I really am struggling to be surprised by anything that happens in today’s politics: a fundamentally socialist party representative is doing better than one has in decades, a literal Wotsit has been elected President of the Unites States, Boris Johnson is a real person who exists on the same mortal plane as me- the possibilities really are endless. However, something that does confound me is that in this day of apparent progression, politics continues to present in such a childish manner.
Name-calling generally goes out of style once you leave the playground, there’s no one to ‘tell on you’ anymore and the incessant adult chanting of ‘sticks and stones’ really sucks the fun out of calling someone a ‘dickhead.’ Apparently though, the appeal of infantile name-calling as an expression of opinion is still around in 2017 politics. Scrolling through the Guardian today, I came across an article about Charlie Mullins (a Conservative party donor) causing outrage leading to a forced apology from the BBC. What did he do? Launder money, download child pornography? Nope, he called Jeremy Corbyn a ‘twat.’
I’d like to say that it’s the child in me that finds this funny, but really it’s the adult recognising the absolute absurdity of a situation like this. The justification for this inappropriate language is that Brexit (the topic in question) is a topic that Mullins is very “passionate” about. Great…so? You would think that by the age of 65, one would have mastered the art of controlling their own emotions and the consequent reactions; alas, it seems to be appropriate to regress back to the age of thirteen, fitting right in with the kids at home playing Call of Duty still in their school shirts, shouting, “ay twat, I’ll fuck your mum,” into a headset.
An apology has been issued by the BBC and by Mullins himself, but that doesn’t erase the core issue here: that it happened in the first place. Immaturity and heckling of these sorts has become a “distinguished tradition” in politics according to Michael White, former political editor of the Guardian. In his article, he highlights the differences between heckling and straight-up abuse in politics, more specifically the houses of Parliament. The fact that there’s so many instances (bearing in mind this article was published back in 2006, prior even to Plebgate) just emphasises the size of issue- a pandemic of immaturity in those who hold powerful positions.
Plebgate must truly be my favourite of the name-calling scandals. For those who don’t remember, it was the incident in which Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, called police officers on Downing Street ‘plebs’ because they wouldn’t open the gate for him on his bike. Wow. It just summarises my whole idea of what a politician is: elitist, entitled and completely juvenile. The whole thing caused huge public anger because of all these aforementioned things, contributing to Mitchell’s resignation one month later- though I’m still not sure why people were so shocked by the fact a Tory was insulting of the working class.
For me, it functioned as a reminder that the average politician has the social awareness of a teaspoon. We’ve built a culture in which this behaviour is acceptable and forgettable from people in positions of power- their money and status exempts them from any real consequence. Can you imagine going into work, calling your manager a ‘fuckhead’ and having no backlash? I hate to bring everything back to Trump because I despise the thought of giving him the attention he craves (another sign of his childlike disposition), but his inability to act appropriately- and the way his supporters show him endless forgiveness- just hits the point back home. Politics has become childish, disgraceful.
It’s embarrassing, really- there’s countries with real problems with illness or starvation and here we are, solving our petty problems by shouting names at each other. Those with a stance of political influence should try taking their jobs seriously enough to realise that this behaviour is not only improper, but shameful too.