Quick Note: Turning Against the Doctors – the Government’s Biggest Strategic Mistake Yet?

Anyone who has either a member of the NHS or a medical student as a Facebook friend is likely to have learnt two things yesterday: the imposition of a new contract on NHS junior doctors and just how deeply unpopular- indeed reviled- that contract is. A little digging and listening  to British Medical Association representatives also reveals that this whole struggle between the BMA and the government is to do with much more than just junior doctor contracts. It is also informed by underinvestment in the NHS and the privatisation of NHS services, both of which are the result of (broadly ideological) austerity.

None of us can predict the future and foresee whether the imposition of a contract over which the BMA (who have first-hand experience of practicing in the NHS) has already vowed to fight the government (who almost wholly don’t) will become emblematic of this Conservative administration or fade away from public memory as it is snowed under by the next extreme and damaging policies invariably around the corner. For the most part, however , I’m inclined to think that it will have a lasting impact, and has been a very strange fight for the government to pick.

Barely anyone viscerally cares about vulnerable welfare claimants, struggling immigrants or low-paid public sector workers who are all too easily coloured as the people ‘proper businesses’ didn’t want to employ. It has been easy for the government to cut away at their livelihoods and for people to engage in very dubious moral gymnastics and cognitive dissonance to defend such action. After all, people , especially voters, who are far more likely to hail from wealthier backgrounds, come into meaningful contact with those actually affected by the Bedroom Tax or the increased income threshold for migrant spouses.

However, we all come into contact with doctors. We all get sick, and most of us are likely to have required/require an operation or have been/be present at the delivery of a child. The quote from Nigel Lawson that the NHS is “the closest thing that the English come to a national religion” is well-known, and even Katie Hopkins in her bizarrely obfuscatory and wildly inaccurate column on the doctors’ strike acknowledged the personal debt she has to the NHS. Nearly all of us owe a huge amount to the whole NHS, including the junior doctors who work tirelessly and endlessly (far more than the apparent saviours of our economy, the bankers). Attacking the lynchpins of our hospitals with a contract that will stretch them to the limit, not to mention lower their morale, is hardly likely to curry favour with the public. Just wait until the first deaths as a result of exhaustion occur.

Secondly, doctors are the people that especially the middle-classes, the bastion of democratic expression, meet on a regular social basis. They are there, down the your suburban street, at the tennis club or at the craft ale stand at the village fete. They are seen as one of the prime traditional ‘community actors’, respectable and educated, motivated and intelligent. People respect the opinions of doctors, and the ones to whom doctors are disproportionately likely to be offering their private opinions are fellow educated, middle-class, classically Tory-voting friends.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and the government strategically should know better than to attack uniformly well-respected members of communities up and down the country. It seems more than likely that, if attitudes such as those which the government is exhibiting continue until 2020, we will see the junior doctor, the young professional with an intense university education and secure career prospects, putting in a vote for parties who are the Tories worst nightmare.

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The Second World War Is Our Past, Not Our Present

Milkman blitz.jpg
Photo Credit: Reddit

I was only a young boy when Winston Churchill was voted “The Greatest Briton” of all history by an adoring public, and at the time it seemed perfectly natural. Even today, over five decades since his death, he towers over this nation, dominating our collective psychological landscape for one simple ‘reason’: he led us to victory during the Second World War.

Never mind his appalling overseeing of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War that left 46,000 Allied soldiers dead, his (egregious) brutality and racism whilst conducting colonial affairs that led one peer to claim “Winston only thinks about the colour of their skin” or his support for the forced sterilisation of swathes of the British public. All that mattered to average participant in the vote was the Second World War.

If there is one thing that is fused to the British cultural landscape like burnt rice to the bottom of a saucepan, it is the Second World War.  There is no “Don’t Mention The War!” in our vocabulary of common reference points; it’s all Dad’s Army and Keep Calm And Carry On instead. When German exchange students visited my school- we were about 15/16 years old at the time- they were asked if they “had ever heard of a Spitfire” and people shouted “Heil Hitler” at them before running down the corridor in an act of cowardice nearly as embarrassing as the previous deed. The refrain “Two World Wars and One World Cup” is recognisable to us all.

