May 7th – The Circus Comes to Town

On Thursday we have a General Election. I mention this because I accept a lot of what follows may not directly interest my American friends; but stay, I beg you! Tarry awhile. You could find many parallels to your own electoral process.

To explain British politics would take at least thirty pages of long sentences strung together with endless un-comma’d clauses and extravagant jargonistic verbs which have no meaning to anyone and probably don’t enhance anyone’s understanding of the general process let alone serve to enlighten the reader as to the true nature of our historic democracy, so I won’t.

For those who are uninformed, here are the principal players – the stars, if you will.

The Conservatives

David Cameron (our existing Prime Minister and lover of the ‘Nuclear Deterrent’ – Cameron Osbornefour submarines*) and George Osborne, his Chancellor of the Exchequer (he looks after the money). Think of them as Penn and Teller, because this pair can make anything disappear (apart from the immigration problem, that is). George’s favorite trick, that of making money vanish from your pocket and reappear in his, is equaled in mystification by David’s hypnotic ability to make you believe not only that the money is still in your pocket, but that you have more of it than you did five years ago.

The Liberal

Nick Clegg (who only wants three submarines*), junior partner in coalition with Penn and Teller, usually seen prancing about the back of the stage in a yellow leotard, handing George rabbits to put in his hat.

The Socialist

Ed Milliband (what’s a submarine?), who wants to be Prime Minister, and Ed Balls Wallace_and_gromit(yes, that is the right name), who would like George’s job. Think of them as Wallace and Gromit. They are sworn to never divulge the whereabouts of the secret Money Tree, that enables them to go on handing out cash to everyone and somehow never quite run out. Like Wallace, though, Ed M. is a compulsive inventor with a penchant for dreaming up new policies almost every night. Unlike his colleagues in the Labour Party, he arrives at Westminster every morning through a system of chutes and levers operated by the faithful Balls. Due to an inconsistency in the system he is occasionally to be seen there still wearing his pyjamas.

The Viking

Viking BorisBoris Johnson. There are no portraits of Attila the Hun when he first got out of bed in the morning, but if there were the resemblance to Boris would be startling. Although slightly to the right of Churchill and outrageously privileged Boris has charisma enough to endear him to us common serfs. He treats politics as a bit of a sick joke, you see, and so do we common serfs. He is very much the man who would be King. Currently Mayor of London, Boris is widely tipped to take a parliamentary seat at this election, and David Cameron’s parliamentary seat soon after that.
Which means our beloved country will be run by an acknowledged buffoon: something I’d personally endorse for these reasons:
1. I believe all good Acts of Parliament should have a tag line.
2. No-one knows or even cares what Boris thinks about ‘Nuclear Deterrent’*.
3. Boris is the one man who really could re-negotiate our relationship with the European Union. After an hour of Boris even Angela Murkel would be reduced to compliance.
4. Liverpool hates him. That’s enough reason to vote for anyone .

The Scots

Nicola Sturgeon, witch-queen of North Ayrshire. She leads the Scottish Nationalist Party, which means she wants to rule Scotland and sail it away from England. She also hates the ‘Nuclear Deterrent’* (four submarines). The wholesale poaching of Scotland’s almost exclusively Labour-run seats will give her unique power over the next parliament, if everything goes according to her cunning plan. She will not take a seat atAlex Salmond Westminster herself, however. She will send a gnome magicked from her garden, known as Alex the Salmon because of his former pose sitting on a toadstool with a fishing rod.

The Xenophobes?

Farage CensoredNigel Farage, representing the United Kingdom Independence Party. Nigel’s politics comprise an entire manifesto of reasons for leaving the European Union. This reflects a view widely held in serfdom. His party may gain a number of seats, but his own electability is in question. He has made the basic mistake of believing it is possible to initiate any new and real change in Britain by launching a new party in the face of the relentless ‘impartiality’ of the BBC.

So, why am I troubling you with all this drivel? I suppose it must be because of the macabre fascination our Democratic System© holds for one such as I. The complications of holding a united kingdom of four constituent parts together seem mighty and disproportionate, and never more so than at General Election time.

Whatever the real issues are, we can rely upon our politicians’ failure to address them. Instead, on May 7th we will all be rolled to the polling booth in a golden coach of lavish promises drawn by prancing horses colored blue, red, yellow and green. We will faithfully put our crosses beside our respective choice knowing that when we wander back out into the Spring sunshine our coach will be a pumpkin once more and the horses will have gone back to their stable of exclusivity.

