Any moron in the pub will tell you that politicians are self-serving bastards who can't be trusted. However, it's usually wise to take such people's statements with a pinch of salt, for two reasons:
- Morons tend not to think about things too deeply and prefer their own generalisations to actually making a reasoned judgement or listening to any sort of counter-argument, e.g. some politicians are actually decent and principled;
- 30 minutes later they will regale you with some jaw-droppingly stupid moron article of faith. e.g. 'Oriental women's vaginas are at a 90 degree angle.'
However, the moron view of politicians is certainly one that's been supported by recent events - not least John Prescott's grudging relinquishment of his country pile, Dorneywood. Many have commented on the similarities between New Labour sleaze and the Tory sleaze that brought them down in 1997. But we've just realised there's a subtle-but-important difference.
Back in the heady days of the 1990s, when Birdland was riding high in the indie chart, and Quebec voted to remain part of Canada, the Tories were plagued with scandal. No less than four MPs, most famously Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken, were embroiled in the cash-for-questions scandal, not to mention other bribe-taking and a spot of perjury for good measure. The full details of Jeffrey Archer's grim prozzie-fucking emerged (as did his subsequent lying) and several other Tories were implicated in sexual or financial misdoings.
The Tory sleaze, though damaging, was mostly the work of a bunch of backbenchers breaking the law for financial gain. In the case of party chairman Archer, well, everyone knew he was a complete cunt anyway. If it had emerged that he'd been serving up babies' blood and kitten pie to his creepy guests at his famous dinner parties, no one would have been *that* surprised.
Contrast this with Labour. Instead of actual criminal behaviour, what we've seen, maybe for the first time, is the extent of the perks enjoyed by ministers. In the same couple of weeks that have included Prescott's cock-ups, we've seen Tony Blair head off for another holiday using a plane from the Queen's flight, and a bidding war between US universities to sign up Euan Blair. Euan emerged with a $50,000 scholarship, and the US universities have explicitly said they expected some sort of access to Tony Blair. Other examples are too familiar to list, and the cumulative effect of this money-grubbing is to make Labour look very bad indeed. Basically it makes politicians look as though their main priority is bilking their position for every perk and financial spin-off they can get. Blair is substantially to blame, but Dorneywood could be the clincher in terms of truly alienating the public.
Prescott quite clearly only gave up Dorneywood after a struggle, and even then he managed to sound like a petulant child, saying it was because '[Dorneywood] would never be relaxing again'. Aww, diddums.
As if New Labour wasn't already in enough trouble because of Prescott's twattery, a hideously misjudged defence of Prescott half-heartedly swung into action this week. On Newsnight Labour MP Austin Mitchell rallied round, pointing out what an important job he does, which is a bit like defending Noel Edmonds on the grounds that some people find 'Deal Or No Deal' a stimulating and worthwhile piece of television.
Mitchell also managed to make politicians look even more arrogant and detached by saying 'I think he's daft to [give up Dorneywood] because as soon as you throw a bit of red meat to the press pack and the media pack that's hounding him now they're gonna want more.' Yes they will, but John Prescott is responsible for John Prescott's problems. Quite simply, he's so deep in shit of his own creation he needs to do *something* to atone, even if, as deputy PM, he's 'entitled' to Dorneywood.
Labour MP Stephen Pound also defended Prescott on Newsnight. Pound, lest we forget, is the kind of rent-a-gob MP that loves seeing himself on TV and in the papers. Pound once witlessly said 'I am an aspirant chav. My off-duty wear is a Fulham shirt with "these colours don't run" on it.' Ha ha.
Mitchell and Pound may indeed like and respect Prescott, and it's only fair that someone gives his side, but the fundamental problem is that the public isn't really in the mood to hear what a great guy Prescott is - largely because he's not a particularly impressive or popular politician. Robin Cook managed to get through a sex 'scandal' by behaving with a bit of dignity. In Prescott's case, the press may be out to get him, but he really doesn't do much to help himself. He might think that he's coming out fighting, but the reality is that it just makes him look arrogant.
In an even stranger twist, the papers have been reporting as fact the rumour that Prescott has 'dirt' on other senior Labour figures' (sexual) affairs, as well as arguments between Blair and Brown. If Prescott is sacked, supposedly, he'll bring the government down with him. Can this be true? It's impossible to say, but the world of New Labour is so increasingly bizarre we wouldn't be surprised. In fact it would take a lot to shock us now, when a former ship's steward has managed to hammer another nail into a Labour government's coffin with, of all things, an poorly-handled croquet mallet.