‘Magicians call it misdirection: directing the attention of a crowd elsewhere so as to distract from the trick happening right in front of it. A bump on the shoulder, a blur of handwaving and – wham! – your wallet’s taken leave of your hip pocket.
Since the crash, British politics has been one epic act of misdirection. Lay off those bankers who shoved the country into penury! Just focus on stripping disabled people of their benefits. Never mind the millionaire bosses squeezing your pay! Spit instead at the minimum-wage migrant cleaners apparently making us poorer. So ingrained is the ritual that when a minister strides into view urging the need for “a grown-up debate”, we brace ourselves for another round of Blame the Victim. The only question is who gets sacrificed next: some ethnic minority, this family on low pay, that middle-aged dad who can’t get a job.
Here is how political misdirection works in real time.’