We will have performed as asked.

The establishment, the inner circle of our secretive Civil Service whose collective identity is never truly revealed, will continue to run the country as before. No promises will be kept, essentially nothing will change.

Unless, of course Nicola Sturgeon’s plan succeeds, in which case most of our legislation will be shaped by Scottish interests.

And in two years or so, four submarines will probably turn up on eBay.

* Nuclear Deterrent. Our status as a nuclear power is upheld because we have four incredibly ancient submarines docked at Faslane Naval Base in Scotland. These subs are stuffed with nuclear missiles, apparently, which they can fire from underneath the sea, although it is important to ensure the submarine is the right way up at the time.

We need new submarines, and there is some dispute as to whether we can afford them, whether we can afford another four, or whether we can make do with three. It has been a talking point for some time, this replacement of our nuclear deterrent, a case with striking similarities to a recent decision to uphold our status as a maritime power by building two new aircraft carriers. We can’t afford the planes to put on them, which seems a little bizarre to me – perhaps we could compromise on the submarines in like fashion? After all, no-one would ever know…

ImageMy question for this week:  who polishes David Cameron?

A lot of guys follow him around, and they are supposed to be security, but I’m prepared to bet that one of them is secreting a choice of chamois leathers and a spray can of Mr. Sheen.

Now I come to think of it, why let it rest there?  I mean, everyone acknowledges that the original Ed Milliband was made by Aardman (although rumors he is Wallace’s lovechild are probably unfounded) so someone must be there to touch up the plasticine, right?Image

Whatever we may think of their morality, or of their qualities as people, those who rise to the top in public life do work extremely hard.   Every waking minute must be time-managed; and in this news-hungry generation image management is equally vital.  So, with apologies for my cynicism, I refuse to believe that 7 a.m. at the Cameron’s bears any relation to breakfast time at my house. 

Upstairs?  Well, yes, you can picture some normality there:  wife Samantha telling Dave emphatically that if he must get up at this hour he can fix his own bloody tie, perhaps – but thus far and no further.   If you are due to meet the President of France at 9.00 o’clock an absence of underpants because they’re all in the wash could cause a national crisis, and as for the kids at breakfast….

Imagine the damage one exuberant spoonful of flying jam could do, or the under-confidence engendered by riding your bike commando through London Traffic, rabidly pursued by squadrons of paparazzi eager for the split seam that could end your political career?

No, somewhere behind the door at number 10 there are ‘people’ who ensure that sort of thing can’t happen.  I can imagine them waiting for their Prime Minister to emerge from his private accommodation with a shiny photograph in their pockets, ready to see the image perfected before he is allowed out of doors.

Why is this aspect of public life so important to us, the poor worker bees?  I suppose because at a stroke it invalidates the ‘just like us’ element of democratic leadership.  I recall at one time being told that Prince Charles has a personal valet who helps him to put on his trousers in the morning.  If true, presumably such a person must be in a position to check on the underpants situation at the same time.  But how personal can such an odd relationship get?  And to be so entwined in the lifestyle not to see it as odd – that is a far cry from the daily affairs of the people in the street.  

Lady Churchill once said of her husband that he never went shopping; that he would have had no notion how to conduct himself in a grocers.  Our current Chancellor of the Exchequer Gorgeous George Osborne is a member of a millionaire family and he, like most members of the current government were raised in the tradition of Eton and Oxbridge.  They grew up with the ‘fag’ system and nothing has really changed since.

This is the essential paradox of democracy:  that those who rule us are not, in essence, democrats.   They may say they are, they may lay claim to democratic principles, but they live according a much older code – that of feudalism. 

So spare a thought for the ‘fags’ – the people in the background who should unify us, yet somehow keep the separation intact – who do the unseen jobs.  The great unthanked.  They are untouched by the media, yet they make the Great and the Good much greater and hopefully quite a lot gooder.   

This is my quiet little round of applause for them, the silent ones.  For the man who plugged Richard Murdoch into the mains this morning, for the woman who does Nigella Lawson’s washing up, and the little chap who lurks inside the traffic lights in our town centre just so he can turn them to red every time I approach them. 

They also serve!