Political animal

Monday, November 11th, 2002

So, what sort of a weekend was it really? Well, it was a political one. Blame it on me for going to a political conference (duh) but also blame it Jeremy Paxman and Paul Burrell.
I'm no fan of Paxman as an interviewer. I think he gets so hung up on trapping his interviewee that he stops listening to them: I've often seen him bashing away trying to get an answer to some pointlessly irrelevant aspect to a question that's been perfectly adequately answered long ago. I do like to say that he wouldn't last in any newsroom that I ran… but since I didn't last, the last time I ran one, maybe that's not a particularly defensible position to take :)
But I have to say, his book The Political Animal does do exactly what he sets out to do: analyse what makes politicians tick. I saw myself in there, in good ways and in not-so-good ways.
And his basic conclusion – politicians are an alien race because they want to do something that has a 99% chance of ending in failure and possibly humilation – is making me think a bit.
He says very little about the role of the media in lowering the general reputation of politicians – if people are told nothing but how we're all villains, why shouldn't they believe it? – but he does mention the way in which careers can implode under press scrutiny.
Which is where Paul Burrell comes in. A week or two ago he sold his story – every paper bid for it. He picked one offer (not the most lucrative) and now all the other papers are tearing him apart. Meanwhile Piers Morgan from the Mirror is giving interviews about how his rivals are hypocritical for attacking the man they were trying to buy up.
(Of course, if Morgan hadn't won the bidding war, I've no doubt he'd be sticking the boot in now with the best of them.)
So on the one hand there's Paxman saying how the best I can hope for is failure, and on the other there's Burrell showing that the referee's not impartial… and I'm thinking why am I bothering with politics?
But then, what do you do if you believe something? Sit in silence? That's not me, I'm afraid. Nor is it most of the people at conference on Saturday. If you write off politics you write off any hope of organised change and progress. And I'm not willing to do that.
Someone remind me of that in a few years or decades time when it's all gone wrong, hey?

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.