The phrase, “Britain is open for business” is invoked incessantly by UK politicians these days – as they swoop off their private jets and pull serious faces and puff out their chests for the waiting media – and it’s beyond tiresome. It sounds utterly stupid, and makes their horizons (and, by extension, ours as a nation) seem completely diminished.
All three main parties are guilty of this, but none moreso than the Conservatives, particularly Cameron, Osborne, and now Prime Minister May.
To continue the metaphor, when did the shop shut? Where’s the fire? When you hear that phrase in the real world, it’s normally invoked after a renovation or protracted closure, or a terrible event like a stabbing or a flood. Every time it’s used, I can almost see the owner of a cornershop pacing about outside his store, desperation etched in his face, the day after a gang fight on his doorstep: ‘Don’t mind the blood and broken glass, we’re still open for business! Please buy my red-tops and flapjacks.’
It’s not the confident assertion this increasingly weird, disconnected class of people think it should be. It bristles with obvious doubt and blind, dumb hope. And is that all we are now, a business? Is that the sum total of their aspiration for our nation? Fretting about the AAA credit rating as it falls by the wayside, instead of a AAA morality rating, or AAA ratings for scientific and artistic endeavours.
David Cameron was full of these lines, and used them whenever he could, as he pretended to be a man of the people (despite, y’know, forgetting what football team he was supposed to support, and all those times his prole mask slipped). Like his dismal, overused “hard-working people” line, which was supposed to subliminally sink into our minds, as a cozy concession to tuck us in at night: ‘You gave it your best shot today. Keep up the toil, pleb, it’s really valued. And, oh, don’t mind us – we’ll keep cutting your public services in return.’
Another one was “important work,” usually delivered with pursed lips and rolled up shirt sleeves. Cameron sounded like a guilty public schoolboy when he dropped this one, forever covering his arse after his chillaxing with Fruit Ninja on his iPad.
Or all that forgotten talk about “pulling up the drawbridge” with Europe, but failing to make anything resembling a convincing, positive case for remaining in the union.
These are lazy rhetorical tricks, unworthy of even a remedial English Language class. And yet, I suppose, for the distracted, bovine masses of this green and pleasant land, they work quite well.