I’m going to repeat the boiled frog analogy (in which no frogs will be harmed…unlike us and our democracy). The unfortunate creature (metaphorically-speaking) is in a pan of cold water which is slowly, slowly being heated up. The frog adjusts his tolerance levels as the water changes from a pleasant coolness to a mildly uncomfortable and then increasingly unpleasant but still tolerable warmth. Poor froggie stays put throughout, seemingly desensitised to the slow cooking process so that by the time he feels just a bit too hot, it is too late.
We are the frogs in the Johnson brand of Conservatives’ pan, being heated up over flames fanned by the mainstream media. We have been in the pan for years and most of us didn’t even know it. Some of us have hopped out and now watch in horror as our fellow citizens shrug at each ‘temperature’ hike – each lie, each breaking of the law or the ministerial code, each avoidance of scrutiny, each grab for more power, each act of cruelty, hostility, negligence, corruption, prejudice and greed – and accept this as the new normal.
It’s a more accessible illustration of the Overton window, named after a US policy analyst. The Overton window is a way of expressing what voters are prepared to go along with in policy terms. Acceptable policies sit within its frame. The problems really start when that window gets stretched.
In the current context, the window can be stretched in a number of ways, either by:
- politicians proposing outrageous ideas at which we all blanch, but then counter with something less extreme – though still outwith our normal tolerance. That way we feel an acceptable compromise has been reached and that we have somehow triumphed over extremism; or
- gaslighting us into believing that a draconian proposal is in fact meeting one of the ‘people’s priorities‘; or
- just gradually, stealthily, persistently pushing the window to include what the politicians/super-rich/business giants want; we barely notice what has happened before it is too late and the window’s view encompasses something that was once well out of the vista.
There are a number of major temperature hikes/window stretches which everyone should wake up to because they pave the way for
- voter suppression,
- an end to peaceful protests,
- weakening judicial review – the means by which we can challenge government policy
- the privatisation of the NHS – including awarding of contracts without a tender process
- preventing the Electoral Commission from bringing criminal cases;
- giving Johnson the power to call an election whenever it suits him;
- criminalising asylum seekers and denying them access to justice;
- potentially criminalising those who rescue migrants or aid asylum seekers;
- higher sentences for attacking a statue than for attacking a woman;
- measures which threaten teacher training and teacher numbers;
- cuts to pupil premium (widening the gap between rich and poor);
- planning ‘free for all’ (for developers, that is…);
- making it easier to prosecute investigative journalists on grounds decided by the government;
These are just the tip of the iceberg. We currently face the prospect of being the only nation in the Western world to embark on a full blown herd immunity experiment, which risks the immediate and long term health of millions…and all so Johnson can boast about ‘Freedom Day’.
In addition, our government is persisting in its attempts to shuffle all blame for the absolute shambles that is Brexit onto the EU, whilst its own pig-headed refusal to face the consequences of leaving are being felt by industry sectors and individuals right across the economy. Covid is acting as useful cover for a crisis entirely of Lord Frost and Johnson’s making.
Laws are getting proposed and/ or passed which take us ever closer to Hungary and Belarus, to authoritarianism and fascism.
You may think this is alarmist or that none of it will affect you, but curbs on civil liberties, suppression of dissent, bypassing of scrutiny are all very dangerous signs and their impact will be felt by us all. What happens when you want to protest against the closure of your hospital or fire station or you realise your child is suffering as a consequence of teacher shortages and funding. What happens when you are diagnosed with a cancer and told you can pay £000s now and get an operation or take your chances with the waiting list?
What happens when a government sets out deliberately to cause division amongst its people and to annexe patriotism for its own nefarious purposes? What happens when a government and its ministers believe themselves to be above the law? What happens when being ‘woke’ makes you an enemy of the state? What happens when the country is run by liars and corrupt politicians who stuff the police, courts, media and watchdogs with their cronies. What happens when a country becomes a pariah on the world stage, trusted by none?
It really feels like it’s high time to get everyone out of the pot and send the frog-boilers packing, because if we don’t, we have a very painful time ahead indeed.