Yeah, I remember (remember) the fifth of November. How could I forget? One fifth of November not so long ago mine eyes did see the light – to paraphrase the final speech of a late lamented orator – and this wholly secular illumination finally toppled a distant and previously unchallenged blink of elation from its long-held pole position in the memory banks. That had occurred on a sunny day in 1974 when I first mastered the tricky task of propelling myself on two wheels without falling over; alas, the applause and cheers that rang in my ears upon pedalling the short distance to liberation from the tricycle now feel as far away as its belated successor does from the bottomless pit that life decided I would be more at home in. All I can hear from here is the discharge of gunpowder in the annual celebration of a plot that failed to succeed and left us with what we have today, four-hundred and odd years later. Is that really worthy of celebration?
With so many appalling institutions to choose from, so many that were established in idealistic circumstances and have betrayed their original intent, afraid I have to hone in on the one that hogs more headlines than any other. Yes, some things in life are sacred and their betrayal cuts deeper than the sharpest scythe; but I wonder if my increasingly incurable cynicism towards our elected representatives and their motives is simply a symptom of my own personal (and undeniably unhealthy) state of mind or merely the inevitable outcome of a fairly traumatic political decade.
I know MPs are easy targets, but to be fair, they do ask for it. It’s less than ten years since the Expenses’ Scandal, exactly a year since the most recent ‘sex scandal’ (one that cost the jobs of two members of the Cabinet), and allegations of bullying within Westminster are ongoing. And I’m sure I’m not the only outside observer weary with it all. A financial crash, punitive austerity, a coalition government, two incredibly divisive referendums, the Brexit balls-up, and the endless splitting of vitriolic factions that only ever aids a divide-and-rule agenda; my gut reaction can’t help but evoke the spirit of Roy Castle amending his theme song – ‘generalisation, that’s what you need.’ I dunno. Maybe politicians just seem to be bigger bastards the longer one pays attention and the more one is inevitably let down. Even if the blatant efforts of so many to derail a democratic mandate and preserve a thoroughly rotten status quo wasn’t such a classic example of why they languish amongst the lowest subspecies of the human race, it’s not as though it’s the only one.
Principles and morals – not exactly essential qualifications for entering the hallowed environs of Parliament these days, one concludes (if they ever were). Just take a cursory glance through the ‘serious’ section of Private Eye and marvel at the endless litany of obscene amounts paid to Honourable Members as company directors or corporate consultants in addition to their Westminster wages and fiddled expenses; not much belt-tightening on display, and even MPs one would generally like to credit with a bit of integrity have hardly suffered during the Age of Austerity (which, lest we forget, is now officially over). If they’re not receiving back-handers from lobbyists, they’re being flown out on junkets to tax havens or Middle Eastern oases by undemocratic regimes courting their favour and eager for a little influence in the corridors of power. And these regimes know how easy it is because the people they’re dealing with are almost as unscrupulously immoral as they are, albeit considerably vainer and dimmer.
That kindergarten of corruption, the local council, is the breeding ground for many of those who then make the leap to the parliamentary hustings; all of the toxic trappings of Parliament are present on a smaller scale, serving as a virtual training camp for the worst Westminster can offer. Just ask the good people of Northamptonshire. At times, it’s hard not to surmise that anyone seeking promotion to the political premier league from the rotten boroughs is little more than a conceited, self-aggrandising sociopath only out for themselves and prepared to ruthlessly clamber over anyone – friend or foe – to get where they want to be, essentially poison ivy to whom others are convenient trellises. I can’t sleep at night, true; but I’ve no idea how most MPs do. I don’t know how the majority of the mendacious hypocrites have the nerve to stand up and lecture the rest of us on how to live our lives, quite frankly. They are the least qualified members of society to do so, yet they do – constantly.
Those of us immune to the appeal of politics as a profession make friendships and alliances in life that we hope will be of long-lasting significance; we do so with no motive other than the desire to spend time in good company because we enjoy it, not because we see this company as something that can facilitate a move somewhere else, using people as a climbing frame and callously dispensing with them when they’ve ceased to be of any further use. If we behaved that way in daily life we’d rightly be regarded as a bit of a shit. In politics, however – as in business, which is often indistinguishable from it – such behaviour is applauded as a sign of strength, especially when it comes to government.
The unedifying backstabbing that took place in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation a couple of years ago was a case in point. True, it was already difficult to warm to the likes of Boris and Gove, but the way in which they laid down their friends for their lives was indeed a telling lesson in the dark arts of party politics and should have earned both the eternal contempt they deserve. And thanks to their stint as pantomime villains, we ended up with Motherfucker Theresa – the last woman standing as the Tories re-staged the climax to ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Then again, maybe the desperation that ensued when Dave departed reflected a wider crisis; maybe politicians have become worse because they’re terrified they’re bordering on extinction now that the world is run by corporations rather than elected representatives; maybe we’re witnessing their Nero moment.
At the same time, I suppose there’s an argument to be made that Parliament enables the intellectually-challenged to have something to keep them busy; after all, where else could a retarded dumpling of a redundant turd such as Chris Grayling find a role in society? He’s akin to the thick third son of an old-school aristocrat, earmarked for a career in the clergy. If their actions didn’t affect the lives of so many others, we could perhaps leave them to play in their Victorian Gothic nursery like the privileged special needs cases they are, safe in the knowledge they’re only harming themselves. Unfortunately, they’re not. Even the relatively inoffensive ‘silent majority’ of constituency MPs (most of whom we vote for every four or five years) may start out with high hopes and the best of intentions, but should they end up far higher than they imagined – well, as the old saying goes, all power…you know the rest. It’s not for nothing that Guy Fawkes was once referred to as ‘the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.’
Of course, I may well warm a little towards the current crop once they’re out of politics. Portillo I find occasionally engaging as a presenter, and I even admit to quite enjoying Balls and Osborne’s Saint & Greavsie routine last Election night. But, as stated previously, right now I’m not in a position to pass judgement with balance and fairness on those who raise my spiky hackles, so perhaps it’s probably for the best that I withdraw and leave the nation to roll over as Universal Credit rolls out. Maybe we’re all Nero now.
PS I may make the point better in this video, even though the corporate safe-space YT has become will no longer allow me to make a penny from it or any other…
© The Editor