He found one of those apps that tells you how much time you spend doing things, and it gave him a fright. Apparently he spends two-thirds of his day on Twitter trying to pick fights with people back home. What’s worse is that they’ve got the measure of him now, and just ignore him. He doesn’t get mentioned on the news, or in papers. He’s just gone. Like he’s dead.
He was going to show this crowd out here in Brussels, boy was he! But of course they’re well used to him and others like him coming out and shouting. Even Paisley tried it back in the day. Know what happened? Nothing. They ignored him. Anti-Christ this and Anti-Christ that and they just ignored him and went for lunch, and this guy ain’t no Big Ian.
He finds that he’s getting up later in the day, and watching a lot of boxsets in his apartment. The other MEPs from his country, the men and women from the parties he was going to make a holy show of when he got out, now just treat him like one of those fellas you buy a Club Orange and a pack of Tayto for down the pub on a Sunday afternoon. They don’t even argue with him now, just give him that “ah, bless, the poor creature” look. The women ask him is he OK? One even offered to sew a button that had fallen off his good jacket back on. He spent a whole day walking around not knowing that he was trailing a long piece of toilet paper on his shoe and nobody’d said anything. One of the Dutch MEPs thought he’d been trying to make some sort of avant-garde protest about waste.
He’s afraid to spend too long on the phone back home because he knows some bastard will FOI it, and he can’t even go home because it’ll effect his voting record, the one thing the public (or at least the media) seem to get stroppy about at election time.
Repost: Faux indignation is his trump card. He’s constantly “not apologising to anyone” for having the courage to bring up the need to protect puppies from being put in blenders, or children from being fed gravel laced with arsenic. HE.WON’T.APOLOGISE. Oh no.
Sitting on the government backbenches, where he can’t attack people on real issues because he keeps voting for them, he’s desperate to get media attention. So desperate that he doesn’t mind coming across as Arthur Daley sincere or just a brain damaged moron. Every issue he and the oily urchin wannabe who’s his parliamentary assistant consider running with has to pass one test: will it get me in the papers/on the telly? That’s all that matters. It could be creating a National Bosco Museum or providing a box of After Eights to every pensioner, it doesn’t matter. The entire process hinges on “Look at me!”
The gas thing is that he has no interest in politics whatsoever. He’s only in this party because someone asked him first. Fascist? Communist? Conservative? Liberal? These are just words. If launching a passionate defence of Lebensraum will get him onto the Marian panel, he’ll be polishing his boots faster than you can say “Jawohl, mein fuhrer!”
It has to be done. It is next to impossible to get elected to anything in Ireland unless the voters get a look at you like a prize nag at a mart, or at least get asked for a vote by one of your team. Personally. Having said that, there’s still a fair chance you’ll get the following on the doorstep:
1. I’m watching the rugby/hurling/soccer!
2. Not interested! *Door slams revealing pig ignorance of person in house*
3. I’m putting the child to bed!
4. Comes out of house two doors after missing you, and tries to make a big show of tearing up your leaflet and putting it in the recycling bin. The sharp canvasser his turns back before tearing starts, pretending not to see, turning back just as bin lid closes and issues a cheery “Hello!” to the grumpy amateur dramatist.
5. Says they won’t be voting for you, but is polite about it. You’d almost vote for them. One of the great mysteries to non-politicians: meeting a person who politely disagrees with you is not a bad thing.
6. Appoints themselves spokesperson for the entire street/estate and informs you that there are no votes for you here. Tell them that you’ve gotten a great response so far, and that maybe it’s “your fella” who should be worried, as they’re invariably a hack for the Shinners or the Alphabet Left who are great men altogether for the self-appointing.
7. The aul fella who is delighted to be talking to anyone. Spend the time. There’s only a single vote in it, but if you think talking to a lonely man for a few minutes is a bad use of your time you’ve no business being in politics.
8. The householder who is obviously so wealthy that they should be kind of embarrassed complaining to you about anything.
9. And, for 1000 points, the voter who complains that they never see any politicians, as you’re standing on their door.
He (and it does tend to be he) comes in all sorts of forms:
1. The Religious one. Probably the most honest of No voters, because he is often genuinely conflicted between his sense of compassion and his religious beliefs, including the guidance from his spiritual advisor. Yes, that’s right, the guy with the poster quoting scripture is the honest one.
