Friday, 13 April 2012

Ken4London - Reductio Ad Absurdum

In the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as King Arthur and his ker-niguts approach Camelot, the scene switches to the wonderfully ludicrous ‘We’re knights of the round table’ song – after which Arthur sighs:
‘On second thoughts, let’s not go to Camelot … it is a silly place’.

On dissension in the Labour Party
After the donner und blitzen of yesterday’s row about nothing-in-particular (which still rumbles bitchily, if not-quite-so-enthusiastically, on), today the Labour Party decided it would fall out about … Ken Livingstone’s video broadcast.

Puppet-master, as often, was the awesomely provocative Dan Hodges.
When I was a teacher I regularly fell victim to my pupils’ attempts to ‘wind me up’, but we all knew that – great fun though it was – it wouldn’t get the exams passed.
Mr Hodges, however, is a provocateur par excellence, and it wasn’t long before he had his response.

To be fair, he had been goading for a couple of days (he had been mocking Ken for crying) without anybody rising to the bait.
But today, picking up on an accusation that the people in the video were actors, not bona fide members of the public, Mr Hodges really ‘got them going’.
Before long, everybody was piling in.

The affair had me in hoots of laughter all morning.
As fast as they scotched one assertion, Mr Hodges threw them another, and we were off again!
Were they actors? Did they get expenses? Did they read a script? So Ken was crying at his own script?
It all fizzled out in early afternoon with a typically brusque exchange between Mr Hodges and @lukeakehurst (who really must come off his red meat diet) about who was canvassing how much, and Mr Hodges taunting: ‘I'm not going to be campaigning anywhere. I'm going to be sitting with my feet up and having a nice cup of tea.’

I was waiting for the coup de grĂ¢ce whereby Mr Hodges – having reduced a good proportion of the Labour twitterati to spluttering rage – then sat down and wrote a blog about the shallowness of the issues in the Mayoral election … but he spared them that outrage.

On being silly
Although I found the palaver amusing, at the same time I couldn’t help but despair that the Mayoral election had been reduced to this.
I presume both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone have policies they want Londoners to weigh, and that they would prefer the debate to be about those? But, instead, we are all quibbling about whether Rabbi Joseph Stauber is an ‘actor’ if someone had written down what he was to say.

And I was reminded of King Arthur’s dictum: ‘let’s not go there … it is a silly place’.
Because the danger, isn’t it,
is that – faced with such trite idiocy – your average voter is going to decide that politics is 'silly', and a place where he is not going to ‘go’.

To be fair, it’s not wholly the politicians’ fault.
Faced with an electorate who absolutely won’t consider anything to do with real issues – who defiantly refuse to go any deeper than the totally-superficial – what can politicians do but put on an X-Factor show for them?

But then – when the media seize upon the campaign and run X-Factor-size scandals about it – what can we expect but meaningless X-Factor-style debates on twitter?

And then – when the underdog who actually really CAN act turns up on stage – how can we be surprised when he runs away with the popular vote?
And THAT’S how we end up electing the George Galloways of this world.

Politics in our country really has turned into a shallow, silly soap opera. It is similarly divorced from anything that approaches the reality of people’s everyday lives, and it produces empty elections with meaningless results.
There's no wonder that people feel disengaged ... and so the silly show spirals round and round, down and down.

I don’t know how we will ever turn things round; you wonder if an extended period of Tory government might engage people’s attention, but all it produced last time was ‘Things can only get better’.

Conclusion
And the row about that video?
I thought the only person who triumphed from the whole, silly, affair was the Ken Livingstone Team, @ken4london, who took advantage of the hou-ha to tweet:
“Watch the fantastic broadcast they're all still talking about. Better off with Ken. http://youtu.be/DpZaEVgNyDQ #talkaboutlondoners”
Well done them. For they, perhaps alone, realised the truth – that when politics has been reduced to an X-Factor jape, all publicity is good publicity, and you simply milk it for all it’s worth!

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