Why I find politics interesting... Not for the reasons you'd hope

| Mar. 8, 2010 |

Published by Student Direct: Mancunion

When did I begin to find British politics interesting? As a news junkie, you’d think it would have been a while ago—what with major and controversial wars in the Middle East, the election of a new president across the Atlantic, the Copenhagen climate summit, Iranian protests and of course MPs’ expenses being the notable stories of 2009.

Every one of those has major ramifications for those who reside in Westminster—the type of consequences that can cause not just swerves in the paths of politicians’ careers but place brick walls in front of them. And yet, that link didn’t bother me.

The moment politics grabbed me was when I heard the lean and ever so fucking mean Scottish drawl of Malcolm Tucker in In the Loop, a comedy about real politics. The foul-mouthed, razor-sharp Scot is the government head of press during the build-up to the Iraq war. With none of the ideology that all those in government affect to have, Tucker says it like it is. His job is to coerce the media to print his point of view, by any means necessary.

“From broadsheets to wank rags, I want pages one, two and three to be a profile of Tom looking like a fucking political colossus, you know: Tom meeting the Pope, Tom in an NHS hospital chatting to little, baldie kiddies,” Tucker snarls at his staff.

And this is what politics is. I hate to break it to you, but don’t for one second think that politicians are out to talk policy or genuinely make a difference. I’m sure they were at one point, when they all looked like that fifteen year old William Hague at Tory Conference all those years ago, but they’ve hardened up, realising that to have just a modicum of hope of getting an idea passed through Parliament, they need to stay in power. And the way to do that is with a growling Rottweiler that loves to be hated and hates to be on any sort of leash. Meet Tucker; meet Alistair Campbell.

So getting back on track, why then do I care about politics? I think, and I do hate to say it, I think I enjoy politics for exactly the same reason that red-top readers—who we hiding behind a broadsheet frown upon—love reading about celebrity. The green seats of the Commons while suggesting a grandeur not befitting Peter Andre actually seat men and women with just as ridiculous tales to tell, and just as irrelevant. The only difference is that their decisions can make a difference to the world. Essentially, it’s just a bit more high-brow.

And what makes it so much more exciting after watching In The Loop and the Thick of It, is that now, when I look at politicians on the news, on Question Time and all those other cliquey outlets for those seated in Westminster, I can see very thin strings that I never could before. They are the strings of the puppet-master, the Malcolm Tucker. Occasionally they break, or are snatched away by the puppet and that’s when politics is interesting.

N0 it shouldn’t be that the cult of personality is just as important to politics as it is to celebrity. But politics is not policy; it’s personality. Whether you like it or not, that is the case and there will always be a Malcolm Tucker behind the scenes. Get used to it.