Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: The Political Drinker

If, as seems increasingly likely, Ken Livingstone loses the London mayoral election his campaign and supporters must surely be included in some sort of text book to show how to lose an election you really ought to win. I would bore myself were I to indulge in a lengthy analysis of the utter folly of basing a campaign upon things people clearly know about and do not care about (Boris is right-wing! He's a Tory! Who sometimes says silly things!)) while pretending that asking questions about his rather questionable associates is some sort of evil plot.

However, for Trollied Tuesday purposes there is one rather obvious line of attack. Boris Johnson has given up drinking for the duration of his election campaign. It should be obvious that a man prepared to stoop to such low, disreputable tactics in order to win an election is not to be trusted (especially one who knows perfectly well what in vino veritas means).

The Salamander Sultan's own, well-documented fondness for a refreshing breakfast-time whisky should give him a clear advantage over his opponent by allowing him to stand as the drinker's friend (it would also give him the advantage of allowing him to distance himself from an increasingly unpopular government; they order these things much better in Scotland). But in a good example of the missing an easy target in favour of blasting away repeatedly at one's own foot to which I alluded earlier, Livingstone's warning that his opponent would take London back to the 17th century shied away from the obvious conclusion.

Livingstone should stand as the 18th century candidate: an age in which the most progressive politicians were unabashed libertines such as Fox and Wilkes. An age in which dandies, rakes, courtesans and gamblers played a central role in politics.

And, rather than the aggrieved whining which greeted the news of Ken's faith in the restorative powers of alcohol, he should copy the example of the leading Tory of the late 18th century: William Pitt.

Pitt, too, found alcohol an excellent restorative. It was said of him as a youth that:

The boy was always weak and ill, and the only remedy which appeared efficacious was port wine, which the young Pitt consumed in quantities which would have made drunk a grown man. Such a regime would have killed most boys, but Pitt thrived on it and by the time he was 15 his health had improved considerably.

As Prime Minister, Pitt – as is pretty well-known – was a three-bottles-a-day man. (Not quite as impressive as it sounds, because the bottles used in his day contained no more than half a pint). However, he was hardly unusual in this, and it would be difficult to argue that the drinking culture of the age somehow coarsened or cheapened the political discourse of the time. In fact, one could argue that drinking represents one of the things about Britain's political culture which most impresses foreigners.

If London's mayoral candidates continue to shun the finer traditions of British politics the only possible response (apart from a Livingstonian breakfast) is to revive another tradition from 18th century elections. To pelt the candidates with ordure, stones and dead cats.



Blogger Quink said...

I thought Boris looked a bit circumspect. I daresay he'll make up for it on 1st May.

I seem to recall Pitt threw up behind the Speaker's chair before making one of the best speeches of his career. If only Gordon Brown could behave with such derring-do he probably wouldn't be the complete laughing stock of a PM that he now is.

7:35 am  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Good idea, trouble is, it's not nearly so easy to lay hands on a dead cat these days. Unless one first copies the French.


11:09 am  
Blogger bill said...

Quink, I'm afraid the throwing up was more likely due to nerves before delivering a major speech - I think he was delivering the Budget, in fact. Given that Pitt was in his early 20s then it's understandable, I suppose.

Puss, there are plenty of cats killed by cars and the like (I remember one lying outside my flat for a few days a couple of years ago). The authorities tend to have them removed before they get pelted with them. I suppose half drunk cans of Stella would do at a pinch.

12:40 pm  

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