Political narratives serve only apathy and lies
Once upon a time, people read books. Through simple symbols imprinted upon paper, emotions blazed like fire spreading across a densely packed forest.
Perceptions were manipulated as words effortlessly directed readers towards a particular destination, sometimes left, sometimes right, but never in a straight line. In the same way as a cart that is pulled by a horse down a cobbled road, the ride was often bumpy; sometimes relaxing, other times uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding.
Eventually however, the fire incinerated every tree in the forest and the horse-drawn-carriage was replaced by an engine-powered-car. People also became lazy. And thus, modernity was born!
As people read less and less and ate more and more, a void emerged in the global community. The masses, whilst full on carnal delights, were empty in spirit, for their mental diet of fiction and fantasy had not been replenished.
Discontent swept through the world like a ripcurl and the ruling elite suddenly became afraid of what the consequences of this might entail.
Politicians, enshrined with the noble duty to serve the public interest, recognized that new fantastic narratives needed to be created to satisfy their subject’s desires. Left with no other alternative, they assumed the role of novelists themselves.
Public servants then became public actors, perpetually practicing their trade under the watchful eye of the camera. With this, the final dagger was thrust through the novel’s coffin and a form that is not quite fiction whilst not quite fact either, was inaugurated: political fiction.
Some characters in this drama are heroes whereas others are foes; some emanate professionalism whilst others fumble incompetently; and there is no guarantee that they will be interesting.
After Iain Duncan Smith was elected as “champion of the right” for the Conservative Party (ominously a day after 9/11), poor ‘IDS’ as he was affectionately known, was no more appealing than IBS. Or how about Ming Campbell? The man once labelled as the “fastest white man on the planet” appeared less like a champion sprinter in parliament than a senile grouch, bereft of charisma, guidance and most importantly, of course, youth.
The issue is not Ming’s age though, but whether he was destined to fail because of it. When he carried the flickering torch of Liberalism into the Commons, almost immediately the mass-media huddled like hyenas and blew out the flame.
His policies became redundant as coverage focused upon whether he would make it to the finish line of the next election before being outpaced by one of his youthful cabinet members. Ming’s narrative was thus one of age, and once the circus began it was impossible to turn back the pages.
Attempts to create a youthful image by immersing himself in a harem of younger cabinet ministers and women only exacerbated the problem. Like Dostoevsky’s Idiot, by intently concentrating on avoiding calamity, folly became fact.
This creates an air of absurdity because it is difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. Was Ming really old and if so does this matter, or were our perceptions engineered to classify him as an unpolished antique? When the Conservatives no longer conserve and Labour is pro-business, the titles no longer suit the stories.
Walter Bagehot’s dictum about the British constitution’s composition of the “dignified” monarchy and the “efficient” prime minister is similarly obsolete. The former is still tarnished by the Diana debacle and the dithering over a snap-election, loss of 25 million child benefit records and party funding scandals does not inspire confidence in the latter.
The dilemma which has been created over these political narratives is not frivolous. As the plot thickens further, so does the risk of disenfranchisement in the electorate who cease to be motivated by politics.
A chasm is opening between the elected and the electors with MPs believing that as long as the performance is perfect, the people will be unconcerned with policies. Forget accountability even when 57% of British citizens are against or unsure about ID cards; ignore the 70% of British citizens who believe that there should be a referendum over a new EU constitution; dismiss the 78% who opposed top-up fees; and so forth.
Yes, MPs are elected to indirectly serve their constituents interests and therefore we ought to trust their judgement. Often their oversight is better than the general public’s.
Nevertheless, politicians have failed to evolve with modern realities. Rather than using the media to explain and convince through reason, they create narratives to appeal through false facades instead.
As a result of this, public debate is stifled and parliament operates behind a masquerade of pomp and pride. Voter apathy is rife, yet MPs are unwilling to change their practices in order to “get in touch” with the people.
Maybe it is time for them to act more like politicians and less like the players of a Shakespeare tragedy.
The media may continue to attempt to create crass narratives, but as long as politicians continue to fall into this trap, British politics will be reminiscent of a Summer bestseller; entertaining and amusing, perhaps, but ultimately worthless.