Friday, 23 September 2011

Politics, career path for the vacuous

NOTHING said or done at the Liberal Democrats’ conference this week told as much about the business of government as one young delegate interviewed on his way into the hall.
It wasn’t anything interesting or inspiring he said about policy, political philosophy, or even the economy. In fact, I don’t recall him saying anything about such matters.
I don’t even know who he was – if his name was given it passed me by. But that, in a way, is part of the point.
He was just another shiny young face in a shiny new suit. Another vacuous item off the production line.
Another bright young graduate eager to take his seat at conference, his desk in the office, perhaps ultimately his seat in the House.
Another well-spoken middle-class boy following a career path. One mapped out for him by a well-oiled education machine that seemed to require no input of thought on his part.
“How did you get into politics?” he was asked. “Are your parents party members?”
No, they weren’t particularly interested. Neither was he until told by a teacher that his choice of A-levels might gain him a university place to study politics.
Now here, newly graduated, he was. Maybe with a thought or two in his head. Maybe not.
But certainly with no experience of life. No firsthand knowledge of anything beyond being on the receiving end of the education system.
And there, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem with the political system today.
It has become a career in itself. No longer something people go into out of conviction after learning the hard way about life in the real world beyond the party chamber and the committee room.
No wonder the decisions taken in those rooms so often seem inappropriate to the needs of ordinary people. No wonder the people who take them are so often out of touch with the realities of most people’s lives.
Of course you may expect Liberals to have little grounding in reality.
Just as you expect Tory politicians to serve the interests of the land-owners, business people and private-school types from whose class they come.
Sadly, you can no longer expect Labour to represent directly the working class from which the party takes its name.
Its leader, Ed Miliband, is a typical example of today’s politician. He is not and never has been a labouring man.
Outstanding on political theory, and undoubtedly deeply caring, he nevertheless lacks experience of anything but politics. Just like so many on all sides of the House.
No wonder there seems to be no real passion, no real division, no real argument about the big things.
No wonder the LibDems, supposedly bitter opponents of the Tories, found it so easy to get into bed with them and so cosy once there. Because they are all essentially the same.
Politics has become merely a form of management.
And management – as every working person knows – has become a class in itself. A class of people trained to “manage” in the abstract without necessarily knowing the first real thing about the job they are supposed to be managing.
It is true that being a good engineer, for example, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a good manager. But to manage a team of engineers it would be helpful to have some firsthand experience of engineering.
The best teachers are most often those who have some experience of life beyond the classroom. Those who haven’t just gone from school to university then straight back into school. Who know something of the world their pupils will have to go out into.
Likewise, politics would be so much better if our politicians had lived a bit, struggled a bit, in the real world before getting up on the platform.


AT midnight on Wednesday, our time, a murder was committed.
The long-planned murder of an unarmed man. A murder conspired at and committed by persons whose identities are all known.
Yet not one of them will be punished for the act, except possibly – I hope – by their own consciences.
The one punished was the victim himself.
Punished finally, fatally, irreversibly, for a crime he may not have committed.
A crime, in fact, which much of the evidence now available strongly suggests he did not commit.
A great many people, including Amnesty International, former US president Jimmy Carter and the pope, believe Troy Davis was innocent of the murder he was sentenced for in 1991.
And that even if he was guilty, to execute him is merely to pile crime upon crime, sin upon sin.
The Georgia parole board, however, was not prepared to listen. Not prepared, one suspects, to let anyone else tell them what to do.
Not prepared to consider what was, at the very least – to use the American legal terminology – reasonable doubt.
For their stubbornness, Troy Davis had to die.
And this is the country that likes to lecture the world on human rights. On justice for all.

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