If I haven’t laboured the point enough, I invite you to occasionally look at the comment sections to online newspaper articles. The further right-wing the better. There will be someone talking about the War in some way, clamouring that our forefathers didn’t charge onto the beaches of Normandy only for ‘po-faced liberal civil servants’ to tell us that we can no longer sell Gollywogs or some other highly contentious melange of bollocks and bullshit like that. Frustratingly, I cannot find the article amongst dozens about the terrible flooding in the North of England and Scotland this winter in which a woman decided that their conditions were akin to those during those long 6 years of conflict. Expect more of the same with the upcoming referendum on EU membership (an organisation by which we proud and courageous Britons are inextricably tied to those formerly aggressive Krauts and pathetically yellow-bellied French, of course).

The legacy of the Second World War amongst the British people is remarkable and yet rarely scrutinised. It is both sad and odd that we revel in a conflict that claimed the lives of 55 million people, witnessed the most heinous act of systematic genocide in history and claims the unenviable prize of the only war in which nuclear weapons have been actually used. We, in our sanitised stupor, seem incapable of coming to terms with the fact that, whilst many a brave Londoner did huddle on the platform of Piccadilly Circus, so many others were pulverised or incinerated in their own homes. Nor was everyone gallant and patriotic: criminals thrived in the chaos of the Blitz and the Blackout was a perfect environment for attempted sexual assault. It is safe to say that none but the most bellicose or questionable would want for us to return to a time like that, and, were such a dreadful episode to happen now, then we wouldn’t suddenly all be cheerily donning tin hats and gas mask boxes, ready for another round of being the ‘plucky underdog’.

Nonetheless, so many of us, especially those who never saw a day before 1945, believe that our victory (which definitely had more to do with the US, USSR and the heroic efforts of all occupied nations) marks the political, cultural and moral zenith of our nation’s history. Our ‘Finest Hour’. Aside from the xenophobia and awful politicisation of the sacrifice of so many lives towards often irrelevant and trivial political ends that this opinion has caused, our persistent gaze to those heady days when windows were criss-crossed with sticky tape and place names painted over has helped manufacture a narrative of decline from the moment peace was declared. We don’t celebrate nearly enough the abolition of the death penalty, decriminalisation of homosexuality, the Equal Pay Act or creation of the welfare state, because these events happened as people grew soft, fat and corrupted- not at all like back in 1940 when men were men, everyone spoke English and people took responsibility for their actions. And, as a result, institutions that objectively are of much greater benefit to our national livelihood, such as the NHS, are under threat whilst the rose-tinted memories of slaughter and hardship remain sacrosanct.

No one is saying that we should be ashamed of the Second World War, or that there were not thousands of acts of courage, humanity and kindness as the world was engulfed by terror and bloodshed. However, it is time that we seriously review whether those 6 years are really the watershed moment of the British nation and its people, the moment that we showed the best of who we are as a nation. War should define neither our global outlook nor our notions of identity to the extent that it currently does, especially when it is patent how insular and arrogant the perspectives that it informs often can be. There are plenty of khaki uniforms and decommissioned rifles in museums across the country and, whilst we may regard them with venerable respect and thanksgiving for the dedication of many who once owned them, it is in a museum and not the baggage of our everyday national consciousness that they belong.

Dead Cats and Pigs

Credit: The Daily Mail
Credit: The Daily Mail

“There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on a dining-room table… everyone will shout ‘Jeez mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!'” summised Boris Johnson when discussing Lynton Crosby’s ‘dead cat strategy’ during the 2015 election. The principle is that saying or doing something outrageous will draw unwanted attention away from the politically damaging, pushing real debate into obscurity. During the run-up to May 2015, this took the form of Michael Fallon’s blistering and excessive attack on Ed Miliband in which he claimed that the would-be Labour Prime Minister would “stab the United Kingdom in the back”. Fallon’s comments were delivered a day after Miliband pledged to crack down on tax-evading non-doms, a policy which had real potential to appeal to Middle England. The Daily Telegraph, perhaps sensing the tactic, amplified the grotesque diversion of this dead cat by making Fallon the feature of their cartoon in the comment section the next day. As a result, Labour never made the impression on the public that it had hoped to with its anti-non-dom policy.

