Shock Politics – Rufus Hound on the NHS.
A couple of days ago the comedian Rufus Hound posted a piece on his blog (http://rufushound.wordpress.com) entitled “David and Jeremy want your kids to die (unless you’re rich)”. This has stirred up a little bit of a furore. Now, before I begin to try to pick apart this political/moral slanging match I want to point out that were this a poker match, all the people in it are placing bets in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, while I can stretch only to wager a penny. But I’m in the game, so here goes.
Toby Young, the journalist and writer, viewed Hound’s post title as highly offensive, believing that the suggestion that the Prime Minister and the health secretary want children to die is, as Daily Telegraph columnist Damian Thompson puts it, “despicable” when David Cameron’s previous personal bereavements are taken into account. I’m fairly certain in asserting that Rufus Hound is not mocking this event. David Cameron’s personal experiences, no matter how tragic, are not relevant in the consideration of the motives behind, and the possible interpretations of, Hound’s article. The post uses a tactic that’s commonplace, if in a way that some would consider as being over the line, and that tactic is shock. It’s designed to grab attention; it’s a title that, regardless of your feelings about its offensive nature, makes you want to read the following argument. The title is in keeping with the tone of the post itself, in as much as Hound wants to get his point across with as much force as possible. This isn’t careful, meticulously planned politics, this is a raw, passionate plea for the British public to support a cause that Rufus Hound feels strongly about.
Having somewhat defended Hound’s title choice, I must clarify that I don’t approve of the way he handled Toby Young’s fairly aggressive tweet. Young tweeted to the National Health Action party (the party for which Hound is to stand in the next European elections) “Are you going to expel @RufusHound for his disgusting smear against @David_Cameron?” Hound’s reply, while defending his post, seemed to accept Young’s assertion of a personal attack, but after the How to Lose Friends and Alienate People author’s offering of judgement and advice, Hound claimed “I only really want to achieve one thing Toby. I want the people of this great nation to realise that their NHS is being stolen from them by born-to-rule selfish b******s”. Brash phrasing yes, but clear that his thoughts were only on ensuring his post had the best chance of being widely viewed.
It seems to me that hearts ruled heads in all corners of this debate, highlighted by Damian Thompson’s categorisation of the National Health Action party as “some loony Left party” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100256730/bbc-comedian-rufus-hound-says-cameron-wants-children-to-die-beeb-says-nothing/). He’s keeping the high ground I see. Rufus Hound’s title could easily be seen as offensive, and yes, his post is derogatory towards the Conservatives, but this outburst was born from genuine concern for an institution widely regarded as a great one. Despite phrasing and tone that might be more appropriate being shouted from a platform in Trafalgar Square at the beginning of a nationwide revolution, it is not a political view that deserves this much controversy. Dr Taylor, the leader of the NHA party, has said he will “talk to” Rufus Hound about his comments, and while the assertion that David Cameron’s policies are motivated by the desire for the deaths of children is outrageous, it does not mean that Hound’s other views are ones to be repressed. The means used were wrong, maybe Mr Hound should apologise for his assertion, but in a political context, it was nothing more than a strategy to shock people into considering a different standpoint.