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The Bitch and the X-Factor of Politics!

Immigration pardon
by SS&SS

Article by Michael Knell

Well Darlings,

We’ve had the major political conferences for another year, and I’ve been scanned so many times that I now have an affinity with a can of baked beans. I feel like I am on special offer, or come free with a bottle of mineral water. Three of our seaside holiday resorts – Brighton, Bournemouth, and Blackpool – have once again been subjected to the turmoil of all the extra security needed for these events. Unless you are a resident, or have been unfortunate to visit one of these places around the time of its conference week, you cannot appreciate just how much is done to protect those attending as little of it comes through on the news bulletins.

Nothing on the television programmes will suggest to you the weeks of searching and sealing every nook and cranny that precedes these gatherings every year, nor the inconvenience suffered by many local traders as whole areas are put under siege in the hope that there will be some end financial benefit to the resorts. Undoubtedly a few businesses do make some money, big money, but overall it is very debateable whether it is all worthwhile as the inconvenience, severe loss of trade to other businesses, and the many hidden costs involved are rarely considered. But at least here in Blackpool we did see the drains around the Winter Gardens being pumped out in the search for anything untoward, and that is certainly good news for both local and visiting noses.

I did suggest to the crew of some twenty police at times performing this unenviable drain-checking task that they should also do the streets around Dickson Road as the delegates often frequent that area, but they would have none of it – I guess the plants growing out of the drains there suggest they haven’t been tampered with, and maybe the flora growing from them does add a certain natural elegance to otherwise unattractive surroundings. Besides, it might prove unforgivable to deprive any visitor wishing to play the game “Name That Smell” of their enjoyment – it may be a swaying reason for their coming here. It is quite surprising how many people actually take in great lungfuls of the stench, only to exclaim that there is nothing so beneficial as good, clean sea air. Hmm… I can usually name an idiot in one!

Travelling back to Blackpool from down south on trains sporting a goodly amount of green-flavoured delegates and media people who chose (or were forced into) this mode of transport over the car, I was amazed at some of the conversations around me. There was nothing to be heard of Sir Menzies Campbell’s pledge to give Britons legally-enforceable rights to a clean environment, nor even a word spoken of his determination to make age an issue at the next general election. Gordon Brown’s “New Labour is Blue Labour” speech, where he maybe successfully mass-hypnotised the nation into believing that neither he nor anyone else in his government had anything in the slightest to do with the disasters of the past ten years, did receive a few comments – mostly mirthful, and with a whole series of jokes about his eyesight and the way in which he “talked up” the NHS – but in the main the banter was all about Blackpool, and what to expect. It seemed everyone wanted to outdo everyone else with some horror story they had to relate about the town which, although they swore it was the truth, I have little doubt it was not.

Like everybody once told jokes about the Irish, but are not allowed to anymore because of political correctness, it seems everybody now makes Blackpool the butt of their humour. It was certainly a conversation-stopper when my travelling companions learned I actually lived in Blackpool. As a local taxpayer I may poke fun at my town and criticise it, and so may anybody who pays to come here for their holiday and is dissatisfied – but this bunch of free-loaders where everything is paid for them? One of them, a mere youngster (and very cute!), was most annoyed when he couldn’t obtain a receipt for the 30p it cost him to “spend a penny” on Manchester Piccadilly station – he should be my age and appreciate just what little value you can get for that 30p. I am eternally grateful it doesn’t cost me 30p anywhere I know or frequent in Blackpool. If you’ll pardon the crudeness, mostly our conveniences are free for a pee.

Forgive me if I digress a little here: I have to wonder why all this time after Manchester Piccadilly Station was renovated to become a clean, smart, warm and modern (albeit expensive!) rail station, the platforms that serve Blackpool and our surrounding northern areas (platforms 13 and 14) have been left as poorly-lit windswept and dirty remnants of nineteenth century travel which, like some far removed leper camp, may still only be accessed after a long hike? I kid you not, should anyone get caught short on one of these platforms it would be of little consequence whether or not they had the correct coins for that 30p entrance fee – they would never make it all that way back to civilisation. In fact, with the circa 1970 unreadable monitors still in use in this area, I suspect there are those who do not make it to anywhere at all. There! I think I’ve had my thirty-pence worth of relief now, and I feel all the better for it!

So what of the conferences this year? Was there anything to write home about? Any surprises? No, is the short answer, and really the only answer. I don’t think there was substance worthy of merit to report on from any of them. The Liberal Democrats behaved as we expected them to, enjoying all the freedoms of a party that nationally remains unlikely to be elected. Labour again stuck its flag firmly to the blue mast they adopted some ten years ago, and continued to spew out their vast reservoirs of spin which it appears people like to hear these days – even though they don’t believe a word of it is, or will ever become, true it doesn’t seem to matter to them one bit. It is a reality thing, and we all know about reality, don’t we? Television has taught us it isn’t real, but in our millions we still love to watch it. Oh, Brother! Big Brother – what have we done?

