Cameron and Co demonstrate the Art of Disaster Politics


Naomi Klein’s book ‘Disaster Capitalism – Shock doctrine’ describes how a ‘disaster’ is utilized, perpetuated and even manufactured, to get policy change or to reframe events – changes which would not be possible unless the population was in a shocked state, too devastated, distracted or worried to object.   The most obvious and current example is how the global banking crisis has been rewritten as Labour ‘overspending’ – which has, in turn, been used to justify dismantling the welfare state and privatizing the NHS/public services… the long-term ambition of the 0.003% since 1945.

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace-makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country” – Hermann Goering

The tragic death of Lee Rigby in Woolwich has provided just such a disaster and perfect opportunity….

In the words of Jo Moore, special adviser to Stephen Byers, and product of the Peter Mandelson school of spin doctors:

It was ‘’a good day to bury bad news’.

Before the twin towers had even collapsed Jo Moore was already suggesting to the head of communications in the department of transport, local government and the regions that they should use the atrocity in America to overshadow damaging announcements they had been wanting to release quietly. 

Doubtless, Tory spin meister Lynton Crosby and minions, had similar thoughts about how best to use the Woolwich atrocity to reverse Cameron’s fortunes after an appalling and farcical few weeks… the Tory backbenchers’ ‘EU referendum’ amendment to the Queen’s speech, the opposition to ‘gay marriage’, and the (in no way farcical) criticism and warnings from the IMF over Osborne’s economic strategy.

The result was that the killing was framed as a national emergency requiring Cameron to be recalled, poste haste from Paris.  Ludicrously, Cobra was convened and we were subjected to Cameron’s impersonation of Churchill:

‘… this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror. We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms.’

This despite even the wildest of reports acknowledging that this was probably a ‘lone wolf’ attack by a few clearly dysfunctional individuals.  To put this in some sort of context, there have been 152 fatal stabbings of teenagers in London between 2005 and 2013.

Former Cobra staff officer, David Livingstone writes in the Guardian:

The UK government did not convene Cobra for single attacks during the mainland IRA campaign of the 1980s and 1990s. Convening Cobra (which is a decision made by ministers rather than civil servants or the emergency services)….

The Woolwich murder did not merit the Cobra treatment.

Steve Bell’s Guardian cartoon says it all… Cameron reflated with hot air and faux sentiment.

But whilst it clearly provided a good distraction away from the woes of Cameron/Osborne, and exciting copy for the MSM, we learn that there have been at least 140 hate crimes against Muslim people, or their Mosques, since Lee Rigby’s death.  Some of which must be ascribed to the ‘war on terror’ hype.

In David Livingstone’s opinion – ‘The government’s reaction ensured international recognition for the perpetrators and makes copycat attacks more likely.’ 

… the wrong signals are being sent; first, to the public, who might become increasingly frightened rather than reassured, and, secondly, to the plethora of wrongdoers in society who want to make their respective points at the highest levels possible. The two criminals this week probably achieved political level recognition of their crime well beyond their expectation.

Further evidence of the disingenuousness of Cameron’s expressed concerns for this ‘terror’ attack, was that it did not extend to his abandoning his week’s holiday in sunny Ibiza.

However, the next stage of the ‘disaster politics’ is now unfolding.

The death of poor Lee Rigby is being utilized to justify the Home Secretary’s plans to tighten up controls on the internet and extend banning of radical groups preaching hate.

The Blairite former Home secretaries, Reid and Johnson, have jumped in to add their voices in support (presumably to ‘force’ Ed Miliband’s hand) .. and Nick Clegg is being pressurized to remove his veto on the ‘snooper’s bill’.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is rushing out a new terror task force ‘to crack down on extremism in the wake of the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby’….  Unless, of course, it is David Cameron rushing to try and pre-empt any proposal that leadership contender Theresa May might make?

Doubtless, there are other ramifications and manipulations in the pipeline that I cannot even begin to imagine.  As Chris Dillow writes:

Many groups have an incentive to exaggerate the significance of terrorism, and to reframe insane violence as “terrorism.” For the police, such attacks give them a chance to further inflate their sense of self-importance and to seize more powers. And politicians can use the image of grave danger and an evil foe to appear Churchillian.

It offends every sense of decency that this horrific crime should be cynically utilised to mask the IMFs dire report of the economy; the internal divisions of the tory party; and to facilitate the passage of more draconian, authoritarian legislation.

However, it is beyond irresponsible that through such political manoeuvres, a criminal incident has been whipped up to the benefit of violent extremists from both racist groups (EDL/BNP) and Muslim fanatics.  It is truly ‘disaster politics’ for their victims.

19 thoughts on “Cameron and Co demonstrate the Art of Disaster Politics

  1. Very good post Sue.

    This terrible, but isolated crime, has come along at the right time to allow the failures of the Coalition to be moved off the front page. The lines about immigration, supposed islamisation and the lurch to the right are very dangerous.

    I worry that a snoopers charter is a further step (and these steps are never taken back) to more censorship, control of the internet and a reduction of civil liberties.

    I would hope that Labour ignores the calls from David Blunkett and Alan Johnson, and make a principled stance against the road Theresa May wishes to travel down. This requires taking the flack that will come from the right-wing press.

    I hope the Shadow Cabinet is strong enough to resist…..


    • I hope so too Garry. New Labour believed that its authoritarian stance was electorally (journalistically) useful and they will be putting pressure on the Milibandites, even though Yougov polling indicates that a majority of the population (60+%) have a very sane, measured response to this atrocious act of violence. Lynton Crosby’s campaigning style is not desirable!


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  3. I was surprised at the calling of COBRA, but one justification could have been the risk of copy-cat or co-ordinated similar attacks. How COBRA could have helped prevent them other than by ordering intensive cyber-surveillance and “round up the usual suspects” is unclear. It is a bit worrying that the Labour Front Bench bad is once went into bipartisan mode and offered Cameron support on the Communications Bill. Whether that Bill is good or bad is not the issue – kneejerk position statements rarely look good in the cold light of day a month or more hence.


      • And of course Cameron called COBRA to appear to be acting decisively, indeed to be seen to be doing something, anything, to distract attention from the chaos in which, thanks to his messy leadership, his party is now.


      • It’s sad that our politicians are so shallow that they are prepared to jump onto such a tragic incident for their own political careers. I’m sure May is so clueless she thinks it is possible to just switch-off the ‘Interweb’.


      • Horrifyingly, May is probably the most qualified scientifically .. with her Geography degree!!! As you say, she may be looking for the on/off switch 🙂


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