What a week for political communications. ‘Pastygate’ is a uniquely 21st century scandal which, regardless of what it reveals about the government’s relationship with the everyday person, certainly says a great deal about the effectiveness of its PR machine. At the same time, whilst Ed Miliband has arguably had a decent week for once, the Labour party has been shaken by a much publicised defeat in Bradford West at the hands of none other than downright weird man-cat George Galloway.
First, those pasties. For me, the entire affair was summed up by Paxman’s expression to camera on Wednesday’s Newsnight. The look I’m talking about came as Tory MP Nadim Zahawi defended his party leader’s inability to recall the precise location at which he last enjoyed a pasty. Comprising disdain, crumpled bemusement and downright remorse, Paxman’s face radiated not only scepticism toward a party unable to connect with its voters, but disbelief at the fact that this had been deemed a suitable topic for interview.
The fault of journalists? Perhaps, in part, but a journalist has a responsibility to chase the clearest and most appealing line. It is the job of Westminster PR pixies to ensure that there is sufficient fodder available for a higher calibre of debate. It is also their job to vet soundbites and media brief speakers, something it’s hard to believe happened (though it did) before Cameron deemed himself to be a ‘pasty man’.
The end result of Pasty Gate is a beyond all reasonable doubt confirmation of the fact that we are ruled by an established elite. Something we knew, yes, but something we know a bit more clearly and memorably now. Something also that contributed to that other shock story of the week, the election of George Galloway in Bradford West.
I can’t pretend to be able to explain quite why Galloway made it with so many voters. For me, his performance on CBB alone should be enough to prevent anyone placing him in any position of power ever again. My enduring image of him is of a man lying with his head in Rula Lenska’s lap, meowing like a character dreamed up by Chris Morris.
However, we can perhaps draw two points from his victory. Firstly, an increasingly alienated public are seeking desperately after any political organisation which can provide them with an identifiable face. Often, unfortunately, this comes in the form of single-issue, extremist politics. Secondly, mainstream politics is gradually becoming so ridiculous that pretending to be a cat on national television looks comparatively reasonable.
We can only hope that such antics have one happy effect: however ridiculous the issue, the populous are engaging with politics. The results may not be useful now, but this is surely one road out of the current reality TV tabloid hell we find ourselves in. For now, I can only deliver the following advice to the jeering masses (apologies to Siegfried Sassoon): “slip home and pray/you’ll never know/the hell where youth and laughter go”.