Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Our age of political dilettantism...

Ken Loach is a great film maker. I could perhaps have done without the hackneyed story line of The Wind that Shook the Barley, but The Navigators or Sweet Sixteen are masterpieces as is, in a different genre, The Angels’ Share.

So I have great admiration for him in film, the area where he does outstanding work.

A scene from Sweet Sixteen: film-making is what Loach does best
Sadly, however, he’s recently decided to speak out on politics. Here his performance strikes me as rather more underwhelming. In fact, it strikes me as a pity that he’s wandered into this field at all – forbearance might have suited him much better.

He was quoted in the Guardian saying, “The deselection of MPs is presented as a threat [but] it is not a job for life. Labour party members have the right to be represented by someone they choose.”

Labour Party members, and I speak as one myself, have no such right. We shouldn’t try to arrogate it to ourselves. Our right is to select a candidate. Our duty is to try to choose one who is the best placed to represent the interests of those most requiring protection in the system in which we live. In other words, we should select candidates who, if elected, will be particularly good at representing those the Labour Party is committed to serve.

That doesn’t necessarily mean representing their views, but their interests. But it doesn’t mean representing them – voters and, above all, the least privileged of voters – not the membership of the Labour Party.

To me, the lesson of Loach’s foray into Labour politics seems that it’s probably better not to let amateurs (like him or, indeed, like me) call the shots. Which makes it all the more frightening to contemplate the other great political amateur of the day. He, sadly, hasn’t just made some silly statements about politics, but has been elected to the most powerful political office in the world, the Presidency of the United States.

Elected, that is, not by winning a majority of voters – he received 1.7m votes fewer than his opponent Hillary Clinton – but by dint of winning a majority in the electoral college that ultimately chooses the president. That makes him president-elect but it doesn’t make him the choice of the people, even though he speaks as though he had the authority such a mandate would give him.

Another popular vote that he certainly didn’t win was that of the British electorate. In Britain, he has all the authority – unfortunately – that holding the world’s most powerful office confers. He holds no authority to speak for Britain. So it was amusing in a dry kind of way when Donald Trump told the British government that it ought to appoint Nigel Farage as British ambassador to the States.

It was no surprise that Trump should make that particular choice. Farage leads the United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP, a thoroughly toxic organisation which uses xenophobia for a cover for what is actually downright racism. He is, in other words, a man very much after Trump’s heart.

What was more surprising was that Trump seemed to feel that his election, which will mean a huge change in personnel in Washington, would lead to a similar night of the long knives in London. Above all, he felt he had a say in the process.

In a long and not always salutary history – British behaviour towards the Americas left a lot to be desired, for instance, and there were far more deplorable incidents elsewhere – Britain has at least developed a reasonably sophisticated way of dealing with bumptious fools in diplomacy. liked pleased with the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary's response to Trump’s suggestion for a new ambassador.

“There is no vacancy,” they said.

From opposite ends of the political spectrum, Loach and Trump illustrate the same point, that amateurs do best to keep out of politics.

Loach is a man of huge talent. He ought to focus on the area where he shines. Trump, of course, is talentless.

Perhaps he could just sink into deserved obscurity at the earliest opportunity?


Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why you and indeed the BBC bother to give coverage to the Trump Farage tweet, extradinary the BBC devoted the first 5 minutes of last nights news to it. Do you all want to raise the profile? But don't underestimate Trump he is a businessman and a very determined one, at times nations need the clear head d thinking of a businessman rather than the dithering and uncertainty of politicians who often fail to think and govern with much sense of clarity or direction. Just for the record I would never have voted for him either.

David Beeson said...

I have to say that your implied criticism is fair: I have perhaps overreacted to something which I ought to have simply written off as a bit of a joke. That came home to me when I, too, watched the BBC coverage – in fact, when I saw it, it was more like fifteen minutes than five.

I may have fallen into the same trap myself.

Anonymous said...

Well said and I am sure appreciate.