Tuesday 7 September 2010

Pigs and politicians cannot win

My cousin’s roof was blown off by a tornado last month.

That is surely not a sentence many people get to write, unless they have a very large extended family in Kansas. But my cousin lives in the sleepy village of Great Livermere in Suffolk, which experienced this freak weather event on August 23.

The wind also flattened the outbuildings in which, until that very morning, had lived three contented pigs. They escaped being crushed because my cousin’s husband had roused them at five o’clock and driven them to the abattoir to meet their destiny as sausages.

I mused for some time as to whether this constituted good or bad luck. I also considered whether the tornado might be seen as retribution by a vegetarian deity, but dismissed the possibility since my cousin’s husband is a priest. I finally concluded that it was simply one of the very few classic lose-lose situations not currently involving a politician.

Last week, despite myself, I bought a copy of Tony Blair’s autobiography. It came with two dust jackets, and I exposed the second one with some trepidation, half expecting it to reveal the image of the shape-shifting giant lizard which, former sports commentator David Icke assures us, is the reality behind our royal family and political leaders.

The more I read of Blair, Mandelson and Brown, the more credible that theory becomes. However, the only difference between the two covers was that the inner one lacked the “Half Marked Price” sticker slapped on the first. This presumably slashes the take of the Royal British Legion, to which Mr Blair has announced that he is donating his profits.

Another classic lose-lose situation because it produced gales of abuse for his hypocrisy that were surely just as great as the howls that would have gone up if he had simply pocketed the money.

On the other hand, it is possible to have only limited sympathy for someone who, when asked if he has any regrets, skirts around those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and says that he is sorry he tried to abolish foxhunting. Oh, and maybe we should have a crack at Iran next.

Incidentally, I have not read a word of the book yet but the cover picture is haunting me as I type this and making me think that the Tories’ much derided “demon eyes” poster campaign of 1997 actually hit the nail squarely on the head.

I felt rather more sympathy for William Hague in his lose-lose dilemma with his young adviser. Share an expensive hotel room and face accusations of impropriety, or book two and be rubbished for wasting money? After the expenses scandal, what would you do?

The resulting personal statement was the second time Mr Hague has made me cringe, the first being his understandably jejune performance on Radio 4’s Any Questions immediately after his debut as a 16-year-old at the Conservative Party conference. The fact that this is not constantly replayed to embarrass him can only suggest that the BBC has wiped the tape.

My principal client regularly holds managers’ conferences at which all participants are expected to share hotel rooms with colleagues of the same sex. The implications for their reputations are apparently now mind-boggling. Except, of course, that totally different rules apply to politicians.

Back in the 1980s Spitting Image portrayed the press as pigs – trilby-wearing porkers spreading porkies. Today politicians have become the lowest form of human life. How we all hate them – and that’s before they have even started on the real spending cuts.

Dave Cameron will no doubt look back on his paternity leave with young Dandelion, or whatever she is called, as a brief lull before the tornado struck. I hope it does not take his roof off, but if I were him I would not bank upon it.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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