Thursday, October 11, 2012

Politicians and limestone scenery

click photo to enlarge
It increasingly seems to me that anyone who puts themselves forward to be a politician, through that very act, demonstrates their unsuitability for the job. It could be the ageing process taking its toll on me or perhaps it's the filter of the press distorting my perception of politics, but I get the distinct impression that few people today go into politics because they are serious people who have deeply held convictions and because they want to change the world for the better, improving the lives of all. And those that do rarely make it to the important posts. All too often going into politics appears to be an entirely self-serving act where egotism and personal aggrandisement come before principle.

Two of the most prominent politicians in Britain today are the prime minister, David Cameron, and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, neither of whom are appropriate for the job that they hold, and both of whom daily broadcast that fact through their utterances. At the recent Conservative Party conference Johnson is quoted as saying that if he can run London he can run Britain. The implication is that he is an effective mayor of London who has the skills to run the country. Neither is true, as anyone who has watched Johnson's actions and, more importantly, lack of action in recent years will realise. That he is a clever publicist capable of making himself liked and elected through careful management of his public persona is undoubtedly true. However, he appears to have few of the essential qualities of an effective politician. Unfortunately, as David Cameron has demonstrated, today these are not necessary to secure the top job.

At the same conference that Johnson made his remarkable assertion David Cameron trotted out a line that is deeply revealing of the public relations based muddle-headedness at the heart of many of his speeches, statements that have a baleful influence on government policy or, more often, are simply forgotten once they are deemed to have completed their "sound-bite" purpose. He said, "I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it." This half-baked line is more revealing than he thought. Through it he wanted us to ignore his privileged upbringing (and perhaps the fact that he never needed to strive) and suggest that the opportunities he had in life can and should be made widely available. Despite being the recipient of what some consider the best education that money can buy he doesn't seem to have realised that, by definition, privilege ceases to exist if it extends widely. As an aim it is absurd because it is impossible. However, the meaning I took from it was that he is determined, at a time when the majority of society is having to tighten its collective belt, to spread the largesse that he enjoys to "his" social group. And, through the government's policies this is precisely what he is doing.

I sometimes think that my views about our present leadership are too coloured by my own political beliefs. However, I was encouraged to think otherwise today when I read Max Hastings' occasional column in The Guardian. I normally have few views that coincide with his, but as someone who knows Boris Johnson well (having been his editor) it was revealing to hear him say: "He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect, save as a superlative exhibitionist. He is bereft of judgment, loyalty and discretion. Only in the star-crazed, frivolous Britain of the 21st century could such a man have risen so high, and he is utterly unfit to go higher still." Perhaps he'll now give us his views on David Cameron.

All of which has nothing much to do with this photograph of the carboniferous limestone landscape of Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar above Settle in North Yorkshire. The pictured cliffs, caves, boulders and scree were my childhood playground. When I crave release from the cares and woes of the world a walk through these hills accompanied by only my wife and the cry of the jackdaw and curlew soon puts me right.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On