Je ne regrette rien

by Apr 09, 2012 No Comments

Regrets? We’ve all had more than a few.

However, I was surprised to read that yon Baroness Thatcher had wished she’d never gone into politics.

Now I’m not going to slag the old burd off.

It’s easy-peasy and, whatever she’s done, she’s in her dotage noo and entitled to some ease and peace.

To put things in perspective, she said that if she “had her time over again”, she’d have done something else – I think she mentioned something about plumbing – and that she regretted the pressure the whole ghastly business had put on her family. Fair point, I feel.

Given the chance, I’d change everything in my life – particularly my football team – but we plod on, with our footwear gradually mutating into tram wheels directing us along the rails to oblivion. Forgive the demented allusion. It is brought on by living in Edinburgh.

But you have to wonder about people going into politics. Perhaps they feel strongly about things, though I cannot see this being the case in some parties today, which appear to stand for nothing. You read of strange young persons becoming involved with these deadbeats and get the feeling (because, often, they say it outright) that they’re only doing it because they always fancied politics as a “career”. You sense that the actual choice of party didn’t matter much, as long as they could stravaig aboot the corridors of power carrying a portfolio.

It’s a big suit thang. And suits don’t come much bigger than those worn in politics. But politics isn’t a career. It’s a sentence of varying lengths.

It has been well said that all political careers end in failure. Possibly, all careers do. But maybe not George Galloway’s, he being a man always liable to pop up just when you thought the coast was clear.

As someone ever grateful for some colour in politics, I was delighted by the surprise result in Bradford Daft-East, and look forward to hearing again the Gorgeous One’s orotund patter, recently characterised by one astute commentator as “faux Edwardian”. Certainly, George’s sentences are of varied length, but they’re rarely dull.

I can’t imagine George regretting anything, not even the cat costume or the indefatigability saluting palaver. Most of us can’t even say the word ‘indefatigability’, so George’s result in just getting the word oot his mooth was remarkable. Given that he was standing in front of the late Bertie Hussein – was it Bertie?

How quickly we forget – at the time, you’d have thought he’d have been nervous. If he’d stood there saying, “I salute your indegaff … infatible … indegitable, er, indefoggitable … I salute your inflatable …”, old Comrade Hussein might have turned to an aide and said: “Chop this daft Scotchman’s heid aff, would you?” But George, unlike his heid, is a one-off.

He’s the exception that breaks the rules. Look at previous First Ministers of Scotia Minor.

Jack McConnell: remembered only for a peculiar kilt. Wendy Alexander: I can’t even remember what she’s remembered for. These are good, honest people, who gave it their best shot – and missed. Indeed, the target marked “political success” has barely a mark on it.

It’s controversial to say it, I know, but I believe politics has something to do with power. And it’s possibly the prospect of power rather than politics per se that attracts those and such as those. Power is an aphrodisiac, though I think you can get a cream for that nowadays.

Power, it seems, transforms non-entities into gods. As a journalist, I used to dread the prospect of interviewing celebrities. I had to tell myself that they were just normal people who had become famous, and that is indeed what they turned out to be. Politicians almost come into the same bracket as personalities.

However, the fact that they talk tripe on autopilot soon brings them down to size.

I just watched an interview with an MSP who never answered any questions, generally resorting to the promise that he was going to take the matter under advisement seriously and acknowledging that there were a variety of opinions about it (though, as a politician, he didn’t have one himself). You couldn’t blame him, really. Anyone opening their mouth with a spontaneous, heartfelt opinion these days is likely to find themselves crucified.

In that respect, politicians are more prisoners than guards. Indeed, if they reach high office, as did the burd at the start of this piece, their families can find themselves shackled too. There must be a better way of making a living than that.

Doubtless, there are people out there who regret not going into politics. As they stack the shelves at Lidl, they think what might have been. If only they’d toed the party line; or hadn’t poked that voter in the eye; or hadn’t said at the candidates’ interview that the Barnett formula was a shampoo.

We all make mistakes, and a political career is generally a bit of a doozie. But what would old age be like if you didn’t have a few regrets to look back on and savour?

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