Only yesterday, it was revealed that the free school meal programme, initiated as one of the first social reforms of the Liberal Government under Asquith, will be rolled back in the upcoming spending review being conducted by the Treasury. This will undoubtedly leave many of the poorest students in the country, who already on average lag behind their wealthier classmates, hungrier and with a further limited capacity to learn during their crucial years of schooling. You do not need to be a bleeding-heart liberal to see how destructive and counter-intuitive this particular cut is, especially at a time when tax credits, which prop up the incomes of impoverished working families, have also just been condemned. However, the acts of David Cameron that everyone is talking about are not those inflicting further hardship on the poor and indirectly limiting social mobility, but the fact that he once drunkenly put his genitalia into a pig’s mouth and smoked cannabis with James Delingpole. It’s politically irrelevant- this is the kind of thing that taps into the public’s imagination of what students get up to- but it’s humorous and captivating and has nothing to do with the agenda of the current government. If anything, it could bolster the public perception of Cameron by giving him a Boris-esque lively outrageousness that the electorate adores.

The biography which reveals these roguish deeds is being written by Lord Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott. Even if the former is no longer a Conservative Party peer, he is unlikely to ever want to see the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in office, and neither is the former Political Editor of the Sunday Times. Delingpole, who informed Ashcroft about his recreational drug use with Cameron, is a right-wing journalist who most certainly holds a similar opinion of the new Labour leader. Given that Corbyn’s primary attack on the Tories during his first week of leadership is that they are “poverty deniers“, the cutting of free school meals and tax credits offers the perfect starting plot on which to begin building the anti-Tory narrative. In distracting everyone with these revelations, Ashcroft, Oakeshott and Delingpole have successfully undermined any foundations which Corbyn and his shadow cabinet may have laid. Progressives have taken the opportunity to flog a well and truly dead horse by highlighting once again the decadent frivolities of Etonian Dave at Oxford, even when the public have shown resoundingly to not care in the slightest about the particulars of his upbringing. All the while, no one speaks up for the families which have suffered one crushing financial blow this week and are set to be on the receiving end of another in the near future.

Quite a formidable dead cat, by any standards.

Now With a Leader, Labour Must Show Itself More Interested in Power than Ever Before

Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet. Photo Credit: BBC
Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. Photo Credit: BBC

“My party has just hurled itself off a cliff,” one generally down-to-earth Labour MP reportedly wailed following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Opposition. The sentiment that Labour is in for a decade or more of wandering the wilderness from which it may never escape is not uncommon amongst its parliamentary representatives. After all, their new candidate for Prime Minister only just secured the number of MPs’ signatures required to run in the leadership contest and nearly half of those were from members who offered it merely in order to broaden the debate. Some of the rising stars of the Miliband shadow cabinet have withdrawn to the backbenches voluntarily, so sure are they are electoral collapse in 2020 and the elusiveness of power thereafter.

Reactions of despair of dismay are to be expected when one wing of a big tent party enjoys a meteoric rise at the expense of its polar opposite. However, so public a display of bleak pessimism has of course been calculated to undermine the new Labour leadership from the very start. MPs are already openly challenging Corbyn on his selection for Shadow Chancellor, tweeting in abundance about his apparent oversight of shadow ministerial roles for women and calling for a strong communications team to handle his alleged ineptness with the media.

And they are doing this right at moment when they know the media is most interested in what is happening within the Parliamentary Labour Party, and when the Conservatives and other parties are keeping their eye most closely for weak spots amongst the ranks.

Some may call this an appalling start for Corbyn, but it is even more emphatically an appalling start for Labour. Yesterday morning, Labour MPs should have strode out, if shell-shocked and unwilling, to present a unified front and began the work of an opposition serious about winning a mandate in 2020 by taking the Tories to task. With elections more dependent on narrative than ever, the campaign starts now with laying the foundations of a coherent vision that can be developed and strengthened right up until the country next goes to the polls. However, whilst the Conservatives have already embarked on new preparations for battle and enshrined ‘security’ as the watchword of the moment, Labour MPs have instead descended into quibbling and in-fighting.

