At some point you have to stop wondering what the thing to start your blog off with is, and simply write something. It’s not as if anyone will read it anyway. So since there’s no great way to get this thing off the ground, I thought I’d write about the first thing that came into my head. Probably this is going to become a ranting area, for things I can’t get away with boring people with who I actually know. So, for my first rant: The General Public are Idiots.
One of the genres of TV almost guaranteed to annoy me is those shows where they get some politician, especially Tony Blair, in front of an audience of Ordinary People. I say especially Tony Blair not because I dislike him (in this instance, anyway), but because he’s so polite to them. The clip of some woman outside a hospital harrassing him about her relative outside a hospital is one of the most infuriating things I’ve ever seen. Had I been Blair in this situation, the temptation to tell the woman to just fuck off, or ask what exactly she had in mind for him to do other than just ‘have more staff’, would have been overpowering.
As you may have guessed if you live in the UK, this has been inspired in particular by this evening’s edition of Newsnight, where Blair was forced, as part of his day’s PR schedule, to sit in front of a crowd of mainly belligerent tossers, who proceeded to berate him for not solving all their problems himself. Kirsty Wark strode around the hall, firing the audience’s questions at Blair in a way clearly calculated to provide the story that The Thick Of It labelled “Politician Looks A Tit” first and foremost, and subordinate to that to actually provide a debate. “How many people here think liberalising the drinking laws was a good idea? ..[no hands go up]… Well there you have it”. Oh yeah, well done Kirsty, you’re clearly in the right about this. The fruits of hours of government consultation and thought on the subject clearly may as well be torn up and thrown out the window, a roomful of reactionaries in Swindon don’t see the point.
“Who here thinks Cannabis should be a Class B drug?”. Really? That many? That many people feel Cannabis is as bad as Speed? Or do they actually mean that Class C drugs should be treated more seriously? And how on earth did Blair let them get away with the lazy statement that the declassification ‘sent a message to kids that Cannabis is OK’? It’s still illegal, it’s still possible to go to prison for possesion. Why do politicians put themselves out there for this kind of ritual humiliation, and restrain themselves from giving the audience as good as they get? Why does Tony just sit there, mugging and smiling and looking a pillock on TV, when you can see occasional flashes of exactly the right reaction: Snorts of derision for ludicrously ill-informed opinions. The next politician I see who actually has a go at someone for voicing a frankly stultifying opinion will get my vote straight off.
Why do I get the feeling that, had Blair responded with the correct reaction to the question on GPs not taking appointments he received on Question Time during the 2005 election, he wouldn’t have gone on to do as well in the polls (that reaction being ‘So you actually think I legislated that GPs’ surgeries aren’t to take appointments until the morning you want them so we can say we’ve cut waiting times? What are you, a fucking moron? Just because GPs surgery receptionists are being incredibly cynical and not doing their job properly, that’s meant to be my fault is it? And yet, at the same time, there are those of you in the audience who already claim we interfere in the NHS too much. Give me a break here, Christ!’)? Why does everyone think they’re not only entitled to their opinion, but that it’s worth as much as the Prime Minister’s. That the fact of the years of careful investment that the government has made into services that people want are subsumed by their personal frustrations?
Cynicism for the political process is one of the most insidious problems we face. When the orthodoxy that politicians ‘just talk about things, they never do anything’ goes unchallenged, we have a serious problem. So how do politicians communicate to people that actually, they spend a lot of time that we don’t really see (unless we watch BBC Parliament) doing things, and that things do change?