Monday, 20 May 2013
So, the long knives are out, it’s a cross party thing, and nobody is immune. For both Conservatives and Labour the creaking of coffin lids is deafening as the Howes and Mandelsons break off their repose in the soil brought from their native land in order to sink their fangs into their own party leaders for purposes most foul. These two are serial offenders; this is normal. It’s the signal that the 2015 election race is on and a reminder that your position in politics is never safe.
Some say this is the price people pay for public office, that every utterance, every false promise and every bit of body language should be pored over by analysts trying to find a chink in your armour. Failing to find weakness in your policy they’ll go for weakness in our character and failing that, it’s your past deeds that have to stand scrutiny. The Tories will be associated for ever with that Bullingdon Boys photo and Ed Balls will never wear a Hitler moustache in jest again.
So how on earth does anybody ever get into politics given that everybody makes mistakes, humans harbour grudges and a voracious press and social media live for nothing if not to spread rumour, gossip and downright lies to please the crowd? UKIP have – quite rightly - come under a deal of scrutiny from opposition activists, gleefully raking up the muck on candidates and looking for any opportunity to expose the slightest past indiscretion as evidence of racism, homophobia and youthful fruitcakery.
But look at the maths, as they say. The Independence Party is attracting people who feel disenfranchised by the status quo in politics. No other party has gained anywhere near the numbers of new recruits and far from selecting candidates from long-serving party members, they are welcoming with open arms anybody willing to give it a go. You don’t get much more grass roots than that. And when you pull up roots you always get some dirt.
Don’t dare put yourself up for selection if any of the following apply: Have you ever been in a police station other than to report a crime? Did you ever owe anybody money? Have you been drunk more than once in your life? Did you ever pass on a rumour without fully investigating its veracity? Have you ever called for rapists/muggers/murderers to be shot? In short, have you, do you or might you ever make a mistake and have you, do you, or might you have an opinion on anything?
It used to be that a secret gay past could signal the end of a political career. Now it’s almost a pre-requisite and infinitely preferable to the undisputable observation that heterosexual relationships are statistically more prevalent. Don’t ever use the word ‘normal’ in reference to sexuality, race relations, religion, childcare, parenting, education, behaviour or any other area where opinions other than a bland acceptance of immutable, universal equality are verboten.
Naturally, the current incumbents of seats on the green benches are squeaky clean. They are raised in political hothouse environments and groomed for office by mentors with agendas of their own and influence to help them on their way. Their profiles are scrubbed and sanitised and any principle which may cause rancour is given a thorough biopsy and if necessary, surgically removed to create a bland, uniform, same-as-the-other-one, identikit, cookie-cutter Member suitable for the Westminster shelf of mediocrity.
Well, fuck that. If I was running a surgent political party, intending to challenge the bland Europhile status quo I’d be posing the following test: Are you thinking of standing for office? Are you squeaky clean? Then you're not suitable. I’d want candidates with beliefs and principles and with fires in their bellies. What’s that? You once expressed an off-colour opinion out loud? Welcome aboard!
Because what would you prefer – a representative who holds your views in contempt, preferring instead to further a bland agenda of appeasement in return for a long career and a secure retirement? Or somebody secure enough and principled enough to learn on the job and get on with it to make your views heard in Parliament? We might just prefer MPs with a past.