If Labour moderates and centrists are worried that a Corbyn opposition reduces their chance of victory in 2020, then they are going a curious way about rectifying this supposed deficit. Despite convictions to the contrary, voters may well turn out to vote for Corbyn. There is absolutely no predicting what may happen or how the new leadership and its politics will ultimately resonate with the electorate. All the opinion polls and focus groups conducted now in 2015 have every chance of being rendered redundant over the next five years. What is closer to certain, however, is that voters are unlikely to turn out and vote for a party which is unable to keep its own house in order and is wracked with pessimism about its own ability to govern. Were Corbyn to resign or be ousted from the leadership before 2020, then the core Labour vote in England and Wales that rose up and believed that ‘Jez we could’ will never forgive whoever takes the crown. Labour would face an annihilation beyond that of 1983 or 2015 with the double-desertion of party faithful and the all-important swing vote. As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, especially for those who joined the ranks and politically matured during the heady days of Blairism, this is Labour now. This is party that must battle the Tories and seek office, and woe betide it and its members if it fails to stand up to the task.

Many centrists- Chuka Ummuna, Emma and Jonathan Reynolds, Stephen Twigg- protested that Labour had to “move beyond its comfort zone” in order to win the keys to Number 10 and execute policies to achieve “equality and freedom”. Simon Danczuk bluntly asserted that the Labour Party “exists to win elections”. As a result, all these MPs swung behind Liz Kendall. Now, with the tables turned, they would perhaps do well to heed their own recommendation and explicitly back the team who may not share the exact same politics as they do but currently embody the party they claim to love and the chance of realising the goals to which they claim to aspire. Otherwise, far from it being Corbyn who robbed Labour of the 2020 election, it will perversely be those who all along have demanded that Labour remember not just purity, but power.

To Call Corbyn “Unelectable” is to Misunderstand the Modern Voter

Not as “unelectable” as you may think. Photo Credit: The Daily Telegraph

Each of the Labour Party leadership candidates has had pejorative traits and labels applied to them over the course of the contest, the voting of which is now under way. Liz Kendall is apparently a Tory. Andy Burnham is nice but unprincipled. Yvette Cooper is some sort of rehashed Ed Balls. Jeremy Corbyn is hard-left in nearly enough about every article there is about him.

And, according to Alastair Campbell and many others besides, he’s unelectable.

The reasoning behind this particular accusation and the pessimism of many in the Labour ranks regarding Corbyn’s chances of walking through the door of Number 10 is supporting by two principal pillars. The first is the notorious performance of Michael Foot’s socialist Labour Party in the 1983 election. Comparisons between Corbyn’s and Foot’s visions are hardly rare, and neither are the implicit predictions of Labour’s chances in 2020 as a result.

The second pillar is the equally-notorious performance of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party last May. This particular Miliband, viewed by many as on the soft left and who aimed to drag the party back from the exhausted and tarnished brand of New Labour, also suffered a comprehensive rejection at the ballot box. Since then, the conventional diagnosis of such a disastrous showing has been that voters did not trust Labour with the economy following the condition that they left public finances in 2010. Ed Miliband’s refusal to admit that Labour overspent did little to restore voter confidence, and subsequent research in the aftermath of the election does indicate a lack of appetite amongst the electorate for anti-austerity politics. This is the kind of politics which Corbyn espouses as he outlines deficit reduction through a long-term plan in which cuts in public finances play no role.

The cry of the Kendallites, for whom restoring economic credibility with the voters via fiscal responsibility (i.e. austerity) is absolutely key, seems reasonable.

However, the UK Polling Report published an article in the last few days which questions the logic upon which the notion of Corbyn’s unelectability is founded. It cited a YouGov poll that first found that there was substantial backing amongst voters for policies such as the renationalisation of the railways and a top rate tax of 60%, both of which would fall squarely into Corbyn’s political comfort zone. However, perhaps more importantly, the same poll also uncovered similar levels of support for far-right policies such as a total ban of immigration or the abolition of international aid. A conclusion drawn from these results was:

voters themselves don’t necessarily see things as ideologically left and right and specific policies aren’t really that important in driving votes. However, broad perceptions of a party, its perceived competence and the public’s views on how suitable its leader is to be Prime Minister are incredibly important.

I think it appropriate to be a little bolder than that: the modern British electorate is post-ideological in its voting patterns. This is not as surprising as it may first seem when one considers that many of the traditional categories of identity in the UK have blurred together or been completely broken down in the past 50 years. The decline of practiced Christianity has removed the historic link between Nonconformism and the Labour Party or Anglicanism and the Tories. Deindustrialisation, the decline of union membership and the increase of those who consider themselves middle class have diminished the notion of a rigid class system along with its ramifications on political support. The administrations of Thatcher and Blair, which saw low-income workers in council houses voting Conservative and executives in financial services voting Labour, are particularly indicative of how fluid the allegiances of the modern electorate have become.The great electoral blocs of our grandparents’ generations- underpinned by class division- have splintered, manifest in the proliferation of parties now represented at Westminster and in the national parliaments and assemblies.

