The hustings – a short story

‘Welcome to a packed town hall in Birmingham for what promises to be a titanic battle between these 4 candidates who seek to be leader of the opposition and possibly the future resident of number 10,’ the new political editor said as she eagerly introduced her first big political event. 
‘Lets introduce the candidates. Candidates, you have a time limit of 45 seconds to introduce yourselves to our audience.’
‘My name is candidate A and I seek to become your prime minister. In these tough times for all hard working families, we need to create robust growth in our economy by promoting more green shoots. We mustn’t be afraid of telling hard truths, and the truth is we can’t just oppose. We need to change our party to change our nation into an aspiration nation. We need to bring back aspiration to our nation. I believe I can bring this aspiration.’
‘Hello and thank you for watching, I’m candidate B and I aspire to work hard to improve the lives of all those hard working families across the country. I grew up in a hard working household and I know that hard work should pay off. I aspire to bring back aspiration.’
‘Good evening, I’m Candidate c . I say that it’s not enough to aspire while I was a minister the last time we were in government I opened sure start centres that work hard to support hard working families. We need aspiration of action not just to talk about aspiration.’
‘I’m Candidate d . This unprecedented financial crash has changed the rules of the game. I seek aspiration for all not just the privileged few. I also want to work hard to oppose these loathsome policies and represent those working hard for their families. Austerity isn’t just an abstract concept and neither will aspiration be. ‘

The crowd applauded, the kind of applause that seemed to convey a mentality of ‘ I better clap or else it would look very impolite.’
Caroline from Kent asked the first question. ‘What would you consider to be your priorities?’

Candidate A’s eyes lit up as she responded. ‘My priority is aspiration. I seek to create a society where all hard working families can aspire to live a better life. Though we also face some hard truths and we need todo whatever it takes to aspire to grow those green shoots of our economy.’
Candidate B fluttered his eye lashes as he pondered his response. ‘I agree with candidate A as I too aspire to bring back aspiration. As you all know (yes we do know I thought), I grew up in a hard working household and I aspire to make this country work hard for the hardworking. I also agree somewhat about the hard truths…..’
Sorry to interrupt,’ candidate D said in a loud voice, ‘ but candidate B, didn’t you state the other day that you agree with me that you would seek to oppose harsh policies of the government and oppose austerity?’
‘Yes I did but I also agree with candidate A too, this is my aspirational vision.’ Candidate B responded, seemingly oblivious to the contradiction in his soundbite response.

Candidate C spoke in a calm but dispassionate manner. ‘My priority is to begin the work I started when I was a minister which included sure start, and other measures to help (you guessed it) hard working families. I call this aspirating to act.’
Candidate D added in his loud voice, ‘I seek to reopen the mines as I feel this is a great way to aspire to create a fairer society. I aspire to work hard for those families who work hard….’
It carried on in this vein after many questions asked. I switched off. Not one question answered. I wanted to be inspired, but I was just tired of the same vacuous slogans of aspiration and hard working families. Tired of keyboard warriors for each candidate ripping lumps out of each other.

As I watched the show unfold, I was reminded of the end of George Orwell’s Animal farm. I looked from candidate A to D, from D to A, but already it was impossible to say which was which. 

A new politics

A new politics

We need a grown up politics
Not a Punch and Judy
‘He said she said’,
Playground politics.

We need substance over style,
We see bluster,
Filibuster, while we dream,
We call for
A new
A real politics.

We need a change,
A revolution in thinking politics,
A ‘get things done’ politics.
A politics truly of the people
for the people,
‘Not just for ambitious people’ politics.
A new politics.


Beware ye of the demagogue
rabble rouser.
He may shout
play on fear,
tell you want you want to hear.
Look closer,
nothing there but hot air.

Beware ye of the demagogue,
From crisis they spring,
A sirens song they sing,
Quick to find a scapegoat,
They blind you with their lies.

Beware ye of the demagogue
rabble rouser.
He may be everywhere,
He may shout
play on fear,
tell you want you want to hear.
Look closer,
nothing there but hot air.