If this government had an aesthetic, it would be the YBAs’; sheep chopped in half in formaldehyde, everyone I’ve ever slept with, yadda yadda. Being “shocking”, in a highly conservative and derivative way. I submit that it is no coincidence that their biggest patron was Maurice Saatchi.
Of course the great threat to the professionally shocking is that you chainsaw your frozen sheep and everyone yawns. It’s basically just trolling, and it takes actual talent to keep trolling fresh.
However, the quality standards of the political world make the ready-meal industry look professional. I mean, it’s not as if Iain Duncan Smith’s term as Tory leader is beyond living memory. He was not just a poor Tory leader, he was a disastrous one, and he was a ridiculous one.
And he seems to have been completely rehabilitated in the eyes of the elite because of his wanktank and his overfamous trip to Easterhouse. That was all it took.
Of course, his detour via the West of Scotland was probably actually a negative contribution to his abilities. During the boom, the people and problems he encountered tended to be those who actually might have needed structured intervention from the social services industry, rather than just being unemployed. People who might have been simply out of work were in work. The problems of a society with a 40-odd million-strong workforce and less than a million unemployed are not the same ones as those of a society with 3 million unemployed.
Similarly, his interlocutors tended to be people interested in providing such structured intervention, with the predictable result that he came away thinking they ought to do it. The “third sector” was basically a product of efforts to deal with the long-term consequences of the macroeconomic policies of the 1980s. A4E’s history is the Rosetta stone here.
This seems to have de-trained people across the political spectrum in dealing with mass unemployment when it re-appeared in 2008; Liam Byrne and James Purnell were also confused.
The depressing thing, though, is that this bit of trivial and counterproductive imagemaking salvaged him from the scrapheap and boosted him all the way to the Cabinet. It certainly worked for one unemployed man, I suppose.