Normally “dog whistle politics” refers to senior politicians making possibly inflammatory remarks to get their supporters to come happily to heel. For the Tories it is “immigration control” and “repatriation of powers”; for Labour it is “redistribution” and “public sector”.
However today I think we saw the dog whistler-in-chief react to a dog whistle.
Hilary Mantel in an academic lecture (Royal Bodies, London Review of Books 21 February 2013; online (for anyone who wants to read what was actually said) at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies) mainly about the ability of Tudor women to procreate and they way that they were essentially viewed as breeding bodies, drew some modern-day comparisons.
… It’s rather that I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant. They will find that this young woman’s life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth. …
Apparently this is a vicious attack that (according to the BBC) “Mantel comments overshadow Duchess of Cambridge visit! (BBC News Website 19 February 2013). Nicholas Witchell reporting:
She’s roughly four months pregnant now and behind those clasped hands there is certainly evidence of a more rounded stomach than before. The pregnancy sickness of early December has passed, yet Catherine is still taking things carefully. …
OK, he did not quite say she was “radiant”, but.
The Daily Mail however in slagging off Hilary Mantel, managed to live down to the latter’s criticism of the media. On its website it reports (“Kate puts her baby bump on parade”):
… Kate returned to work today with the merest hint of a baby bump.
Looked tanned after her recent holiday in Mustique, Kate braved a chill morning in London wearing only a grey patterned wrap dress by upmarket High Street range Max Mara. …
‘At least the sun is out,’ she said as she readjusted her dress.
As she chatted to clients and staff, however, Kate made no attempt to disguise her gently swelling stomach, standing with her hands clasped under her bump.
And as if to prove their interest in her baby-making abilities and the grey patterned wrap dress by upmarket High Street range Max Mara they include 15 pictures (“Kate’s pregnancy bump could just be seen as she entered the charity’s HQ”, “The Duchess made no attempt to disguise her gently swelling stomach, standing with her hands clasped under her bump”) and three videos (“The Royal bump. Kate’s pregnancy shows as she tours charity”, “Duchess shows off more curvacious figure and new baby bump!… “)
David Cameron (in India) then wades in (BBC News Website: Cameron defends Kate over Mantel comments 19 February 2012) with:
Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the Duchess of Cambridge, saying author Hilary Mantel was “completely wrong” to compare her to a “shop-window mannequin”
I get the impression that he has not read Mantel’s lecture – which ends:
It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.
I guess he (or his apparatchiks) have read the Daily Mail and are responding to its dog-whistle?