March 29, 2010
“You have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk.”
That was only part of the recent verbal attack mounted by Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party on the new EU President, Herman von Rumpoy. Some were aghast at the rudeness, others overjoyed. I confess that for me the biggest thrill came with the ensuing and guttural-accented howls of protest from the assembled ranks of European parliamentarians. But then, these whey-faced nonentities mean little to me, the corrupt, centralizing, socialist conceit that is the European Union still less.
The tirade against Rumpoy throws into relief the overarching importance in a celebrity-obsessed and multimedia age of personality. Belgium may be notable for a few things—mainly chocolates, pedophiles, and fictional detectives—but larger-than-life political figures are not among them. Of course, in Britain we have our own problems. Having the spawn of Shrek mated to Gollum as Prime Minister prevents us from throwing too many stones at others. Aside from bankrupting the nation, selling our gold, and raiding our pensions, Gordon Brown carries the obvious disability of having all the presence of a stale pretzel.
That this leaden, drop-jawed, fingernail-chewing Cyclops of the manse manages to bully minions and throw tantrums is positively the upside. His spin-doctors call it passion. I would term it borderline sociopathic. Yet even if my most cherished dream were realized—to send Blair and Brown into Taliban country in a soft-skinned Land Rover (something they have forced upon British troops) with a chocolate hand-grenade between them—I suspect our Gordon would perform his duties with the aplomb of a book-keeper on prescription sedatives. His unique selling-point is supposedly that we get what we see. O Jesus, save us…
Leadership is about…er…leading. It is to do with inspiring confidence, pointing the way, raising morale and taking people with you. Then there is the small matter of competence. Gordon Brown makes me want to sit in a warm bath and open a vein. At a time when politicians are considered about as appealing as pubic lice—nasty little critters that cling on, climb high, cause general irritation and are the devil to dislodge—we need parliamentarians with courage, integrity, personality and depth. We are doomed.
There is no doubt that Britain is heading for a more presidential style of politics. In practice it means we will get all the empty, stage-managed rhetoric and none of the vigour and optimism. And there are fewer checks and balances on the executive over here, so we can expect the legislature to become ever more brutally neutered.
The grinning liar Blair started the rot with the spin, the shamelessness and the contempt for parliament. It was once said of him as a schoolboy that because he wanted to be liked by everybody he was liked by no-one. Perhaps it is the lot of all who seek to hold the centre ground—they just seem calculating and unprincipled. After all, there are few things more nauseating than the soft Left or a British Liberal Democrat. Their smugness alone could burn a hole in the ozone. Sniping from the middle-ground is their way, doing back room deals, cozying up to whatever and whomever will provide electoral advantage. And in-between times they will knit you a sweater of lentils, save a lichen and stab you in the back. Strange bedfellows (as a Brazilian rent boy said of the politico in the gimp mask).
One of my fondest memories of university days concerns the complaint letters received by the varsity magazine regarding my satirical gossip-column. A particular correspondent stands out. For he railed frequently against what he perceived to be my elitist and defamatory leanings. How judgmental of him. When I countered by mentioning him in every succeeding piece, he threatened to sue. Today, the same pompous creature is no less—and certainly no more—than a “prominent” Lib Dem MP (a fine example of an oxymoron). Still craving publicity, he would doubtlessly sit in a bath full of custard with a jelly doughnut in his backside if he thought it would make him popular. It would not.
Contrast this with politicians of stature. These are the ones with conviction and political and moral compass. Before going up to university, I once met Margaret Thatcher. Although somewhat awed in her presence, I contained my impulse to bow low (unlike the nervous Welsh rugby player who famously panicked and curtsied to the Queen). Mrs. T asked me what I was reading at university. “Politics”, I replied. “Straight politics?”, she inquired. I nodded. “There’s no such thing as straight politics”, came her riposte. Now there lies a truth.
Mediocrity and banality abound and we will get it close-up and personal in the forthcoming General Election. There will be no red meat, no bite, no real charisma or conviction. Crippling national debt and power ceded to Europe have ensured this. The bungling and unaccountable technocrat rules. Put a small man in uniform and he becomes a tyrant; place him in the monumental edifice of the Palace of Westminster and he will merge into a political elite that has wrecked the economy and created a cultural morass, that has squandered the best of Britain and replaced it with an ersatz society short on values and long on state-dependency. Against the nobility of those they send to die on battlefields overseas, modern cash-snuffling politicians are simply inadequate.
On a cold November night in 1605, when Guy Fawkes was discovered in possession of thirty-six barrels of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords, it was plain he intended to atomize the political class. His explanation was succinct. He wished, he said, to blow the Scots back to Scotland. Over four hundred years later—and having endured for too long Blair and Brown and their Scots coterie—my sympathies are warming for Fawkes. To purloin the words of the late and great comedian Bill Hicks—I”m just sowing seeds.