prime Minister’s behind (apologies to Ms Hardy for my use of her article as one example amongst many more that could have been selected), appear unable to separate these two aspects of the speech. Despairing that ‘this is the cruel and damaging reality of permanent austerity’, the article practically appears to consider the golden chair a direct result of the government’s plans for austerity – indeed, it would not be too much of a stretch to argue that the Gothic windows and banquet held for Henry V in that room were paid for by today’s coalition government. Clearly, though a poor choice of venue for such a divisive speech, the grandeur of Guildhall, built between 1411 and 1440, is in no way whatsoever linked to or paid for by the austerity outlined in Cameron’s plans – the two are comparable in nothing more than an image of Cameron engaging in a historical tradition that so many Prime Ministers, Tory, Labour or Lib-Dem, have done before him.
The article practically appears to consider the golden chair a direct result of the government’s plans for austerity.
So why is such enormous focus being placed upon the context and not the content of the speech given? Would the idea of permanent austerity be easier to stomach announced from a Premier Inn, as Cameron enjoyed a cold sandwich and a tap water? Or is the fascination for sensationalism in modern political journalism extending beyond almost 24/7 coverage of what politicians say and believe, and into the practically American realms of how it is said? Right or left, in support of or in opposition to Cameron’s plans, this shift in journalistic focus from substance of speech to style of suit should not be welcomed – this very article itself has shunned the content of the PM’s speech in order to, albeit indirectly, discuss his infamous golden chair. Regardless of one’s feelings towards Cameron, it is the words emerging from his mouth that we should be analysing, and not the position of the body part that some would suggest the words of most Prime Ministers do in fact emerge from.
James can almost always find something to be slightly discontent about, and is currently studying English Literature at Durham University. When not complaining about things around him, his interests include playing music, watching a good film or enjoying a quiet drink somewhere excessively English.