Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Paul Uppal and Captain Kirk

In several Star Trek episodes and films, trainee James T. Kirk's solution to Starfleet Academy's Kobayashi Maru test is spoken of with alternately, admiration and disdain. Here's the version from the recent film:

The point of the Kobayashi Maru test is that it's unwinnable. A captain who tries to win misses the point that it's a test of character in an impossible situation: facing death is the real test. James Kirk cheats: he reprogrammes the simulation to make winning possible. Here's Kirk's explanation from The Wrath of Khan.

Which brings me to Paul Uppal MP and Equal Marriage. When he was lobbied last week, he expressed a view that he opposed it: firstly for legal reasons and subsequently on the grounds of religious freedom. Personally, my feeling is that he reckons the Daily Mail voters on the western fringe of The Dark Place plus the Sikh vote will get him re-elected if he panders to their prejudices enough. I also think he's wrong: Sikhs, like everybody else, vote according to a range of personal concerns and can't be treated as a block. They won't vote for him just because he too is Sikh.

The other impulse pulling Paul Uppal was his craven loyalty to David Cameron. As I said yesterday, he voted for student fees, NHS dismemberment, EMA withdrawal, multiple wars, benefit cuts for disabled children and any number of vicious and retrograde laws. He is a man for whom the mirage of advancement means much.

So there he was, last night: his own personal Kobayashi Maru. Vote against equal marriage and lose his 100% record of unthinking loyalty but appease the bigots who elected him. Or vote for equal marriage despite his own views and alienate said bigots, making re-election even less likely? Luckily (and I should have seen this coming given his record thus far), Paul did a Kirk. Rather than face the test, he bottled it and abstained. In one of the most symbolic votes in years, one which firmly divides the political class between humane progressives and reactionaries, Uppal took the coward's way out.

Will it help him? I don't think so. He presumably calculates that Cameron's revenge will be focussed on those who voted against the Bill rather than those who quietly ducked the challenge, while the anti-equality voters will similarly give him a free pass. Wrong. The Conservative leadership will despise him as an unprincipled coward while the bigots will take the view that the Tories enacted equal marriage and won't make any distinction between abstainers and supporters when it comes to putting an X in the box.

Uppal won't go on to save the universe and breed with multiple glamorous aliens. He's destined for humiliating defeat and a life of bitter contempt for the voters. He faced the unwinnable situation and cheated in the most spineless fashion possible.

I know Captain Kirk. And you, Mr Uppal, are no Captain Kirk.


Jake said...

Just this once, I think you're being a bit unfair to the guy. The only people likely to vote for him want him to vote one way, the man who can destroy his career with a single word of command wants him to vote the other, and for all I know down here in Louise Mensch's old constituency his own views on the issue might be genuinely conflicted; I'm conflicted about issue, for that matter, especially if we do end up forcing people to do something that goes against their deeply-held spiritual beliefs for not much actual gain. (Disclaimer: Having watched my parents go through a quite astonishingly messy divorce when I was a sprog, I am somewhat disenchanted with the institution of wedlock and thus could never bring myself to get fired up about not having the right to participate in it if I found a bloke I liked enough to move in with.)

The Plashing Vole said...

Hi Jake, thanks for your comment. You're right of course that I'm deliberately interpreting Mr Uppal's behaviour in the worst possible light, though his track record is pretty bad and I find it hard to detect much principle in his parliamentary pronouncements thus far.

I don't think Cameron can destroy Uppal's career: he hasn't got one, but your point stands anyway. A vote like this isn't as straight-forward for many people as it is to me. The background you give demonstrates just how tricky this issue can be: I've been reading lots of homosexual opposition to marriage as an oppressive bourgeois construction.

Shackleford Hurtmore said...

I think of Uppal as a Ferengi. Not one with a name and dialogue. Just an extra in the background.