An amusing quote from a Billy Connolly concert, but is there, in fact, some truth in the assertion? We have been convinced over the years that the people who choose a career in politics do so because they somehow, either by qualification or natural ability, are much more capable than us mere mortals of understanding the complexities of running an economy with all its fiscal and social challenges. The truth is however that the men and women we see haranguing each other across the floor of the Commons are no more qualified than many of us.
Our country is not run by our elected officials but by a huge army of civil servants many of whom have specialist qualifications. The politicians who stand up and make their speeches to tumultuous applause or, in some cases, derision and criticism are mere puppets of the civil servant who has already told them what they can and cannot promise.
Then take the politicians favourite friends, the personal assistant, advisors and, in some cases, the “spin doctor” (depending on how high up the slippery pole they have climbed). These jobs involve keeping their MP informed, researching current and upcoming issues and in the case of the “spin doctor” giving advice on, among other things, how best to look competent, informed, approachable and honest during interviews and speeches.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical of those who do use all of the above though, because the results can be disastrous when a less than “tuned in” MP attempts to interact without the aide of the safety net these shadow people provide.
There are a couple of very recent notable examples which should serve as a warning to all politicians not overly endowed with the lucidity gene;
The MP Aidan Burley ill-advisedly criticised the Olympic opening ceremony with a comment about “multi-cultural clap-trap” which resulted in a barrage of abuse and anger he could not have envisioned in his worst nightmare.
Then we have George Galloway MP (yes, I know, his faux pas could fill a library but let’s concentrate on just two) In the space of a week he managed to anger women everywhere (good start, that’s half the population) by making an ill judged “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” comment, in support of Julian Assange (currently claiming asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London; in an attempt at evading extradition to face allegations of rape in Sweden). Not content with the furore caused by this, he became involved in an argument on twitter with a fan of football team Glasgow Rangers which involved back and forward insults, culminating in Galloway tweeting “you badly need medical help son, will decent Rangers fans please substitute this windae-licker” (a horrific pejorative term for a disabled person). Mr Galloway has since apologised for the second offence stating he thought it meant “moron”, ironically moron was originally used as a derogatory term for mental disability.
I could leave our shores and discuss Mr Akin in the US and his “legitimate rape” comments but I think my point is made.
These people are no better qualified to be decision makers and political thinkers than you or me, in fact you will probably find in very many cases they are less so. We don’t register on their radar until the election starts looming, we are the proletariat, the masses. We must start thinking of them as dispensable and fallible (the way they see us) and realise that the power is with us, not them. If we do then maybe there is some hope, maybe we will get the politicians we deserve. If they realise we have their number, we know what they are all about and we are watching closely perhaps they will start behaving.
I shall end on another quote which should resonate with us all “great men do not seek power, they have power thrust upon them”…(yes, I know, from Deep Space Nine, which is itself a paraphrase from Twelfth Night).
By Vicky Lindon