To fill this ideological void, especially when there is substantial overlap in the political philosophies of the current UK parties, elections have become narrative-dependent events. Consider the Conservative Party platform in 2015. The Tories did not try to win over the electorate through convincing them that free markets and a small government provided the most efficient route to prosperity and freedom. They presented austerity as a regrettable necessity, rather than a option to be advocated, owing to Labour’s purported mishandling of public finances in the final years of the New Labour Era. And therein, in that narrative of Labour’s incompetence and maladministration, was the real vote-winner. The fact that “austerity” is of questionable intellectual value, propped up by a dubious conflation of national and household economics, and that it disproportionately harms many of those who would proceed to vote for its continuation, was neither here nor there. The point was that the narrative was good, and the narrative stuck. The persistent idea of the treachery of the Liberal Democrats over tuition fees, despite the arguable merits of their ideology and relative effectiveness in office, condemned them to infamous oblivion at the ballot box. One of the cornerstones of the SNP’s appeal across Scotland in the run-up to the general election was had nothing to do with modern nationalism, but everything to do with the sentiment that Labour had abandoned many of its Scottish voters. This was a sentiment that the SNP was more than happy to capitalise on. In each of these instances, voters were not engaging with parties ideologically, but instead treating each of them as a product to be advertised and sold to them by the most proficient marketer.

The triumph of narrative over ideology, the disintegration of traditional voting blocs and the caprice of an electorate prepared to back both radical left and radical right policies without perceiving any contradiction renders the accusation of Corbyn’s unelectability debateable. Voters no longer respond to labels such as “socialist” or “hard-left” in the way that they did in 1983, nor did they reject Ed Miliband’s bid for office because of his apparent position on the traditional, one-dimensional political spectrum. Provided that Corbyn can create and present a convincing enough counter-narrative that challenges Cameron’s Conservatives, then there is every chance that he could win over voters, both natural and unnatural to Labour and from every corner of the union. Meanwhile- in an effort to regain “economic credibility”- as Andy Burnham apologies for Labour’s financial record during its last term in office and Liz Kendall backs Tory cuts to welfare, they only buy into the perceptions that persuaded the people of the UK to reject their party in May. It is those who are complicit with what their opponents say about them who find themselves on the losing side.

London Tube Strikes: Whatever Happened to the Right’s Hatred of the “Politics of Envy”?

One of the most common arguments levied against advocates of wealth redistribution and the higher taxation of the rich is that such an opinion is simply playing to the “politics of envy”. Unable to reconcile themselves with the idea that those CEOs receiving 130 more than their average employee may deserve such exorbitant pay packets, the left wishes to jealously condemn their hard-earnt money to the taxman. Or so the argument goes. People on the right, however, accept that if you are earning a certain salary, it’s because the market has prudently decided that that is your worth, and so it is the government’s job to interfere at little as possible. Well done you, all you high earners.

This makes the current right-wing coverage of the London Underground strikes- occurring in light of a dispute over working conditions in the new Night Service being introduced- a little curious. Trade unions are now an accepted feature of the landscape of our economy, even Sajid Jarvis, the Conservative minister for business, has officially stated that they have a “constructive role”. As a corollary of this, so too the principle tool for achieving the objectives of a trade union, in this age bereft of processes such as collective bargaining, must be accepted: the strike. A successful strike is simply a mechanism through which the market reevaluates the worth of a worker or group of workers, and therefore is as much as part of our economic structure as extortionate rents in London or bonuses dealt out in the City. If the strikers achieve a settlement which grants them a higher salary or better conditions (another indication of the worth of the worker) then well done them, surely?

But no. Instead, the Daily Mail has provided its readers with a helpful infographic illustrating how much better-off Tube drivers than London bus drivers, firefighters, nurses, soldiers and police officers even before the strike. It emphasises how Boris Johnson thinks “most people” would regard what the strikers are being offered as “a very generous deal”. The Daily Telegraph is running a similar piece, this time with the aid of a chart to show how lucky the those manning the Underground should consider themselves. These articles are not designed to congratulate the London Tube drivers on their success in obtaining more holiday and higher wages (if anything, the statistics used are misleading as they only indicate starting salaries and do not account for promotion prospects or the cost of living in London). Their objective is to whip up anger against the public, to make them wish to see the greedy strikers brought down a peg and the rally support for the government’s bill to bring the perfidious unions even closer to heel. In short, they are playing the politics of envy, asking ordinary working people to look at other ordinary working people and damn them for their ‘success’. Heaven forbid should anyone in the Mail or Telegraph suggest that “most people” should perhaps think that such ‘success’ could be also obtainable for them.

