Friday, June 09, 2017

O. Reader on People Watching and Politics

Occasional on the British election

            As those who actually know me will attest, I don’t do politics. I remain “neutral” for specific conscientious reasons. BUT - I do enjoy watching human nature. It appears to me that in British politics (and no doubt many other places) vast numbers of people make choices on the physical appearance or characteristics of the politician. That may be very unfair, but tough - that’s the way it is. And political parties choose their leaders, not because they are seen as the overwhelming favourite, but because either no-one else wanted the job, or it was part of some hasty plot to keep somebody else out.
            When Margaret Thatcher ruled with an iron handbag, the leader of the opposition for a while was Neil Kinnock. There was one election where, according to the pundits he should have won. But Kinnock was Welsh - VERY Welsh - and though it is rather gentle and understated, there is still a residue of English snobbery about being VERY Welsh. Even more to the point he had the misfortune to fall over on a beach during a photo shoot. The camera shutters gleefully went click, click, click. That fixed him.
            A later Labour leader (I’ll spell it the UK way this time) Ed Milliband probably lost as badly as he did because he reminded people of Wallace (from the cartoon series Wallace and Gromit) and that was a cartoonist’s dream. He also had an unfortunate experience with a bacon sandwich in a photo-shoot. Add to that an election gimmick of a huge monolith with carved promises like the Ten Commandments - billed by the press as the Ed-Stone and mercilessly lampooned - and he was done for.
            The current Labour leader Jeremy Corbin didn’t want to be leader at all - his forte was very much on the back benches - but he was chosen by default. (Very much like John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher for the Conservatives to keep her rival Michael Hessletine - nicknamed Tarzan - out.) No-body thought Corbin had a hope of doing as well as he did in the present election, and now they have got him they will have trouble replacing him if he doesn’t want to go.
            And the issues? Brexit? There was an own goal if ever there was one. The Conservative’s David Cameron had a referendum to keep his party “happy” after they scraped through an election - although at least not having to rely on a coalition as before - confident he would win. And of course the people CHOSE. The Welsh chose to leave Europe - but that was overwhelming a desire to get at Cameron and his party. The vast sums of money thrown at Wales by Europe as a poor country is unlikely to be repeated by a government in London. By the time realization dawns there will of course be someone else on the horizon to blame.
            So though I don’t do politics, I do enjoy watching the TV on election night. All the weaving and diving and spinning disasters into sort of successes. The famous who lose their seats. The steely eyed politicians who have miscalculated and as was once memorably said about Judy Garland, “seized defeat from the jaws of victory...”
            It annoys my family no end. So I’ll retreat back into my genuine neutrality and see what the papers say. Especially the cartoonists.

Politics is full of surprises:


  1. I picked the cartoon. I'm fairly certain O. Reader would have picked another, But I liked this one.

  2. An occasional reader12:41 AM

    I like the phrase - Disagree without being disagreeable.

    Of course, like everyone, I don't always succeed.

  3. 1) Occasional, I see you are a talented writer. Tell me, in your style how much you country, music, tradition, and religion influnce you?

    2) I would like to see Rachael as a queen. I suppose queen of Austria, or Scotland. Rachael, why don't you tell us your first laws?

  4. An occasional reader2:49 AM

    Roberto asked me to explain how my country, music, tradition and religion have influenced me.

    Those are big questions. To coin a phrase from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy - the answer is 42.

    My religion must have influenced me considerably since I’ve worked full-time for a certain group since 1961 in a bewildering variety of roles. In Rachael’s eyes that must make me VERY OLD. (In a “this is your life” convention interview I once cracked the joke that I started when I was three...). And as well as old you could probably add odd, since few who work full-time like this also raise a family, buy a home, run a business and do all the “normal” stuff. Many do it for a bit when they’re young and have fewer responsibilities, but then other things in life take over. I managed to balance the lot successfully, with only one mantra - if my choices made sacrifices necessary (as obviously they did at times) then if anyone went without, I did, not the family. So I look back and am pleased with the choices I made and how things worked out. And the family are pleased.

    But I can only speak for myself. One thing I learned as life trundled on is that we all have free will and I must respect the views of others. When younger I maybe didn’t achieve that too well. But I learned that while I’ve a right to argue my point of view, so do they. Sadly some don’t think things through and run away from discussion or debate, but again, I have to respect that’s their right. When writing about views that I disagree with, I still like to get the input on the other side and have often run the text past them before publishing. And when correspondents come back and say I have been “fair” then for me that’s an important complement. But it is a balancing act, and depending on the context of the discussion, I still don’t water down beliefs that I hold dear.

    As to music? We have very eclectic tastes. I grew up with classical music, and went through rock and roll and blues and skiffle and folk. I probably play folk more than any other, but in my younger days concentrated on American rather than home-grown British. If nothing else, America has such a mixed culture in its vastness and mass immigration, there was so much variety there. However, in more recent times, I have come to appreciate home grown folk music more. There are some songs that bring me - the original hardened cynic - to tears. There are some songs I learned to sing and then found - fortunately just in time - that I just couldn’t sing them in public. A lot of folk songs are very political. I don’t do politics so don’t have to agree with the sentiments, but I can still appreciate a neat lyric that expresses a point of view. And in folk music lyrics touch on things you just wouldn’t find in other styles of music.

    My country? Well of course, as noted above I don’t do politics, but Britain has an interesting history. As the empire shrank and disappeared, the country was forced to become multi-cultural, -racial and -language - far more than older generations could ever imagine. I enjoy this. And my own experiences abroad have convinced me that the British National Health Service, for all its faults and abuses of the
    system, is something to really be thankful for.

    And tradition? I love the British tradition for old-fashioned detective fiction. Even with characters of cardboard I love solving puzzles, but many modern authors have lifted the form into something more. I love humor in literature - and the same goes for movies. I love the British capacity for parody and self deprecation. This is not just a reaction to an empire going down the tubes, it goes back to Trollope and Austen and Dickens and the satire of Swift before. But modern British humor doesn’t always translate well. At least, mine doesn’t. So I’ve found. But hey ho - “C’est la Vie.” Or words to that effect... And just to see if Rachael has read any of this - LONG LIVE THE PASSIVE VOICE.

    I’ll end on that. It’s what we call here - living dangerously...

  5. Thanks Occasional