Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Labor and the duvet

Some time ago I quoted Chesterton on lying in bed (via Calista):
Instead of being regarded, as it ought to be, as a matter of personal convenience and adjustment, it has come to be regarded by many as if it were a part of essential morals to get up early in the morning. It is upon the whole part of practical wisdom; but there is nothing good about it or bad about its opposite. Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before. 
Apparently this is now a major political theme in the rest of the Anglophone world:

In her first media conference as Prime Minister last June, [Julia Gillard] first spoke of Australians who “set their alarm clocks early”. The line has recurred several times since, and featured prominently in her election campaign launch speech, when she spoke of how “it can be tough getting up every morning and going to work, setting the alarm clock early, getting the kids out to school”. Virtually the same sentence cropped up last week.
Since Gillard first used it, the phrase has been appropriated by British deputy PM Nick Clegg, who must get up very early indeed such is the vigour with which he is destroying the Liberal Democrat Party. Clegg pitched the coalition government and its budget cuts to “alarm clock Britain” in January, accused Labour leader Ed Milliband of “hiding under his duvet”, and even strayed into Python territory by elaborating on a sort of hierarchy of early risers, lauding those who had to “set the alarm incredibly early”, doing jobs “long before it’s even light”.

As politics, this is of course very similar in spirit to Hillary Clinton's "hardworking Americans, white Americans" moment, a nod in the general direction of conservative populism. (Perhaps the welfare reform we really need is having the relevant office close at 9am?) The rest of the article flitters around a point that has become oddly salient in recent years, viz. that the labor union movement and its sympathizers have essentially entirely different politics from the "greens"/urban liberals, and for any given purpose either contingent can be peeled off by a reasonably competent conservative movement.

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