Friday, 18 October 2013

Pointless Politicians

An edition of the TV game show Pointless this week had a round based on 100 people naming as many politicians as they could remember who had served in the Labour cabinets of either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. That is, any cabinet member between 1997 and 2010.

The game, of course, is for contestants to find someone who wasn't named by anyone, so I came up with Ivor Richard, thinking he was suitably obscure. But I needed have aimed so low. It's not a scientifically selected sample, but even so the results suggest just how completely uninterested in politics the public are.

Top of the list was John Prescott, named by just 15 out of the 100 people. Then came:

Ed Miliband - 13 out of 100
Ed Balls - 13 out of 100
David Miliband - 12 out of 100
Jack Straw - 7 out of 100
Alistair Darling - 7 out of 100
Peter Mandelson - 4 out of 100
David Blunkett - 4 out of 100
Clare Short - 2 out of 100
Mo Mowlam - 1 out of 100
Margaret Beckett - 1 out of 100

We never found out whether my nominee, Ivor Richard, made it into the pointless category, because there were simply too many names to go through. But amongst those who rated not a single mention were: Andrew Adonis, Andy Burnham, Jack Cunningham, Charlie Falconer, Patricia Hewitt, Derry Irvine, Donald Dewar, Frank Dobson, Geoff Hoon, Margaret Jay, Alan Milburn and James Purnell.

I believe this is what's known as a reality check. Alternatively, all those politicians, so convinced that they're very important people indeed, might think of it as being - in Rupert Murdoch's phrase - the most humble day of their lives. Thirteen years in power, and hardly anyone cares or remembers who any of you were.

I'm reminded of an exchange in Pamela Hansford Johnson's great novel An Error of Judgement, way back in 1962.

'Could it really be that I am the only person in the world bored stiff, bored pallid, by politics?' a character asks, and is immediately put straight by another: 'No, we all are, those of us who aren't politicians. That's why we're the prey of the silly men, the posturing men. They don't get bored, not ever. We are the victims of their professional excitement.'

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