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The worst part is working out who to hate, and why. I was eight when Thatcher got in, and didn't really understand what was happening. Nonetheless, before long the Tories had replaced the Cybermen as my number one bogeymen. At first there was a simple, visceral reason for this: they seemed alarmingly gung-ho about nuclear war. They believed nuclear missiles were an effective deterrent, and furthermore, that a nuclear war might be winnable anyway.
I was opposed to all kinds of nuclear war – even little ones between neighbouring Welsh counties were simply not on, in my book. It was my understanding that these things tended to spiral out of control, and burning to death in a massive exploding fireball didn't rank very high on my list of hopes and dreams for the future.
(My paranoia wasn't that far off, as it happens. According to the book Rendez-Vous: The Psychoanalysis of François Mitterrand, at the height of the Falklands war, Thatcher threatened to nuke Argentina unless President Mitterrand handed over disabling codes for the French-built Exocet missiles which were pounding British ships. If that was true, and had actually happened, you wouldn't be reading the Guardian right now – you'd be fighting a giant scorpion to impress the village elders.)
As if plotting to destroy the world wasn't bad enough, the Conservatives went on to preside over the most wilfully obnoxious and polarising decade imaginable: braying yuppies at one extreme, penniless strikers at the other. The Tories weren't just nasty – they seemed to actively enjoy being nasty. And there was no getting rid of them, even when Thatcher got the boot. Consequently, an entire generation grew up regarding the Tory government as something like rain, or wasps, or stomach flu: an unavoidable, undying source of dismay.
Until 1997, when they were eradicated overnight. It was as if scientists had suddenly discovered a cure for the common cold. A permanent millstone – gone! The initial glow of jubilation never completely faded. For years afterwards, simply knowing the Conservatives weren't in power left me mildly delighted on a daily basis. Even when Blair and co turned out to be so disappointing, I could console myself with the thought that the Conservatives would have been even worse. OK, so Labour started an illegal war. The Tories would've started six – four of them nuclear. So what if the rich/poor divide grew bigger under Labour? The Tories would've reopened the mines just so they could enjoy closing them again, right? Then they'd fill them full of tramp corpses and raze the surrounding communities to the ground, yeah? Yeah.
As this year's election crept closer, and a Conservative government appeared ever more likely, the Tories became meaningful bogeymen once again. The fact that Cameron generally looks and sounds even less sincere than Blair ever managed to, meant that the more he professed to be caring, the more sinister he became. Around a year ago, it seemed clear that Cameron would be PM and that, after six weeks in power, the mask would slip and he'd legalise the hunting of single mums. The BBC website would be deleted and replaced with a 24-hour Sky news propaganda feed. Thatcher would be commemorated on banknotes. Drunk with power, Cameron would issue breathtakingly heartless decrees from his onyx throne, while Andy Coulson squatted at his feet, cackling like Gollum and drinking from a skull.
But instead we've got this . . . coalition thing. This disorientating mash-up. Cameron and Clegg engaging in public foreplay. A sour Tory cookie with chunks of Lib Dem chocolate. Even the prospect of George Osborne as chancellor seems less chilling in the knowledge that Vince Cable can pop his head round the door from time to time, if only to pull disapproving faces. If the Tories had won more seats, or slogged on as a minority government, at least we'd have a clear set of hate figures we could start despising immediately. Instead, we've got the Nazis forming an alliance with the Smurfs.
We couldn't even hate the Tories for looking smug on the steps of Downing Street – partly because Downing Street doesn't have steps, but mainly because the result forced a helping of humble pie down their necks, which they swallowed with infuriating good grace. Cameron appears to be making a sincere attempt to permanently drag his party toward more moderate ground, which is a crushing blow for those of us who were expecting outright malevolence from day one.
Then there's the scrapping of ID cards and limits on the spread of CCTV, which is genuinely refreshing. What next? Harsh new punishments for anyone caught snooping on private voicemails? Chances are, Coulson's typing up a cheery press release on that very subject right now.
As long-dreaded bogeymen, these 21st-century Tories are proving a damp squib, like the brightly coloured Daleks. No doubt they'll do something horrific fairly soon, but so far they haven't quite obliged, thereby depriving us all of a good cathartic hate-in. I always knew the Tories were selfish at heart, but this really takes the biscuit. Why can't they just be massively and obviously unreasonable from the outset, like they're supposed to? If all this pragmatism and inclusion they're apparently demonstrating doesn't turn out to be a cynical ruse, I'll be sorely disappointed.
In the meantime, we'll just have to wait for them to do something unequivocally shitty before we can say "I told you so" – unless the whole "55% majority" thing turns out to be their equivalent of Hitler's enabling act, which strikes me as unlikely at the time of writing, since even constitutional experts can't agree whether it's a disgraceful abuse of democracy or nothing to worry about.
But by all means remind me of my nonchalance on this subject in four years' time, when we're being issued uniforms and ushered down the bunkers. Unless it's illegal for citizens to converse by then, in which case simply arch your eyebrows and shrug a bit, and I'll know what you mean.
Source: Charlie Brooker @ The Guardian