Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guido Speaks

Guido explains himself: 'Guido wants to depoliticise more areas of human action, increasing the non-political space in our society and culture, for which a necessary precondition is the discrediting of politicians by exposing their venal, self-interested behaviour.' I'm with him on depoliticising things - out of boredom really - but his 'necessary precondition' is a non-sequitur. On the contrary, Guido's enormous success is based on the fact that people are ever more drawn to politics by gossip and scandalous exposes. People love to see Paxman crush a politician and they evidently love to read Guido's tales of cynicism and petty corruption. It is precisely because these things increase the interest in narrowly-defined politics that I find them depressing. No, the way to depoliticise things is to reject career politicians. Too many of our Westminster masters know nothing but politics. They are repeatedly making errors of ignorance and they routinely mistake petty office politics for the real thing. They see Westminster politics in all things and, as a result, they are barely capable of functioning in the real world. Politicians should be well-read, cultivated, thoughtful, active in society and, ideally, they should write or translate poetry. Above all, they should be part-time. Then we can start depoliticising things.


  1. "Politicians should be well-read, cultivated, thoughtful, active in society and, ideally, they should write or translate poetry. Above all, they should be part-time."

    Where do I apply?

  2. I'm with Aaronovitch.

    Guido's manifesto is preposterous, a pathetically transparent front for the project of cultivating his own notoriety. Or at least, that's what Guido would say about it if it were proposed by anyone else. In fact, he probably believes it.

    Poking fun at pomposity and outing proper grown-up corruption are both laudable aims, but the endless hyperbolic bile about trivial hypocrisies, boring flaws and not very hilarious verbal slip-ups - in other words, as below, punishing humans simply for being humans - turns the whole business into empty noise-making. Plenty of empty noise-makers on Guido's comment threads.

    None of your well-rounded poetry-translators would go near to politics as the game is currently played, so the Paxman/Guido political industry will only breed ever more thick-skinned career beasts.

    Probably Guido is smart enough to one day look back on all this and cringe.

  3. There is also the related problem that too many of them are lawyers, who combine greed, moralism and forensic objectivity. Since the job requires an ability to scrutinse documents and to orate, they have a virtual monopoly.

  4. "Part-time, cultivated, thoughtful, active in society, able to write poetry"? Er, didn't the populace vote to do away with such rulers in 1997 and replace them with self-serving, low grade, careerists, with which the Lords is now stuffed?

  5. You're on a bit of a role at the moment, Bryan. Good stuff.

    Now can you address a few other outstanding topics? Nuclear Fusion; Israel/Palestine; New Atheists/Creationists; Tea - milk first or last; etc., etc..

    I feel in you current form there is no end of issues, problems and debates that couldn't be solved by you with a quick brush of your keyboard.

  6. Yeah, or can't you post something daft or wrong that we can disagree with, like that time you said Sign on the Window was Bob Dylan's masterpiece?

  7. Fair points. What I am deliberately doing - whether you like it or not - is trying to reduce the esteem in which politicians are held. Because if they are treated with contempt they will be less able to do us harm.

    Or maybe not.

    It also amuses me to make mischief at their expense.

  8. Career politicians seem a dull lot, on the whole, and I don’t really understand their mindset or motivation -- it's just too different from my own rather ruminative and ineffectual and quietly selfish way of drifting through life, I suppose. The Seven Deadly Sins, sure, I get them well enough – but not the will-to-power, at least in its pettier Widmerpoolian (-pudlian?) forms. It all seems so thankless in the end. But perhaps I'm just the victim of a happy childhood.

    What brings this home to me is the fact that two people that I used to know slightly, in a vague friend-of-a-friend sort of way, are now something or other in the Cabinet: I mean, how exactly did that happen? It seems like the sort of thing you might dream and then laugh about for days afterwards ("Get this - I dreamt that X was secretary of state for Y!!"). Well, either they took some very wrong turns somewhere or I did. One of these guys is even being talked up as a future PM, I read; clever chap, not unpleasant, clearly very ambitious – but the odd thing is how very, very little I can remember about him at all. In particular, I don't recall him expressing a single political opinion.

  9. Are you still mad at Guido for making you buy lunch?

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  11. I can't see the idea of philosopher-kings, even if recast as poetry-loving politicians, catching on here. Any aspirant is likely to come a cropper on the obligatory trivia test set by The Sun. Knowing his/her Zbigniew Herbert will not make up for a failure to identify the latest winner of Celebrity Lobotomy.

    Besides do the cultured make for better rulers? Leaving aside Alexander the Great and concentrating on more recent home-grown talent I am not sure that this country was better run when Crosland, Crossman, Jenkins, Healey et al had their hands on the levers of power.

  12. "Above all, they should be part-time."

    They already work a three day week.

  13. What I am deliberately doing - whether you like it or not - is trying to reduce the esteem in which politicians are held.

    A literally impossible task, since they're currently rated some distance below estate agents and traffic wardens, and about on a par with paedophiles and bankers.

    Also a self-defeating task. If everything politicians do is hypocritical, corrupt, stupid, wrong...then eventually nothing is. And if you're damned whatever you do, you may as well do damnable things.

  14. You might want to look at banning anyone from politics who...
    A..went to Oxford
    B..has a Scots accent a member of the legal profession a practising toff

    Do that as a starter, then remove completely any allegiance to a political creed.
    Or just shoot the dopey sods, its cheaper.

  15. Jesus, Bryan, it's good to have you back. I am currently in a vicious polemical war with - er - the Fabian Society. No one can know the sheer futility of political activism until they've done that.

  16. I imagine the proportion of out-and-out scoundrels to honest duffers is pretty much constant across the professions, really, with politics being no great exception. (I've met some very dodgey vets, for example, and don't get me started on librarians.) It's just that the rogue politico can do a deal more harm, I suppose.

    Aaronovitch I usually find quite smug, but I'd take him any day over the pop-eyed sputum-flecked loons who infest Guido's comments pages. So much hatred, so little focus or sense of scale.

  17. On Jonathan Law's post -
    I think it's called "rising without trace".
    I did meet Jack Straw once at an NUS Conference in Exeter in 1966. He was bright, affable, and at the time expressed an interest in education policy. So I did take note and was interested but not surprised to observe his rise in the Labour party. But when I look back his NUS days may have been the highlight of his political career. Since that time he appears to have successfully managed to survive in his political career by offending the least number of people. Now can anyone point to a significant achievement?
    The subsequent generation of professional politicians appear to me to be colourless to the point of invisibility and mediocre to a level of insignificance. Thus we are presented with David Lamy ( touted as a future Prime Minister) barely able to cope with an interview and somebody called Sion Simon, who is apparently a government minister, but who can only talk gibberish when interviewed by John Humphries.
    I may give up!

  18. I prefer to think of them not as "pop-eyed sputum-flecked loons" but rather as demographic units.

    Anyway, technically they are window-lickers.

  19. Malty must be thinking of me to become a politician as I am none of those things... indeed I am unqualified , have little or no expertise or knowledge and I cannot speak in public... and like my old friend Guido I wear smiley boxer shorts in bed! I think this qualifies me...