There is a light that never goes out

January 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party, New Labour | Leave a comment

I don’t know of many bloggers – myself included – who’ll have much sympathy to spare for Tony McNulty, but it really is an indictment of the smallness of our politics that something like this counts as a gaffe:

The Conservatives accused the employment minister, Tony McNulty, of being “out of touch” after he said there was “light at the end of the tunnel” shortly after new data showed UK unemployment hurtling towards 2 million.

The jobless total increased by 131,000 in the three months to November to 1.92 million, the highest figure for more than a decade, leaving the UK with a higher unemployment rate ā€“ 6.1% ā€“ than Slovenia, Romania, Malta, Holland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Austria and Cyprus


Speaking to BBC News, [McNulty] added: “There is light at the end of the tunnel.

“It is some way off, I think that’s clear, but ā€¦ all that we are doing in terms of the economy, which is being followed by most other western economies, will mean that we will get through this downturn and this recession.”

Recessions have casualties. They claim jobs, homes, marriages, even lives. They cause poverty and hardships which seem both suffocating and ceaseless. But unless this current crisis goes against the grain of human history, it will one day end. As bland as the metaphor might be, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and whilst that’s scant consolation to those who’ve been worst effected, it is a reminder not to concede defeat.

What McNulty said was a cheap, harmless little platitude; no different to what the unemployed among us have heard a thousand times from sympathetic friends and relatives who’ll tell us to keep our chins up or not let the bastards get us down. McNulty neither promised an immediate upturn nor diminished the darkness that follows. That his words could be attacked by any self-respecting politician – let alone the supposed government-in-waiting – is just pathetic.

Yesterday, President Obama told his country that “the time has come to set aside childish things”. I get the feeling that this is the kind of thing he was talking about.


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