Hart of the Matter
You might be
fed up with all the political stuff on TV in the run-up to the election, but I
can tell you that it is a godsend to someone confined to their settee.
laid up for a week with a particularly virulent dose of flu, I was most
grateful that there were some vaguely sensible and interesting political
debates on to leaven the otherwise mindless litany of daytime TV which would
have sent me climbing the walls within a day despite my enforced lassitude.
(and snooker) came to my rescue and now I know a lot more about the minor
parties than I did, even though we don’t get a chance to vote for any of them
One thing I
have noticed is the curious shortage of completely barmy people standing this
time around – that is, if you ignore the real politicians, who many may
consider to be barmy enough by themselves.
But in the
past we had lots of people from weird or bonkers groups, ranging from the
Monster Raving Loony Party, which is only very sparsely represented this time,
to those people who believed in levitation and bouncing around the place and
who fielded candidates in almost every constituency some years ago and, as far
as I can make out, have now completely disappeared.
the loonies who we are not allowed to name, like the BNP, and the now merely
mildly eccentric ones, like some of the true Socialists. To think that that old
warhorse Arthur Scargill should be reduced to this rather genial and
quintessentially English backwater, reminiscent of the late 19thcentury.
have changed a lot in my lifetime, and I am old enough to have voted the last
time we had a referendum on Europe.
latter part of the 20th century, almost everyone took the electoral
process very seriously, which was why there was such a vacuum into which the
comedy candidates could step. You only have to remember the election in
Blackadder The Third.
it seems that as people have become steadily more and more disillusioned with
politicians as a class, and have begun to explore seriously some wider options,
so the ‘comedy ground’ as one might term it, has become squeezed out.
It is part
of the general sense of humour failure which the 21st century seems to
have inspired – witness the demise of satirical programmes. Poor old Rory
Bremner struggles to get an airing nowadays despite being a lot more
accomplished than predecessors like Mike Yarwood.
people have begun to take quite hilariously extreme political proponents
seriously. It is quite difficult to laugh at people who significant numbers of
one’s fellow countrymen think may be their saviours.
In fact, the
national election scene has become much more like the local one, where, in
general, those few who take a real interest in it, tend to take it pretty
many who would argue that this has been the main stumbling-block to successful
local government down the years, as it has got weighed down with political divisions
which often have little relevance to local issues.
suffered a lot from this over the years. You will hear many long-time residents
complain that Bury St Edmunds gets all the cash spent on it (or Ipswich, now
that the power has been eroded from St Edmundsbury to Suffolk County Council)
and that Haverhill is always left out.
This is said
in a purely apolitical way, as if people in Bury have a natural antipathy
towards Haverhill which leads them to compound its deprivation as hard as they
that isn’t true at all. Most of these decisions have actually been taken by senior
councillors who come from the rural areas. Some of these have had a very
favourable view of Haverhill, while others are less broad-minded.
But in the
end they have been political decisions based on what they think is best for the
borough as a whole – and, of course, from their perspective the best thing for
the borough as a whole is to build up the status of Bury St Edmunds as a
become more and more of a driver of the local economy and this would ‘trickle
down’, in Margaret Thatcher’s immortal phrase, to other parts of the borough.
Equally, other parts of the borough would benefit by having improved access to top-class
facilities by bringing them to, and centralising them in, Bury St Edmunds.
It is this
argument which brought about the borough’s complete fiasco after it refurbished
Haverhill Arts Centre and then didn’t want to pay to run it. Since then it has
brought about the massively costly vanity project which goes by the ironical
name of the Apex.
the end, are political decisions, but they are created by something more
fundamental, a perception of how society works, how economies work and how the
two things come together.
has been that this dogmatic approach ignores the realities on the ground, such
as, for instance, the fact that Haverhill people are unlikely to struggle along
the A143 to avail themselves of facilities which try, often rather
pathetically, to be a pale imitation of those in Cambridge, which we can zip
along to in no time thanks to a half-decent road and at least a vestige of
politics of the 21st century forces an ability to look at facts
rather than theories, then perhaps it is, after all, a change for the better.