Saturday, 18 October 2008

In Truth, It Was Mainly For The Wine

Last night I went to my first Liberal Democrat fundraising dinner. It's odd to think of myself as a donor to a political party, up until now I've always preferred just sniping at people from the sidelines. I'm still not sure I actually want to sign up yet, though since my biggest problem with the Liberal Democrats is that they're insufficiently liberal, it's not immediately clear what plausible alternative I have, short of moving to Scandinavia. Given T's meteoric rise through the party ranks, though, and continuing in my totally self-appointed role of Jiminy Cricket.

It's probably worth mentioning that Menzies Campbell is a good deal more engaging in real life than he is on television. Speaking to a crowd is very different to speaking to TV viewers, and he was obviously much more comfortable with the former (of course, it probably helps that he knew we all more or less agree with him to begin with, to the extent to which any group of liberals ever agree about anything ever).

Thinking back, it occurs to me that this was my first ever experience of a political speech from outside the US (other than watching Tony Blair's farewell to the nation, which was more the oratorical equivalent of a smug group hug than anything else). Truth be told, I was less than impressed. In the main, all the speech consisted of (and I acknowledge that this was an after-dinner speech and not the Gettysburg Address) was a reminder that Labour are in trouble, particularly over the credit crunch [1], and that the Tories are "A mile wide and an inch deep" (a much more lyrical way of saying "Still run by turds no matter what the pudgy-faced monkey at the front keeps saying") and that's all good for us [2]. Not exactly the fiery rhetoric of the a lifelong liberal that I was hoping for.

In all honesty, I'm not sure what else I was expecting. There are two reasons I could never manage a career in politics. The first is that I'm basically psychologically incapable of not telling people when their political opinions aren't desperately stupid. The more important reason, though, is that I could never put up with all the banal hand-shaking vacant-grinning bullshit I would have to wade through in order to get to the point where I could actually make any difference to anyone at all. Telling a room filled with liberals that Labour and the Tories are, like, really bad and junk definitely comes under that heading. Maybe I've just spent so long defending my corner against the centrists and the right-leaning that I didn't realise that hanging out with large groups of liberals would be so... sedate.

I actually had a chance to challenge Campbell about this later in the evening (he was kind enough to allow Dr L and I to grill him for a few minutes, which inevitably led to a discussion about American politics, I really should seek help for my addiction). I was a little drunk at the time (if you can believe that) so my usual razor-sharp skills of debate and verbiage were somewhat blunted, but my question essentially boiled down to how he makes the choice between extolling the virtues of his own stall, as oppose to pointing out that all the other stalls are shit and smell of shit. [3]

"Political experience," he replied. Can't argue with that, I guess.

So, I have now wormed my way into the political establishment in the most useless way possible. Campbell also said he'd introduce me to Senator Lieberman, if we were ever in the same room together (which one assumes is a fairly remote possibility), so one day I can take over the States as well. Join the revolution, my friends. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

[1] And given they aren't to blame for that and are actually dealing with it pretty well, as far as I can tell (and I acknowledge that I know very little about economics), exhorting liberals to take advantage of it, whilst an eminently sensible political strategy, did make me feel a little like a circling vulture.

[2] Though bad for a lot of other people, potentially including the country as a whole, since as always we're more likely to get smallpox than we are to get a majority.

[3] I also had to correct him on referring to the Isles of Scilly as the "Scilly Isles". It was for his own good; if he tried pulling that shit in Cornwall they would beat him to death with pasties.

No comments: