For the last fortnight, politics stopped being nuts. It went bananas. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, the media can take pride in helping push politics over the precipice.
At the best of times, politics makes no sense to me. Any time I’ve tried watching The Parliament Channel on Freeview for more than seven minutes, it usually resembles an argument in a retirement home, sporadically interrupted by toffs, conducted entirely in Klingon.
I’ve listened to the open sessions at Birmingham City Council, and wondered how people haven’t willed themselves into spontaneous combustion, just to break the monotony. I’ve tried hard to understand why wheelie bins make people so angry.
I’ve studied Boris Johnson’s haircut and remain convinced that every employer, other than those found in politics, would instantly terminate the contract of anyone wielding that wispy wig of horror.
So yes. Politics is nuts. Always has been, I’m sure.
However, for the last fortnight, politics stopped being nuts. It went bananas. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, the media can take pride in helping push politics over the precipice.
Some might say Godfrey Bloom MEP was eminently capable of hurling himself over any nearby precipice.
The former UKIP MEP – so out-there, he made Nigel Farage seem almost electable – had already achieved summer notoriety for his ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ indiscretion when discussing foreign aid. Then, a week or so ago, he made his widely-reported reference to a group of women as...well...look, it wasn’t a very nice word, OK? Anyway this word took his celebrity to a new level – a lower level, as it turned out: Bloom had his party whip withdrawn and subsequently quit UKIP in Europe.
Despite publicly using a term that would literally make David Dimbleby faint if uttered during BBC Question Time, the Eminem of immigration policy attributed his fall from grace to the media – he himself tweeted he thought his endearing turn of phrase “shd not b taken out of context & misrepresented by a hostile press.”
Clearly Bloom’s a great believer in fighting fire with disproportionate fire, as he bravely took on a ‘hostile press’ by smacking Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick around the chops with a pamphlet.
However, when it comes to being irked into indignation by the media, Ed Miliband may feel he has a right to brandish a baseball bat to the bonce of Geoffrey Levy.
On Saturday, Levy penned a piece in the Daily Mail titled ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, all about Miliband’s dad and his views on Marxism. It was a heatedly vitriolic piece but if you’ve spent more than 10 minutes on Twitter, you’d soon realise that the Mail has, erm , a reputation for such provocation.
Then it went a little bonkers. Miliband was given right to reply within the Mail, a seemingly generous move by the newspaper to placate an angry statesman. Turns out the olive branch was actually a stinging nettle – on the same double-page spread as Miliband’s response, the Mail reprinted an abridged version of Levy’s original article, along with a comment piece titled ‘An evil legacy and why we won’t apologise.’
Whatever the reasons are behind the Mail’s stance, it’s a remarkable situation. In an age where the influence of traditional media is said to be on the wane, it’s very possible that the Daily Mail itself will have generated the most headlines during the political conference season.
Discussion on the Mail/Miliband tussle dominates UK media, be it traditional press, broadcast or social media – indeed, it’s likely that the furious reaction of Twitter’s more politically liberal users further emboldened the Mail.
Looking further afield, it will be interesting to see how media shapes the latest proof that politics has entirely gone wibble: the US Government has partially shutdown.
Again, as I intimated at the outset, I have a greater understanding of the scoring on Celebrity Juice than I do of politics. Nevertheless, I can’t see how a country with 316 million people, a gross domestic product of over $15 trillion and with enough firepower to blow up Kanye West’s ego, can afford to run without bits of its government.
This inconceivable situation has arisen over President Obama’s healthcare legislation – due to Republican disapproval on the plans, the US Congress has failed to agree a budget which has subsequently led to a shutdown of ‘non-essential’ services. To a Limey layman like me, this is akin to a child taking his football home because the jumpers being used for goalposts were of an unsatisfactory shade of red. But, hey, what do I know?
Actually, what I do know is that it makes the ideal playing field for a US media that loves a crisis. This crisis, interestingly, plays across the board – hundreds of thousands people across the 50 states may miss paycheques due to central intransigence, so it’s a local issue; it’s the archetypal battle between two opposing political wings, so it’s a national issue; all global eyes are on the US after its muddled handling of the Syrian chemical weapons dispute so, in terms of the nation’s battered reputation, it’s an international issue.
So that’s me convinced – politics has reached a new age of lunacy. However, it would be even more insensible to believe traditional media’s influence on modern politics is in any way diminished.
Anyway, all this talk of the madness of modern politics has left me feeling weaker than Danny Alexander’s chin.
I’m leaving politics to the Jonathan Walkers of this world. I’m hiding away, before something truly ridiculous happens, like Katie Price standing for electio...what? She already has? In 2001? Maybe the US shutting down in 2013 isn’t quite so ludicrous after all...
* Keith Gabriel is a Birmingham-based PR account manager