2. The I Can’t Believe We’re Having This Debate one. The fella who suddenly realises The Gays are everywhere, and not apologising either. He just can’t understand why The Gays insist upon walking around in public everywhere being all gay. He knows he can’t call them “faggots” anymore, which he believes is a restriction of his freedom of speech. Where’s his referendum, he wonders. Most likely to use air quotes when saying “Marriage” and “Equality”. Got very excited when he heard/met a gay who was voting No. This gay fella is now the opening line in every conversation on the subject. Would be very upset if he thought that someone else thought he was gay. Believes that children can be “turned” gay, that gays are flighty and regard children as fashion accessories, that gays are out to “convert”, by force if necessary, and that there is a conspiracy to hide “the proven link” between gays and kiddie fiddlers.
3. The Needs A Technicality one. His gut has decided he’s voting No. Now he’s looking for a respectable reason to attach to it. Something about families, childen, stability, respect for the constitution, yeah, that’ll do. Most likely to start his position with “I’ve nothing against gays…”:
4. The Bastard. A tiny minority, in fairness. The guy who doesn’t actually care about religion, surrogacy, family units, any of that stuff. Knows that he will cause actual pain to other people by voting No, but does it all the same. Other people’s unhappiness? Not my problem.
There’s a weirdness to internal party elections, caused by the fact that it is wannabe politicians canvassing other wannabe politicians. That and the odd mix between inoffensive “I have to write something on the canvass card” blandness mixed with surreal claims of worthiness.
“I am passionately committed to this party (really?) and to serving the best interests of the party members. And my great grandfather shot an Englishman in 1919.”
The sheer terror of saying anything that might offend anyone who might not give you a 15th preference is palpable. If the canvass cards were scratch n’ sniff (remember them) it would be the odour of pure sweaty fear. It’s either stand by your cronies or your man is from the same county. Unless of course he’s contesting the same ward as you. Then he’s got “stories going around about him. You know. One of those fellas.” For the women it’s worse, trying to look attractive but not too attractive, putting up with the too-close talkers with porter on their breath and busy hands.
The younger candidates, desperately trying to look mature, turn up in suits and and constantly trying to get pictures of themselves with party luminaries to show they are moving in serious circles and are therefore serious themselves.
Unlike in other countries, where different factions fight it out based on their viewpoint of where they want society to go, this isn’t about direction of the party. This is about winning elections because they’re elections. The day after the election? Never you mind, that’s none of your business.
Because of her political history, where she was once very active with one particular party, she wrongly gets called biased. It’s not true. If anything, it’s worse than that. She’s no longer loyal to the party she was once a member of, but is, in fact, now a member of The Establishment Party, and a fiercely protective member of it.
She’ll happily speak in defence of any member of the establishment parties. TD salaries? Hours worked? Expenses? She’ll happily go on Prime Time and The Right Hook and Morning Ireland to defend TDs when they’re terrified of their shite to do so themselves. She never has to put her hand in her handbag when she’s in the Dail bar.
She’ll oppose any real political reform which is unpopular with the parties, although will always be careful to publicly support the concept of reform once “consensus” can be found. She’s popular across all establishment parties because she defends “politics”, that is, the status quo where they get paid for doing stuff, going on RTE panels to defend politics as a noble pursuit to the solemn nod of actual officeholders. Summer schools? Sure it’s practically the law that she either chairs or speaks on every panel.
What really irritates her are the outsiders. If you’re not a newspaper columnist with a national newspaper, a pol corr, an elected official or a party officer you’ve no real right speaking about her political system? Blogger? Twitter? Who are these people?
The dream used to be a seat in cabinet, but she knows that’s no longer on the agenda. But a seat on the RTE Authority? Or the Council of State? Or maybe the holy grail of a Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad. She’s a big fan of senators keeping the title after they leave office. Especially on their passports for holidays in the US later.
That’s all still to play for, and the main party leaders know whose side she’s on.
She doesn’t like paying higher taxes any more than anyone else, or having her public services cut. But she’s rational, and calm, and irritated by the emotional hysteria that seems to pass for debate in modern politics. She hates the masochistic delight that some wallow in over The Banks, like the Vikings and the Brits and the potatoes before them, something out of our control to point a finger at and wail and scream at and blame for our shortcomings.
She knows that every extra euro somebody wants spent on Special Needs Assistants or A&E has to come from somebody else’s pocket, and that’s not right wing or Thatcherite, that’s just sums. As it happens, she is quite left wing on social spending, and that’s why she quietly fills in her standing order to various charities, but that costs money too. But she makes that sacrifice because she knows that things cost money and how strongly you feel about something doesn’t change the basic maths.
That’s why, if she could, she’d vote for the Troika. For calm rational technocrats who look at spreadsheets and tell you what you can afford and can’t. Sure, if you want to increase education spending by X, then you have to increase taxes by Y.
