Jeremy Hardy thinks… about characters

'Today’s politicians are boring. Perhaps that’s why they get away with so much'

February 17, 2014 · 2 min read

It’s months since Godfrey Bloom ruined the UKIP conference: one sexist joke overshadowing the all‑encompassing bigotry of the rest of the event. But he still pops up in the media, one of those colourful, loose‑cannon, blah-blah figures that journalists like because they’re ‘off‑message’. People tire of Farage already. The booze and fags are wearing thin, as he flaps around, trying too hard to be liked.

Today’s politicians are boring. Perhaps that’s why they get away with so much. Who can be arsed to hate Grant Shapps, a man whose personality is so lacking that he had to invent another one? Work must have been a joy for Mike Yarwood. For Rory Bremner, it is surely a grind. Hague is worth impersonating and might buy a round. Ken Clarke has shaken off his history to become an occasionally-undiplomatic uncle, bumbling around in a likeable daze like Paddington Bear after a car accident.

But who else is there? Even retired politicos such as Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson are interchangeable planks. Ann Widdecombe is a character, in the sense that it would be better if she were fictional, but that’s about it for funny-looking people with funny voices.

So professional interviewers must long for a quirky bigot: ‘Please God, not Chuka Umunna again – what the hell am I going to ask him?’ Far better the ravings of right‑wingers who pose as anti-establishment rebels. Journalism itself is full of people like that, ranters who tell us you can’t say anything these days, while being amply rewarded for spewing whatever filth they like.

But whether you love or hate the pantomime reactionaries, they catch the eye, while a grey parade of functional dullards do their evil work in semi-obscurity. Gove desperately tries to get our attention, but is so uncharismatic even he fails.


The radical potential of the Corbyn project

Even worse than failing to win office would be winning it while unprepared for the realities of government. Christine Berry considers what Labour needs to do to avoid the fate of Syriza in Greece

The World Transformed 2019

The World Transformed, FYI

Red Pepper’s picks of The World Transformed festival, in Brighton from 21-24 September

photo showing posters for twt on colourful wall

Take part in building a people’s manifesto for the movement

Winning elections is not enough. To transform society we need to involve the people in policy making, argue Kerem Dikerdem and Annie Quick


photo of empty school desks and large window in classroom

This is how we build a National Education Service in the UK

Chloe Tomlinson lays out the battle lines for a more egalitarian, democratic and holistic education system. Essential reading ahead of The World Transformed education sessions

Critical tradition: Tribune then and now

As the relaunched Tribune prepares its second issue, Hilary Wainwright assesses the history of the paper and the left Labour MPs who rallied around it – and the lessons it offers today’s Labour left

Labour and reselection: the panic last time

As anti-Corbyn Labour MPs kick up a fuss in the press about possible reselections, Hilary Wainwright looks back at the strikingly similar alarm in the parliamentary establishment in the 1970s and 1980s