Gordon Brown saw fit to remind the world that as a Scot he is British and proud of it, and in case any of us had forgotten we were British, he mentioned it close on a hundred times in his speech. I’m guessing a grateful for his praises NHS performed the necessary surgery to ensure the words would not stick in the Prime Minister’s Scottish pharynx. It was a speech that was all things to all people, as if he had conducted a private poll in order to see exactly what every single one of us wanted, and then he promised it to us. No, there will be no U-turns required in government policy. How can there be when the past ten years have been completely written off, a line drawn under them, by the government? They didn’t happen, certainly not by them, so now there is not even anything of which we need to forgive or excuse them. Not even an illegal war. I guess it is a reality thing. I’m sure Oscar Wilde would forgive me for near stealing his words in saying: I’m not young enough to understand it.

David Cameron just came, er, on really, and he gave us all an entertaining afternoon talk. I found it was more like a one-sided chin-wag in a local pub than a political speech. It was long, unscripted, and I’ll give him it came from the heart, but it had none of the fire and thunder that is expected of a conference speech. Now I come to think of it, I don’t recall the man ever making a political speech in the sense that we expect them to be made. I am not sure he is capable, and I suspect he is far too nice a person to be a greatly successful politician – great enough to lead his party to victory at a general election. Sometimes it is not enough to just have all the right ideas – and he does seem to have a lot of good ones – it often needs that little something extra that this man has yet to find, and indeed may not actually possess. On the whole his followers seemed to be happy enough with his speech, but perhaps happy was not right for a time when needed was overwhelmed. Apparently Gordon Brown didn’t even bother to watch his opponent’s speech, he didn’t believe it to be necessary – and that, I think, says it all. Conservatives under David may not win a general election, nevertheless Labour could still lose one.

The post-conference bounces, which at one point put Labour between seven and eleven percent ahead of the Conservatives, saw the Labour lead being cut dramatically following the jolly here in Blackpool, and that despite the Prime Minister trying to steal the limelight by flying out to Iraq. I think David Cameron’s future may all depend on whether or not there is a general election before too much goes wrong for the government following this line they have drawn in the sand. If Labour were to call an early election and win with a reduced majority, as could easily happen, it would weaken Gordon Brown’s authority. However three years into the future, if they should wait, may not be a good time for Labour.

Alistair, our Darling Chancellor of the Exchequer, has had to concede: “If you look at the consensus of the economic forecasters, it would be prudent to assume that (the credit squeeze) will have some effect on us here.” That is putting it mildly. There are many who suspect things are destined to go downhill for a number of years, and if that is so the Conservatives could then win despite their leader lacking all the fire in his belly many would love to see.

Gordon Brown has a dilemma, and it will be interesting to see how he will deal with it. Like no-one else, he has all the information on hand to know just how bad the future might become for us; how great the further tax increases needed to ride out the storm that is coming. The trouble is: he knows that we know that he knows, and that will obviously have some bearing on his decision about calling an early election. Were enough people to become worried that he is worried, and calling an early election could suggest that, then it might just possibly see him lose office. It would have been a long wait for such a short journey.

Confused? Who isn’t? Perhaps this is why politics is increasingly becoming like X-Factor for so many people. Never mind the song, vote for the cutest singer. Anyway, who cares who wins? Is it even worth voting for anyone? Does it really matter? So long as we can all still laugh at the crying wannabe idiots who don’t make it, it is all good fun, isn’t it? It is reality. It is what we do today. War, poverty, immigration and refugees, law and order, climate change, people dying of infections in hospitals, the hospitals closing nearly as fast as the post offices, education standards falling and kids now being asked to mark their own exam papers, taxes rising, stealth taxes increasing, robbed pension funds unable to provide adequately for those who paid into them for a lifetime, and all the other things wrong around us today don’t really matter to a lot of people today. To deal with them would involve doing a reality check – and who wants that? We all know everything will turn out okay and everybody will live happily ever after, because the good guy with the white hat always wins in the end, doesn’t he?

Er… He does, doesn’t he?

“The Bitch!” 5/10/07.

About the Author

“The Bitch!”, a weekly UK News Review column, is hosted by the author and columnist Michael Knell. These articles appear on the Blackpool Gay Directory website, but are not usually specifically gay in content. More information on the author: http://www.michaelknell.com and on the directory: http://www.astabgay.com.

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