Sunday, September 22, 2013

Personality Politics Ousts Policy This Weekend

We love gossip, and we love reading or hearing about the outrageous goings on of our political masters.  For public consumption, of course, we all say we're fed up with personality politics, and attacks upon politicians by their enemies.  The media is with us.  They too hate the sordid world of personality politics and would much rather the political classes concentrated on good, hard policy.  Which is presumably why so much of today's political coverage is devoted to the distinctly gossip based revelations of Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Damian McBride.  And why yesterday, so much time was spent showing and discussing the laughably neanderthal views of an MEP for a minor party.

Godfrey Bloom (I keep wanting to call him Orlando, bizarrely) is a largely joke figure who seeks - genuinely it would appear - to reinforce his image as a caricature blunt speaking, offence giving politician.  He probably sees himself as "telling it like it is".  Most people see him as being, frankly, a bit of an ass.  He used the hackneyed term "bongo bongo land" to refer to Africa (following in the verbal footsteps of the late Alan Clark, who got into hot water using the same term), and completely unsurprisingly has caused more opprobrium to be heaped on him and UKIP by referring to women as "sluts".  Actually, he hooted the phrase "all the women here are sluts" or some such, whilst at a champagne fuelled reception marvellously titled "Women In Politics".  Mr. Bloom's final escapade was to rage at the Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick for being a 'racist' (Crick had pointed out that all the faces on the UKIP manifesto cover were white; Bloom presumably thought his best line of attack was to inexplicably refer to Crick as a racist).  He then hit Crick over the head with the manifesto - something most politicians have probably wanted to do to Mr. Crick in the past (you can see it here).

The best thing to have done with Godfrey Bloom is probably to ignore him, a bit like ignoring the ubiquitous nutter on the bus who plagues you with his political views.  But the modern British media doesn't have that level of self-restraint, and rather enjoyes stories featuring the Godfrey Blooms of this world, and in any case it was a lot more fun than reporting the actual mechaics of the UKIP conference.  So cue much coverage of the lamentable UKIP MEP.

Then there's Damian McBride and his memoirs (the revelations from which have caused Ed Miliband to suggest that he called for McBride's sacking - very quietly, it would seem *).  The iniquities of Mr. McBride when he was a spin doctor to Gordon Brown are already largely well known, but he's just written his memoirs, and apparently they're quite well written and in any case, here's a great opportunity to have another go at Labour and Ed Miliband if you happen to be a Conservative supporting newspaper, which the Daily Mail - who have serialised the memoirs - is.  There's no doubt that it is fascinating, gripping stuff.  It has frankly malicious, sinister, utterly amoral political doings at its heart that illuminate a paranoid and dark time at Number 10 when Gordon Brown was in charge.  But it is also essentially a story for the Westminster political village.  The fact that it has gained such extraordinary coverage is back down to the undeniably sound principle that we all prefer a good gossip to a conversation of substance.  Covering McBride's sordid past is far easier, and much more entertaining, than trying to engage in genuinely enthusiastic discussion about Ed Miliband's new welfare policies, or whatever his Next Big Thing is going to be.

So it's worth remembering, when we read newspaper editorials loftily telling us that politicians have failed us all by focusing too much on personalities and not enough on policies, just who it is who gives such nonsense a free run for so long.  That'd be the newspapers.

* McBride confirmed Ed's account in a tweet to journalist Tim Walker, saying that he told Gordon Brown to get rid [of McBride] and he was right.  Tweets here.

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