Politics is about as attractive as the idea of Jade Goody cavorting naked with Michael Winner: a lament

Scandal, spat, point scoring, initiative, reform, scandal, spat, initiative, point-scoring, reform, scandal, point-scoring. Repeat, using any combination of the following, ad infinitum, and it paints a broad-brush picture of British politics today. What should be a vibrant, essential area of public life is reduced to an almost vaudevillian side-show to the point where even the feral youth will probably shrug cynically and say politicians are all the same and will make no difference.

Politicians themselves, and Alistair Campbell, no doubt blame the media for this predicament, picking up of the most base, salacious and scandalous aspects of Parliament when the interesting and worthy work is relegated to the inside pages, behind Beckham and Britney.

There is a degree of truth to any such argument but then, in this day and age, the politicians rarely seem to help themselves. It’s hardly a surprise that, following another round of scandal, reform, initiative, point-scoring, spats, culminating in Derek Conway’s misappropriation of public money towards his not-often-seen-near-Parliament-expect-for-parties son that public trust for our politicians is at an all time low. Again.

In just over ten years we’ve seen the optimism of Tony Blair’s promised new era in politics disintegrate into a mire of cynicism impressive even by the usual British pessimism. At least back in 1997, whether you brought into Blair’s revolution or not, there was a feeling, in the words of Sam Cooke, a change was gonna come. That the change should have reached a point where the alternative is, at best, equally nonplussing as the status quo, and at worst, even more inept and unpleasant than the current bunch says much about British politics.

Currently there are three interlinked strands of politics at Westminster, and beyond, that are not just unedifying, but plain off-putting. Firstly, the apparent desire to hang onto power at any cost, perfectly encapsulated by the donations scandal surrounding Peter Hain. Armando Iannucci summed up things succinctly in the Observer today:

“When did you start thinking politicians really stink? For me, it was when Peter Hain apologised. Hain came up to the cameras to say he was sorry for the clear errors in his funding arrangements and asked to stay in his job as a minister because these errors were not deliberate but a result of maladministration.

That spelt for me the end of everything because it was the final, radical split of politics from reality.

Peter Hain was a minister. A minister’s job is to administer. He was asking us to let him administer because all he was guilty of was maladministering. That’s like a baker saying: ‘I’m really sorry I poisoned your daughter with that cream horn; no manslaughter was intended, but was merely a result of bad baking.’ The co-pilot who last week had to be wrested from the controls of the passenger airliner because he started jabbering and shouting prayers to God wasn’t shackled by his fellow crew because they disagreed with his new take on theology; he was pulled from his seat because he was no longer doing his only job, which was piloting.

An MP’s only job is to make laws, which is why breaking them is, apart from anything else, deeply unprofessional.”

Of course, scandal of the ruling party is nothing new, but having Hain and Conway in the same few weeks was particularly depressing, implying as it did that neither of the two main parties were remotely close to being able to govern a country let alone their own affairs.

Then there’s the point scoring: an old political mechanism that still has its place but seems even more depressingly frequent. I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve read where one MP raises a criticism, question, or initiative and, regardless of whether this criticism, question, or initiative is valid or just simply hare-brained, the opposite number doesn’t even bother trying to engage and throws out some half-arsed point either accusing the MP of U-turning or pointing to instances where that party has messed up in the past (a long list on all sides). The only surprising aspect of these responses is the MP doesn’t end their expertly crafted attack with: “And I’ve heard the honourable member smells of wee and gets their mum to cut their hair. Did so times one thousand and no come back.”

This is by no means confined to Parliament. One of the most depressing aspects of working in local media was the petty spats between councils and councillors. The behaviour of one set of councillors and party members on local election night last year put me off ever wanting to cast my vote for them as long as I lived in the region.

Finally, a glance of the current crop of politicians sees a depressingly large number who’ve spent their entire careers working in politics with, it seems, the express intention of becoming an MP. Granted, you will get those who are naturally interested in politics, or those who have a genuine desire to help constituency members, but judging the words uttered by many of these career politicians, you wonder exactly what form of reality they live in.

So far, there are two things notable in the writings above: firstly, I’ve probably made some sweeping generalisations about our elected representatives (and I’ve met some genuinely pleasant politicians, as well as politicians who, while I’ve not always agreed with their stance, have struck me as hard-working for their constituency). Secondly, I’ve used the word depressing a lot. Because that’s what the current state of British politics feels like: depressing, with no discernible hope of improving.

But what, to me, is most depressing of all is that I should be so down about the state of politics. It’s an area I’m interested in. I have, in the past, enjoyed debating various policies, as well as the direction of politics in this country in general. I also strongly believe in voting, even if I’m placing a cross next to a candidate with no hope of winning. I may not be active in politics, but there’s more than a passing interest and, somewhere beneath a cynical facade, a belief that politics can be used for good.

Now that cynical facade is becoming less of a facade and more of a belief. The votes for the no-hoper are becoming more frequent. In their current guise, there’s nothing remotely appealing about Labour or the Conservatives, while the Lib Dems have occasionally picked up my vote, not so much as a belief in their ideology, but rather that they’re the least unappealing option, which just doesn’t feel like a good enough reason to vote.

I’m so fed up with politics in this country, I can’t even be bothered to get angry at the latest government blunder, attack on civil liberties, idiotic pronouncement from David Cameron’s mouth, or plain misunderstandings of the definition of Liberalism from the Liberal Democrats. It’s a waste of breath and time. Even if I do nothing more than watch re-runs of the Crystal Maze on Challenge TV, that would still feel like a more productive use of my time than ranting about the latest act or stupidity to emanate from the corridors of power.

It’s also depressing to look across to the United States and see genuine excitement and debate about the candidates and where the two respective parties should be heading – it’s a debate you just can’t imagine happening over here.

It’s at this stage of blogging laments that offering a solution, or at least an ill-thought through snap judgment first developed on the back of a fag packet is offered. But, short of overhauling the voting system, I have no idea how politics could become interesting or appealing at this current point in time. I desperately want to engage with policy discussions, I really want to vote for somebody other than the caped novelty candidate, I just have no reason to do so, and can’t see that changing at any point in the near future.

The falling turnouts, and lack of people who even voted for the current government, feels indicative of the mood among the country, yet the priority is staying around in power than genuinely engaging with any member of the public. I don’t want to, and indeed can’t bring myself to fall into the general political apathetic malaise, but our esteemed representatives of democracy (from the Greek, demos kratos: rule by the people, in case our politicians had forgotten) are leaving me with precious little choice.


1 Response to “Politics is about as attractive as the idea of Jade Goody cavorting naked with Michael Winner: a lament”

  1. 1 Christopher White February 4, 2008 at 10:11 am

    “…plain misunderstandings of the definition of Liberalism from the Liberal Democrats.”

    Yes, I may be returning my membership card for the second time in three years after Fiona Hall’s idiocy of last week. And she’s my MEP, which makes it worse. I almost feel responsible.

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