The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘reputation of politics’

Looking Prime Ministerial

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 3, 2010 @ 09:26

Cleggy has to be the biggest winner out of all this, despite having no chance of becoming PM!

Now that the unthinkable has happened, and the three main party leaders have agreed not just the principle but the detail of the forthcoming leaders’ debates, we really are in uncharted territory for British politics.

What’s going to make it so interesting is that front and centre of this campaign is going to be the concept of “but he looks like a Prime Minister!”.

Yes, charisma, personality and confidence have always been a part of politics, no more so than when delivering Tony Blair a stonking great victory in 1997. But we are nowhere near the level of the USA, where, on reflection, it was Barack Obama’s cool and cerebral performance in the Presidential Debates, especially the first one where John McCain made himself look like a grumpy old man, that secured his position as a dead cert to win.

In American politics, however, it makes much more sense. They are electing a Head of State as well as a Head of Government. Heads of State are the figurehead of the country, projecting their own image not just just nationally, but internationally. In turn, the nation and the world can “see” the character and values of that country. As such, questions of whether someone “looks like a President” are fair game.

Here, less so. Although I am excited about the prospect of debates, and judging by this document, the conditions set down will ensure no cheap lines to get the applause of the audience, I am concerned that they will become all encompassing, and mean everything else in the campaign matters little. Hopefully we’ll still get the probing 30 minute Paxman interview on Newsnight for each of the contenders. Sky News will want to do the same, I’m sure.

But most of all, I am worried that unless the debates are truly focused on policies and vision for Britain, we are going to hear a lot more about whether David Cameron “looks like a Prime Minister”.

We’ve had enough of politics being trivialised and reduced to the lowest common denominator in this country. It’s been a bad couple of years, yes, but not so bad as to completely sell out our system to soap opera style bickering and televised chat shows.

If that’s going to happen, we might as well have Jeremy Kyle as the debate moderator…


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But What Will The People Think?

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 5, 2010 @ 10:44

A picture like this 30, 20 or even 10 years ago would be unthinkable...

Northern Ireland’s political deal this morning is very good news for that part of the world, largely because as long as the parties are working together, even if they don’t really produce anything new, there is much less risk of a dangerous development seriously undermining the fragile political setup there.

Northern Ireland is the demonstration of what politics is all about. The political process has brought peace to the Province, or the North of Ireland, depending on your political persuasion. It is a perfect example of how politics is both a means and an end, and that without it nothing else is possible.

The only problem is that most Northern Ireland deals are concluded in rather grand locations. St Andrews. Hillsborough. And, of course, Stormont. Only one of them was ever put to the test by a democratic vote of whether the people were in agreement.

You might argue that democracy has its other outlets; naturally, we see these in the Assembly elections. But the curious aspect of this round of negotiations was the subtle agreement by all the parties that they have no other choice but to talk, because the alternative – failure – would mean letting the people have their say in a fresh wave of elections.

I’ve just watched the press conference between the First and deputy First minister (note correct capitalisation!), flanked by the beasts of Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen. There was much talk about how the agreement must command community consensus, and how they were going to go back and make the case for it amongst their respective supporters.

But the key thing was missing – a real democratic outlet for them to do so.

It’s still another 15 months before the people of Norn Iron get another chance to reinforce existing prejudices though. Or maybe it’ll all be different next time? It’s quite amusing how each NI election generally brings the same result as the previous one, except maybe some parties have swapped positions.

But this time will be different. This time all four main parties (plus the Alliance) are backing power-sharing. Instead, there is a new splinter Unionist party (TUV) who are going to attempt to wreck everything. Their intervention in the recent European Elections resulted in the Shinners topping the poll; a result which, if replicated at the Assembly, would put Martin McGuinness as the First Minister. Whoops!

If, and it’s a big if, the TUV are soundly rejected, it will be a definitive sign that The Troubles really are over, and that politics is here to stay.

Maybe then they can actually start doing the “normal” politics that everyone else cares about. And then, once everyone is happy in their complacent little me-worlds of liberal democracy, they can all just forget about it and not bother voting, just like the rest of the apathetic so-called citizens of democracies worldwide!

Oh my, that was a cynical ending.

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The Worst Year For Politics Since Last Year

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 31, 2009 @ 10:23

Yes, Really...

It’s funny how, as the years go by, the reputation of politics continues to decline. Year after year of disaster on top of another has that effect, I suppose.

But this year really did take the biscuit. The obvious thing has been the long-running expenses saga, which now threatens to become an annual event unless Parliamentarians really get to grips with the matter.

The problem about it this time is that it wasn’t the huge fiddles – like “flipping” the designation of your primary residence to avoid capital gains tax on taxpayer subsidised houses – that caught the imagination.

Unfortunately, it was the little ones. The hob nobs. The trouser presses. And yes, none other than the famous duck house.

All of this changed the way we view politics and political behaviour. We’re more cynical now than ever of the motives of anyone who wants to engage in the process. In many ways, it wasn’t the greed that did it. It was the fact that many of the headlines could never have been imagined in even the dreams of the most imaginative satirist. Allow me to illustrate.

“Politicians are corrupt, manipulative, lying bastards” – completely unshocking. Film at 11.

“Politicians are such grasping, cheating shits that they claim for poppy wreaths, 88p bath plugs, moats, bell towers, domestic servants, duck houses, packets of biscuits, presents for relatives, and even porn” – SHOCKER!!

You see? It’s the specificity that does it. Those little details are like the tiniest brushstrokes that mean nothing at close view, but there are so many of them, and once you step back you see they spell the words, “YOU’VE BEEN HAD”.

This extremely damaging bandwagon started with the merest snowflake and turned into an avalanche. Drip drip news is always more dangerous than the big exposé with no follow-up.

And the sad part is that this one still has a long way to go. 2009 will remain in the memory for a very long time for how it started the “cleansing” of the system. It will continue to reverberate into 2010 because of the impact of the forthcoming general election, which will provide a chance to the public to sweep this sorry lot under the carpet. Whether it carries on beyond that is down to the politicians themselves, but if it does, expect the negativity to sink to new, unrecoverable lows.

2009 simply has to be the worst year for politics ever. And there have been some bad ones lately.

Personally, I don’t think it can take any more. This has to be the last one. It has to be the absolute bottom of the trend, or we really will be calling on Simon Cowell to save the day.

Fingers crossed for a better 2010.

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