Politics sucks in 2008. Its seemingly irrelevant, obscure, ridiculous, boring and cynical. Has it ever been any different? Maybe but that’s not the point the point is what’s going on in the here and now. I’m used to hearing that before Thatcher when you looked at Labour or the Conservatives you knew what you were getting. That’s barely discernable now. The squeaky Liberal Democrats as perhaps the only true party of opposition in Britain. But who the hell’s their leader? Is it still Ming Campbell? Honestly? In America if I vote Republican at least I know what I am getting, guns, Jesus and babies. As for the democrats what do they stand for? What does Obama mean when he goes on about hope?
How relevant are politicians? Its an empirical question. How many laws do they pass. How powerful are they as opposed to Big business, the media and Religion? Who runs Britain is it the CBI as Monbiot thinks? Is it the Murdoch press? What has Gordon Brown really done? How important are Quangos and advisors and civil servants?
Is there such a thing now as rational political discourse? Or is it all mood music, shallow trite speeches and saccharine smile photo-ops and empty gone the next day headline grabbing sound bites? It really needs to be said that politics, British Politics anyway is boring. If your not actually involved in it ie an MP, civil servant, journalist I cannot see how you could sit through a hour of the house of Parliament without snorting speed. Take Gordon Brown a clever fellow no doubt and who can surely hold his own in a argument but when he appears on TV its “Bla Bla Bla” He is liable to induce narcolepsy in a child with ADHD. If Brown gets kicked out which seems likely he could always get a job selling sleeping pills on late Saturday night TV for people on a ecstasy comedown (perhaps it would not be sound marketing as he is already a sleeping pill) I’ve got it!-- simply put a speech of him on a loop on some backwater TV Station where Insomniacs can tune in and quickly doze off out only to wake up the next day on the floor with the TV still on.
Silliness aside as well as questions as to what he has actually done. He is an unelected Prime Minster. He has governed for well over a year now and the British Public have not been given a chance to decide whether they want him or not. I should also add that when they have been allowed to vote, Labour has done disastrously.
In America the situation is different as with everything its that much bigger, glitzier and gaudier. It needs to be said John McCain is to old to be President, he is well past retirement and according to Social Security Administration website there is a 10% chance that McCain will die in his first term. Needlessly to say this increases after the second term and is compounded by the stress of the Presidency (decisions, travelling etc). Now of course if he is President and does die or has a stroke then guess who does become president--you guessed it Sarah Palin the Iris Robinson of American Politics.
Sarah Palin is by her own admission a born again Christian. She has embraced Creationism which is no better than saying the earth is flat. Denied global warming and holds every kind of illiberal, intolerant view you can think off. She believes that its God’s will that America is in Iraq, asks Alaskans to pray for a oil pipeline and publicly stated that she would not support an abortion for her daughter even if she was raped. The Church she was raised in has some scary end of the world views. I would not be surprised to find her believing in the rapture or the end of days erupting out of a nuclear holocaust. Lest I be accused of picking on her because of Religion, she is simply not competent for the role of VP. Two years as Governor and before that Mayor of a small town who population is only 9,780 (2007). As way of comparison the town that I live- Comber, Northern Ireland has 8,933. I should add though that the figure for Comber was taken in 2001 and is likely to have increased since then. By way of interest we don’t have a full time police station and we don’t have a mayor. She has no foreign policy experience and has already made gaffs “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." Its not Tax payer funded. Her son is going to fight in Iraq I wonder if she could locate it on a map.
If irrationality and incompetence was not enough then try corruption. Palin is currently under investigation for abuse of power along with her expenses under scrutiny for misuse. So this is the woman who could one day have her hands on the Nuclear codes. Her appointment is nothing more than a cynical move by McCain to shore up support with the Christian right and possibly Hillary Clinton supports. It is an insult to Americans, an insult to everyone’s intelligence finally it is an insult to the office of the President
Serious questions have been asked as to why are the Republicans voters so craven and plumb for politicians who do not serve their interests on important issues such as the economy and health care. Recently Jonathan Haidt on Edge published a paper on what makes people vote Republican along with responses from other writers. Its interesting reading.
Would I be too bold to say that if the Republicans win it will be a slow death for liberal America indeed America itself as it descends into a circus freak of a country with Nuclear weapons. America’s standing is low with the rest of the world at the moment, Obama would go a long way to repair the damage of the Bush years. If McCain wins a cry of despair and disappointment will be clearly audible across the world.
David Cameron is a Martin Amis hilariously and rather accurately described him as a “pretty boy pretending to give a shit” I think he is a great big fucking fake. At least Palin actually believes what she believes. Cameron I believe is simply out to make a name for himself. The smug pretension of pretending to care is exquisitely obvious. I can almost imagine him off camera saying to one of his aides “Ok time for me to do my thing in front of plebs”. His recent harangue at fat people and alcoholics taking responsibility is a perfect demonstration of his political opportunism and cynicism. There is surely a rational conversation to be had about obesity however his coded but obvious attack on the white working class is not it. His attack on alcoholics that they should take responsibility for their state is like telling a person who suffers from Prader Willie syndrome to stop eating. His policy is not compassionate conservatism nor is it practical common sense conservatism it is 1.a policy for doing nothing, ie its not up to Government its up to you. 2. When things go wrong or don’t get better don’t blame us you have only yourselves to blame.
Lets take two cases in point from the summer. One was the decision to reclassify Cannabis, second was the human embryo and fertilisation debate. Gordon Brown in true clunking fist fashion pressed ahead with the decision to upgrade the drug in the face of scientific research and police advice and a good degree of public opinion. All in a cynical ploy to curry favour with the Daily Mail and other Murdoch papers. Very few politicians are able to engage in rational discussion when it comes to drugs. The issue whether or not a drug should be legal or not is a pharmacological issue not a political one.
At lest Brown did the right thing with the abortion and fertilisation debate and bill. But why was people of religious conscience given a free vote? Why not subscribers to astrology charts given one as well? Cameron in another unprincipled sop wanted the right for women to have abortion cut down to 20 weeks in order to seem “reasonable”. Stem cell research which is potentially the most promising branch of the sciences to yield huge medical benefits to humans was stymied by Religious ignorance.The law was passed but it was a close call.
There is perfectly sound and reasonable arguments for upgrading Cannabis and opposing abortion however reason was few and far between on these issues. One cannot discount the negative and destructive role that the media plays in this. I think a good case can be made that the Murdoch press is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy we have in the UK.
Something needs to change, the anti intellectual streak in American politics is also worrying. The rest of the world has at times the misfortune to suffer whatever America does and what works there. So can we imagine in ten years someone like Iris Robinson running the UK. What is needed? Better education for sure. For people of clear thinking ability and reason to stand up and say enough of the bullshit. To pin down politicians on the specifics of policy as much as possible. To make politics as transparent and free of corruption and insider deals as possible. Let me say three words that we should deploy in our political discourse they are enough, Honesty, Reason and Evidence.
Best and be Well.