Meanwhile, they are silent about the executives and stockbrokers cursing the strikers as they make their slow way through a gridlocked London to the centre-point of where all the economic turmoil of our current times started.

When Is a Lion Not a Lion? When It’s an Unwanted Distraction

A great lion. But a great cause? Photo credit: The Independent
A great lion. But a great cause? Photo credit: The Independent

This week was no shorter than any other of unsettling news about the state of our nation. Hundreds of prospective migrants desperately stormed the Channel Tunnel, with one dead as a result. The death toll of British citizens so disfranchised and so disengaged with our society that they have left to join Islamist militant groups fighting in the Middle East has reached 50. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published a report detailing that less academically able children from wealthier backgrounds are still more likely proceed to earn more than their brighter, poorer compatriots.

And yet, amongst continued revelations that on our doorstep there is despair and anguish, loathing and terror, inequality and injustice, what captured the hearts and souls of thousands in this country? A lion. Albeit a very important lion hunted illegally. But a lion- in Zimbabwe- nonetheless.

The story of Cecil the Lion, shot by an American dentist, has ignited fury beyond expectation. I cannot conceive how many Facebook posts decrying the brutality and unfairness of the killer must have been posted in the last few days. I cannot conceive the hatred felt for Dr Palmer, the disgust and the fury. I cannot conceive the force of the moral tempest whipped up by those who are hashtagging “#wearececil”. We are outraged by the death of an animal in a faraway land at the hands of someone from a different foreign country to the point that many of us forget our own civilised nature and wish the death penalty on the perpetrator of the killing. Meanwhile, the poorest children in our own back garden quietly starve, bereft not only of sustenance to which their humanity surely entitles them, but also of the attention of the vocal, self-appointed, so-called “compassionate” classes who fill the Guardian comment sections and our social media newsfeeds. No wonder David Cameron, an architect of the punitive welfare reforms and rigid socio-economic stratification which causes such hardship, is more than willing to prolong the obfuscating Cecil furore by contributing his own tuppence-worth. Compassionate Conservatism extends to African beasts but not to British families trapped in poverty. Animal rights trump human dignity.

Even in a week's time the poor will still be hungry. Photo credit: Huffington Post
Even in a week’s time the poor will still be hungry. Photo credit: Huffington Post

A soul more generous than mine would perhaps venture that the widespread condemnation of Cecil’s killing is simply a symptom of something bigger: a final, great awakening of the developed world to the postcolonial hangover of destruction their fellow Westerners wreak upon lands they once dominated. First the the lions of Zimbabwe, next the planet and the people still suffering from the result of centuries of empire and unfettered global capitalism. However, the generous soul is also the more foolish in this situation. A primary reason why Cecil has attracted so much posthumous support is because it is easy to offer it. There is next to nothing that any of us in Britain can positively contribute to the problem of illegal game-hunting in the south of Africa, so all there is to do is beat the moral drum loudly for a few days before sinking back into quietude and oblivion until the next insoluble outrage to shout about surfaces. And no one seriously thinks that Cecil should have been hunted down, or that Dr Palmer is a great man for firing the fatal shot, so any opposition is nigh on non-existent. It is all far more convenient than, yet just as satisfying as, considering how to help to resolve tricky and divisive social or economic issues that are more insidious and immediate to us.

Remember “#kony2012” anyone?

Most animals are cute from a distance of six and a half thousand miles, and killing them illegally, especially when they are endangered and emblematic, is wrong. That is undisputed and the perpetrator of the act will face the consequences of that unanimity of opinion. However, we, especially those of us who proudly wear the badge of “liberal” or “progressive” do ourselves and those whom our sentiments and values are supposed to serve an embarrassing disservice by obsessing over Cecil. For he has ceased to be a lion, and now has become a passing shadow, pushing into obscurity all the graver injustices around which we must rally.