‘Celebrating’ is a good thing to do, and we seem to be multiplying occasions for it. Birthdays (mine is on Monday- no cards or presents, thank you all the same); Christmas; births and marriages. All are worthy of celebration. Halloween now seems to be a joyous celebration as does the ritual burning of Guy Fawkes on 5 November. We even celebrate someone’s long and happy life at their funeral. Should we really be ‘celebrating’ Remembrance Sunday, so much as ‘marking it’. “Celebrate good times c’mon…”
Why then, is it that we tend to despise “celebrities” so much, especially ‘B-Listers’ and those desperately trying to escape the jungle. We admire a ‘personality’ – some like David Attenborough even become National Treasures. We long for leadership and role models; but we dislike pompous self-regard, are always keen to ‘knock people off their perches’ and strongly respect those who are ‘down to earth, common-sense sort of folk.’ We tend to resent the cigar-chomping billionaire as he swishes past in his Rolls Royce. “What gave him the right to be so rich?” we ask; unlike our American cousins whose reaction is “if you work hard, you too could have a gold-plated Cadillac.”
Some of these mixed emotions are becoming ever more commonplace in Parliament, and politics, and may be harming respect for our Parliamentary democracy as a result. Matt Hancock plainly thinks he’s a ‘celeb’ and warmly deserved being chucked out by the Conservative Party. What a plonker. Those who self-importantly lord it over each other are asking to be brought down a peg or two, and there are plenty of sacked ministers around who prove it. They should remember that the people you see on the way up are the same ones you will see on the way back down again.
However, the cult of the personality –‘celeb politics’ - seems to me to have gone too far. It increasingly looks as if we are not so much interested in what the new PM, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary are doing from a policy perspective to deal with the very many major problems which confront them. Instead we are increasingly concerned about their personality, their background, their perceived failings or foibles. It’s a Strictly Come Dancing approach to great National matters of state, with routine instant phone-ins adjudicating on whether or not the Budget has got it right; or what we can do about the migrant crisis.
We need to get back to the old concept of a five-year Parliament, during which the Party in Government do what they have to do - some of which may well be unpopular with some or all of the electorate; and who will then be judged at the following General Election as to whether or not overall they have got things right, or at least get them more right than the other lot. Let’s get away from Celebrity Big Brother, get you out of the Come Dancing jungle; and get back to long, cold, intelligent consideration of policy and politics. Ours’ should be a carefully considered, modest and sober profession. Celebrity (and too much celebration) undermines it.