An argument against Labour might be that Iraq and the revolting Digital Economy Bill and a catalogue of fudge, fumbling and failure that three successive periods of power has (necessarily) witnessed may well be reason enough to turn away. Those who feel most betrayed by Labour’s shortcomings and reversals of policy are those least likely to be drawn to the Tories however, so one imagines that the disenchanted left will either stay home or vote Lib Dem. The worst of the Labour calamities, the war in Iraq, would have taken place under a Conservative administration too and it is one which Brown is less personally involved in than was Blair. For all those betrayals and deceptions it is hard not to believe that the most pressing question must be the economy.
You may of course argue that there has been nothing sound about Labour’s management of the economy either, but actually I cannot believe that the financial tsunami that struck Britain and the rest of the world in 2008 would have been any better dealt with by anyone else. I do feel that the very determination and uncool dourness and resolution of Brown might well be a good bet. When the house is a ruin, go for solid and unglamorous damp-coursing and roof relining – you can worry about the wallpaper, furniture and carpeting later. You might also think that dour and unglamorous as Brown may be presented, when he is allowed to let go and reveal his true self he is surprisingly more impressive than either of the other two candidates. Take ten minutes out of your life to watch this. You really do have to twist reality to claim that this is a spin-doctored act and not the real passion of a conviction politician. That is the man and what he stands for. It may not move you however. You may not find it interesting or appealing. Conviction politics may not be what you think the country requires or you may regard such idealism as false or irrelevant.
It’s not about quality of parliamentary intake. God knows most of you reading this should be aware that the kind of people standing for election are simply the same kinds of idiot that we were at school with, that we are ourselves. Human, frail, unreliable, greedy and stupid – only with the rather dubious (you might think) difference that they actually want to be in Parliament, which you or I do not. But my heart always sinks when I get a tediously clichaic tweet saying ‘Bloody hell Stephen, don’t you know they’re all the same?’ or ‘Hung parliament? Yes, they should be! Hahahahahahahah!!!!!’ Well now steady on, how can we inhabit a democracy and simultaneously dismiss and loftily choose never to vote for, those who actually get off their arses and allow that democracy to come into being? No matter how crap, sterile of imagination, predictable, verbally trite, sententious or weird every single one of the candidates presenting themselves for election may be, at least they have actually offered themselves up for the cruel, impertinent and unspeakably humiliating inspection that candidacy entails. And for what? For power? Come now, do you really think that? Maybe there is a touch of vanity in their ambitions, but is it any more than the vanity that anyone after a good job should have? And if you say, ‘well it isn’t a good job, snigger snigger,’ then please offer up for all of us an alternative to democracy, one in which your higher standards and your superior understanding will prevail. In the meantime, as Neil Kinnock used to say, ‘don’t moan about it, change it. Stand yourself! Be a candidate!’ And if you simply relay that you’re a nobody, and that it’s not what you know but who you know, then you still haven’t got the point. You could be a candidate, yes, you could be a candidate, but you would have to go to meetings, walk pavements, shake hands, consult, seek views, consider options, do all the things that those who involve themselves in democracy do. Honestly now. I mean really honestly, haven’t you, as I have – I’d be the first to admit it – sounded off about the crapness of politicians without ever really considering the full nature of democracy and what it implies, or should imply? One of the very reasons I would run a thousand miles from public office is the sanctimonious, sententious, unforgiving, inquisitive and merciless scrutiny to which my every move and every word would be subjected. I couldn’t take the responsibility of not being able to make a light joke and I couldn’t bear the insufferable indignity of having to speak so blandly for fear of giving offence that I would sound like every other politician ever sounded. It is really no good us moaning about the quality of our politicians when the intensity of our inspection of everything they are and do is so great they are not allowed those very qualities of eccentricity, originality, colour, life and surprise that we claim to want in them.