What’s the Tory (again)?
The British general Election is still over a year away yet the tumbrels are sounding. Cameron is playing hard on signs of possible economic recovery, warning that Labour will jeopardise any the chances of more good news. His surrogates in the Press will be re-hashing the old ‘Red Ed’ trope and saying that electing Miliband the Younger would be as bad as electing Neil Kinnock. A recent article by Will Hutton suggests that the UK recovery is far from a job based one and that standard of living issues will still be a major battleground in 2015. So with just over twelve months to go and Labour far from streaking ahead in the polls, could Cameron be in with a shot? All the polls make a Tory outright majority seem unlikely; it’s a bit like Labour going into the 1987 Election expecting to win. If 2015 turns out to be like 1987, then Cameron is out of a job. It’s most unlikely that even the Orange Book Lib Dems could prop up a Prime Minister who has twice failed to get an overall majority. And there’s no way the Euro-Friendly Liberals could even countenance being party to a government that holds an in-out referendum. When even Daily Telegraph columnists like Peter Oborne (albeit a contrary writer even for the Torygraph) are arguing that George Osborne has let the rich off too lightly, there may be a mood out there that the Conservatives have gone too far and do not deserve to be biggest party, let alone the majority party of government. While this writer abhors most of Cameron’s politics, it should be noted that he (along with Nick Clegg) kept the coalition show on the road. It may come to a very sudden end in 2015.
France and Romance
French Presidents, eh? To read most British, American and this country’s Twitterati, there’s something hilarious about adults living an adult life. While the Atlantic media like to poke considerable fun at les politicians Francais, the French have the attitude that President Hollande’s personal life is exactly that. While the perennial Press privacy question always gets asked in on l’outre side of La Mer or Manche, is what the public may be interested in the public interest, French people have long ago determined that as long as a politician can do his or her job and is seen to be doing well in that job, then who he or she chooses to consort with is really of no concern to an electorate. Hollande will lose the Presidency if he fails to meet his promise not to his girlfriend, but to the country. Although that particular issue of ‘Closer’ sold out fairly quickly, it was only obliquely referred to, and in a somewhat embarrassed manner, at Hollande’s Press Conference in the Elysee Palace. There’s a tradition in France in the Fifth Republic – you become President, your private life remains off limits. Perhaps if not doing anything illegal, this should remain the case. As Bill Clinton proved, rightly or wrongly, personal morality matters less than one’s ability to manage an economy. For Hollande too, it will probably be L’Economy too, Monsieur/Madam Stupid! And that’s much more meaningful to real people in the real world.
The Human Factor
Rob Ford has stated on the record that he has smoked Crack. Opinion polls, somewhat tragically, have seen a strong cohort of people believe that he is still able to do a good job. This could well be people confusing personal with political support. Ford’s erratic performance as Mayor of Toronto posits us with some big questions. How can politicians who become addicted kick the habit and still make a comeback? Is it even possible in today’s media culture? If a political figure has become incapacitated due to their addiction or self-destructive behaviour, should they be given some space, such as would be allowed in most regular jobs, or should the person resign and rebuild their lives? When Charles Kennedy resigned as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2006 over alcoholism, he got pretty much short shrift from much of the Press – in fact, most commentators didn’t accept his diagnosis as an illness. There would seem to be double standards – we do expect more from our politicians. It’s highly unlikely that anyone who is in the grip of addiction is able to function properly at high-performance work; that doesn’t mean we should lose our compassion and sense of humanity in allowing them some time and space. There are notable exceptions to this rule; Churchill had serious depression and drank like a fish and yet he was the right man in the right place at the right time. We probably do expect too much from our politicians – we at times forget that they are all too human.