Friday, 21 January 2011

Hearing Harriet

I catch Harriet Harman being interviewed on the Today programme and I feel such a sudden surge of anger I find myself swearing at her. I can't help asking myself why. Why? She is in the party I voted for and will probably vote for again. The subject is the appointment of Ed Balls.

What she says seems so much beyond the bounds of anything that I might consider reason or argument that it seems she must be living in a world where the only measure of success us being able to repeat the same useless thing over and over again until your interviewer gives up. Gordon Brown was the same. Just keep talking.

And this, she imagines, adds to the sum of common good.

I usually defend politicians. I am not cynical about the calling. I even think it possible that many enter politics because they they want to do good by their lights, even if their lights are not the same as mine. Because, it is of course possible that others see things differently. It's just that, if they do, I'd like them to explain what they do think.

There was no attempt to reason or explain anything in her case. What she doesn't realise - what most politicians don't realise - is that it isn't the interviewer they are trying to steamroller; it isn't the interviewer whose questions they attempt to wave away; it isn't the interviewer they are talking past and over and through.

It is me. It is us. And I, if I am representative of anyone at all, and I doubt that I speak entirely for myself, I feel nothing but contempt for them at such moments, contempt and the kind of resentment I feel we would feel if someone tried to talk that way to me in any normal circumstance. It is, in human terms, a repulsive way to behave.

It happens to be her this time, and if she is worse than most, the others of all parties do much the same. What an extraordinarily sealed world they live in.


Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NicoleS said...

Aren't the politicians forced into being pointless and annoying by rottweiler interviewers like John Humphrys? The game is to harry them into making any statement that can be shaped into headline news on subsequent news programmes, while they jump about dodging his teeth. That said, Harriet Harman being intrinsically annoying doesn't help.

George S said...

I think the deleted comment might have been Lord Vader inviting me to The Dark Side. That is, of course, a caricature answer, but I'll leave it there for now.

Yes, I do see what you mean Nicole, of course. I generally think more wit and less aggression is the answer. But I continue to be astonished that any human being should think that the kind of interview given by Harman today serves any purpose other than alienation.

There is a particular form of question put by Humphries, where he expressly does not speak for me, that begins, 'But surely the reality is, isn't it that...?' Or the alternative, 'The truth is...'. I suspect most of the time we are trying to understand a policy not discover the truth about an assumed cover-up.

It should be possible for both parties to see that the point of an interview is enlightenment, not, as Monty Python once had it, a life or death struggle between two pantomime horses. As here:

tom said...

I have always find her pretty loathsome - whenever I see her on TV she seems to treat everyone like some annoying questioning child that needs to be patronised. No thanks!

Sabine said...

I want to believe that most politicians initially come to do what they do with their best intentions. What happens then, little by little, is what power does to humans, it sets their higher ideals out of focus and entraps them in mechanisms beyond their understanding. The “sealed world” you mention may be the separateness created by these mechanisms.
It needs a great awareness not to fall victim to these circumstances. Everything is a question of awareness.
I am writing from Italy, so I do not know much about English politicians/politics. I do know that the level of awareness in this country seems to perfectly match with whom we have to do here, what gives me goose bumps...

NicoleS said...

George, thanks for the "Life or death struggle", it has cheered me up no end. "And here we see the bull limpet..." Priceless.

Hearing Aids said...

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George S said...

The temper of British politics is generally knockabout Punch and Judy. We understand that and I can think of countries whose political temper is far worse. Italy's puzzles me - and maybe most people. Would Ubuesque be inappropriate, Sabine?

But then the Python sketch of the two pantomime horses begins to look ever more convincing.

BBC's Parliament channel shows committees at work. That's far more like genuine debate. It's where the serious politics happens - and the drama is far better scripted.

Sabine said...

"Ubuesque" is quite a good word for an incomprehensable situation, seen from a distance with detachment. I fear it describes not more than the visible top of an iceberg, too much still lies hidden from physical eyes that needs to be named and faced.