I'm not a particularly sweary person ...

Politics With our political correspondent ...

I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.

Wow, Caroline Flint. I first properly noticed the now former minister for Europe a few weeks ago when The Observer delivered this interview; she came across as witty, clever and self-deprecating, rare qualities in a politician as we've seen in the past few days. Her actions today have only gone to increase my admiration.

Only last night she was pledging her support for the Prime Minister in his darkest hour. Just two hours before her resignation she was talking to a reporter from BBC North and continuing to back the leadership. Then, whilst said leader was delivering his make or break press conference (more on which in a minute) she releases her resignation letter to the press in which she effectively brands him a misogynist and who generally ignored her.

She reveals that she's only been invited to attend cabinet once since last October and not even to the very meeting about the upcoming European elections, so you can see why wouldn't necessarily want to continue in a role which does indeed look like window dressing. Good luck to Lady Kinnock.

I appreciate that Flint has had to defend her expenses claims and that in saying one thing and doing something else she's simply underscored the duplicitousness we all feel politicians are capable of. But you have to admire the guts, haven't you? To keep a completely straight face then sticking in the textual knife? As far back as that Observer interview, she denied experiencing any sexism from her colleagues. Again, I say, wow.

It reminds us that when Shakespeare created a character like Lady Macbeth he wasn't simply producing caricature, people like her can and do exist. Macbeth's wife welcomed King Duncan to the castle, offering him her hospitality, all the while thinking of the best way of persuading her husband to do the bloody deed. Caroline Flint hasn't committed murder, but she has pulled the limelight away from her old boss.

When the breaking news ticker on BBC News should be talking up the cabinet reshuffle, instead it's quoting choice cuts from the letter, the bits about "two-tier government" and "female window dressing". Perhaps Gordon Brown should have worked harder to keep a strategist like this on side, instead of keeping her, in her words, "in a peripheral capacity".

You'll always get two questions.

The one black mark against Flint, is that though I admire the strategy, like the whole damn lot them, it's not inspirational. I want my politicians to be inspirational. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have the potential, which is why I'm backing them, but even they don't have the heart punching, blood rushing, pulse racing ability to build hope of a Barack Obama when he's at full pelt.

Watching Gordon Brown at his press news conference was like seeing a car crash in slow motion (which I know is a cliche and not a very nice one, but I can't think of anything else right now, I'm not terribly inspirational myself you see which is why I want someone else who is). Just at the moment when he should be getting us all onside, making us care for him again, he's looking terribly small behind his podium.

There's a point when Gordon Brown makes a speech where suddenly the words stop having meaning. He'll throw in synecdoches (thanks Charlie Kauffman) like schools and hospitals covering whole issues, words like 'package' and 'future', but the internal tissue that knits them together lacks substance. Somewhere along the line, he might as well be a character in Spike Milligan's short film Rhubarb, Rhubarb for all the sense he's making.

He has presentation issues. During the Q&A, he seemed obsessed about how many questions journalists were asking, berating the likes of Nick Robinson for asking a follow-up even though, in actuality they were simply trying to get a straight answer for the first one. He persistently thumped the podium, which now and then rocked, inadvertantly underscoring the flimsiness of what he was saying.

As you can read, I'm becoming increasingly angry about all of this. I'm not a particularly sweary person, honestly, I'm not, but whenever yet another politician appears on the radio or television refusing to answer a direct question, reframing an answer, all I can do is swear. "Fucking answer the question", I'll shout (and especially when they start blaming the media even though they got themselves into their own mess).

Basically, we're screwed. When Gordon Brown eventually goes (and under normal circumstances he should), there's no one to take his place, at least no one better (better than that?). The Tories will win the next election either way and they're going to be just as rubbish, and all along, those of us who are desperate for something to believe in are going to continue to be sidelined in favour of greed and make-do and mend and the usual lies and spin.

I'm very tired. And emotional.

I worked the election yesterday. The day seemed longer than usual, though the turn-out in our area was rather higher than in most European elections. There's not very much to do in the fifteen hours you spend at the polling station; I mostly read a book, ate sandwiches and listened to the rhythms of the school in which we were based, remembering the routine of the day from when I was that young.

I can't tell you what the political temperature was like; some said it was their duty to come out and vote, others voiced their concerns about this party or that. Some I suppose you could put in the mature category said it was the first time they'd come out and vote and we had to describe how to do that, which is the opposite of what some journalists were predicting -- that disenfranchised voters would stay at home. For these people, the act of defiance was to vote despite everything that is happening, which all to the good (depending on who they voted for, obviously).


One-Ten said...

I'm not sure Caroline Flint is as clever a strategist as you suggest. Her departure would have had far more impact 12 hours earlier. I'm left with the suspicion she was hoping to get a proper cabinet job and only when it became clear she wasn't going to get one, despite her "loyalty" in not following Hazel Blears, did she decide to stick the knife in. By that time Gordon Brown had shored things up, leaving Flint too little leverage to make a significant impact (though she's given the Saturday papers some nice window dressing for their front page stories).

And here's Paxman refusing to let William Hague reframe a direct question:

Stuart Ian Burns said...

At this point, I'm even suspecting that she did that interview and had those photos taken knowing that she was going to resign at some point and that they'd come in very handy -- if she hadn't resigned and they didn't exist Brown would surely have been on the cover instead. See, clever.

One-Ten said...

Can't help thinking that knocking Gordon Brown off the cover is to his benefit :)

Stuart Ian Burns said...

Perhaps. After all, they'd probably have used a shot of him looking depressed/annoyed/old as the hills.