Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine's Day: The Day British Politics was Massacred

They have a colourful phrase in American TV circles: "jumping the shark". It identifies when a series has gone past its best and begun a downhill slide. The saying originates from the episode of 'Happy Days' in which Fonzie jumps his motorbike over a tank containing a deadly shark, which is seen as the point when the series finally became unwatchable.

On Valentine's Day 2010, British politics jumped its own shark when ITV broadcast Piers Morgan's interview with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Regardless of one's opinion of the participants, the premise and execution of the interview proves that the political process in this country has descended into the realms of the soap opera, or worse, pantomime.

Ignoring such hard-hitting questions as "how did you propose to your wife" and "are you a member of the mile-high club", the main story from the interview was that Gordon Brown was deeply upset by the death of his child. Just to ram the point home, the director cut away to close-ups of Sarah Brown, who is sitting in the audience.

I have the greatest sympathy for the Browns, just as I have for any parent whose child dies, but to go on TV and to agree to answer questions on the subject just to make political capital is, frankly, abhorrent.

Rumour has it that Conservative leader David Cameron is also in talks with ITV regarding a similar interview. Cameron, too, has suffered the tragic loss of a child. His son Ivan had cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which caused him significant disability until his death last year at the age of six.

It's horrifying to think that the leaders of the two main political parties are engaged in some form of oneupmanship over the personal tragedies they have suffered, in order to win the sympathy vote ahead of the proper polls.

Where have the great statesmen gone? Where are the leaders who can rise above such venal behaviour and present a set of coherent policies to take the country out of recession?

Perhaps the sharks ate them.