She can’t watch politicians anymore, with their time-eating pre-packaged inoffensive “hard working families” and “investment” and “resources” and basic refusal to tell voters that no, you can’t have your cake and eat someone else’s cake too. Don’t get her started on the angry hateful faces “in the audience”, the witchcraft denouncers of the modern age, wrapping their consumer fuelled frustrations with their own lives into a tight ball of bile and directing it at the cowering, stuttering spineless half-men of Irish politics who just sit and take it like scolded dogs. She watches the cyclical nature of Irish politics getting shorter, with opposition parties making promises that have to be broken sooner and sooner in office.
She thinks she’s alone in her anger, and she’s not. The problem is that there’s a groupthink, where 30% of big-mouths get to tell the rest of us that this is a terrible country (it isn’t) and nothing works (it does)and the health service is Third World (no, it isn’t) and all politicians are corrupt (no, they’re not) and we go along with their image of the country. She knows this is a country with problems but also a country with great strengths.
Is it so unreasonable for her to look for a candidate that doesn’t dress up what they want to do, that gives a cold credible analysis of what they will do in office? Who doesn’t build a campaign on subliminal promises that are so nebulous that they’ll never be met because we can’t measure them. Is it really that unreasonable to look for that?
Repost: This post I wrote 18 months ago has suddenly started gaining hits. Recent poll, maybe? Thought I’d post it again. And yes, I know it upsets some in FF. Your objections are noted. As ever, the offer to write a reply stands. And no, you can’t reply anonymously so stop asking! I’ll happily post your criticisms but you have to make them in public.
There is probably no activity as entertaining in Irish politics as watching a member of Fianna Fail and one of Fine Gael debating the differences between their parties in front of a non-partisan audience. Curiously, it is a rare enough event.
Stage 1. Both sides nod solemnly in agreement that there is a huge difference between their parties.
Stage 2. When asked about what values separate the parties, the Fianna Failer is first in with “republicanism”. A request for definition is met with a vague candyfloss enunciation, normally with the phrase “social justice” thrown into the mix. The Fine Gaeler claims the declaration as an accurate description of FG values. FF immediately launches an attack along the lines of “well then why did you cut X?” followed by FG saying “sure, what about when you cut Y in government?”
Both sides are broken up and returned to corners.
Stage 3. A second attempt is made at values. A commitment to a United Ireland is mentioned by FF as being “deeper” in FF. FG lists out everything from the declaration of the Republic to the Anglo Irish Agreement. Another fracas ensues with pointed references to personalities in other parties.
Stage 4. A foriegn member of the audience asks for a comparison to conventional parties in continental Europe and elsewhere. Both sides unite to point out that Irish politics has no comparison to any other political system in Human history. “That’s for fucking sure” a voice from the audience remarks loudly.
Stage 5. Economic values are questioned. Both parties immediately descend into a nit-picking “you did this in government” row. FF claims to be a party of the working class and small farmer. FG claims it has support amongst both classes. Both parties dispute being pro-business compared to other parties. An audience member points out that both parties received most of their funding from business. The audience member is personally attacked for having “an agenda”. The actual question about who funds the two parties is deliberately ignored.
Stage 6. Both parties are asked to cease referencing past events and address the future, with a simple declaration of the values that will shape the parties in the future. Both make statements about the future which mention dignity, employment, social justice and prosperity. They are pretty much the same statement. When challenged on this, each points out that the character of the other party means that the other party does not mean what he says. Both then launch into a point-by-point historic nit-picking contest.
Stage 7. Both particpiants take to Twitter and Facebook to attack the event as biased against one party and obviously run for the benefit of the other, accusing the moderator of “bashing” their party. Both are quick to stress that no one cares about this stuff except people “obsessed” with historical events and this has nothing to do with “real” politics.
The first time you encounter his racist or sexist or generally offensive tweets you think you have his measure. He’s an arsehole, and you’re tempted to take him on, tweet for tweet. But as you read down his timeline, you realise that it isn’t that simple, because, for want of a better word, he is.
His timeline is one of threats and insults to celebrities and politicians, just barely structured in something vaguely resembling English. Such is his challenged mental faculty that he has rows with his public utilities not through customer service or by email, but by Twitter, revealing to all of us his struggle to deal with day to day life.
Your offence and anger at his obnoxious comments dissipates as you realise that Twitter is all he has, his excited just barely fingertip touch at people he sees on the telly, the only thing that resembles anything close to equality with all those people around him everyday with their newspapers and big words.
Were it not for Twitter, he’d be the village idiot in some small town, the young man “known to Gardai” not as a bad one but as a source of head shaking and sympathy for his poor parents, who are such good people. Were it not for Twitter, he could be dead in a ditch, frozen to death having been incapacitated by alcoholic poisoning, or hanging by his own belt from a door, trousers around his ankles after reading about sexual misadventure on the internet.