Apparently, the booing of Conservative politicians as they present medals to Paralympians has become a bit of a Thing. First George Osborne, then Teresa May (apparently, Boris Johnson got a big cheer, but then, he’s a Veblen Politician to which normal political rules do not apply).
I’ll say first off that it makes me a bit sad. It must be uncomfortable and odd for athletes receiving the medals. Not what they imagined when they set out on their Paralympic journey.
However, that does not mean that the jeers were wrong or should be condemned.
First, is there not a cynicism to the politicians presenting the medals in the first place? It feels like they are trying to piggy-back on the goodwill that the Olympics generated. If this is the case then they deserve whatever reception they get!
Second, I think it is an example of people using whatever means are at their disposal to dissent. I am reminded of a couple of things: Obama 2008 supporters misusing the features on the My Barack Obama website to protest his FISA policy. Or, the Jeff Goldblum speech from Jurassic Park: “Life Finds A Way”. In the absence of a good method to express disapproval of a Government, people will use what ever means are available, be that the arrangement of Teddy Bears, the licking of ice-cream, or the shouting of a common religious phrase from roof-tops. I am not saying that the British political system is comparable to the authoritarian regimes in Iran or Belarus, but even in an advanced social democracy people can still feel alienated and disenfranchised by the political system.
Finally, these boos cannot be dismissed as the co-ordinated actions of an already partisan group (as a slow clap at the Women’s Institute or the Police Federation or at the TUC might be described). These are a diverse group of citizens from every demographic in the country. The jeers are part of a real and widespread sentiment: that they happen to the extreme discomfort of both the politicians and the Paralympians is part of the message.