Friday, January 8, 2010

Just in time...

... Malcolm recalled the full version of Enoch Powell's axiom:
All political careers, unless they are cut off at some happy juncture, end in failure.
That subordinate conditional clause is often forgotten.

Mark Lawson's neat political fantasy, Idlewild, has former President John Kennedy, thirty years on from the failed assassination in Dallas, lamenting that he did not qualify for an airport to honour his name. In that alternative America, JFK has survived to reap the ignominy of his policies: the legacy that LBJ carried through, and which destoyed his (and, less deservedly, Hubert Humphrey's) reputation.

What drives people to this self-harm?

What is there in "power" that makes it such a heady brew? Disraeli, on achieving the premiership in 1868, declared:
I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.
His two occupancies of the job lasted just under seven years. Relevant to how this post is going to develop, when his wife, Mary Anne, died of a vicious stomach cancer, Disraeli -- despite his adulteries, despite her nature and hysterias -- was devastated:
I am totally unable to meet the catastrophe.
Perhaps it is equally true that all political careers must end in pain. Who can forget the rabbit-in-the-headlights, tearful, traumatized Margaret Thatcher, driven away from Downing Street (as right)?

I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
That's E.M.Forster.

Which brings Malcolm circuitously to the present plight of Peter Robinson, MP, MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland.

There are all degrees of misery here.

Yet Robinson seems intent, for the time being, on brazening it out.

So far he has been prepared to expose his wife of forty years to ridicule and humiliation. Surely, even at the cost of his own position, a compromise could have been achieved? It must have been possible to exclude the salacious aspects of Iris Robinson's private life? What kind of man, of a husband, puts an ailing wife through this? Yes, in due course, the gory details might have come out; but by then the Robinsons could have been ensconced in their Florida villa, well away from publicity.

And he went through that charade of an interview in the hope of ... what?

Has he some conceit of being irreplaceable? Of political immortality? Somehow there comes to Malcolm's mind two images:
  • One is from Robert Bolt's script for A Man for All Seasons. Thomas More, betrayed in court by the perjury of his former associate, Richard Rich, accosts Rich wearing a new-minted chain of office as Chancellor for Wales:
Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?
  • The other is Robert Graves's catch-penny, but readable, follow-up: Claudius the God. Like many second-rate writings, it transformed into gripping television. In the BBC series, episode 11, the aged Claudius is a broken man, his wife exposed and executed, his imperium a hollow pretence. His palace slaves try to console him by the news that he has been deified: he is a god in Colchester, in barbarous distant Britain. Claudius chuckles in self-mockery.
Time and the tides of change do for all of us.
Expecially politicians. Sphere: Related Content

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