Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before her..it’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.

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32 thoughts on “Bring Back Gladstone”

  1. Well, I’m sure there will be much nodding of heads in several countries, not least Gladstone’s England.
    Trudeau Fils looks off to a hopeful start, so perhaps others will see that they can make a difference. It’s the *indifference* that usually makes us suffer.
    And that Costa Rican anthem? In my opinion as bloody awful as all the others!

    1. Share the suffering, that’s my motto…if I have to listen to it on the 7 o’clock bus why not everyone else? It could be worse…have you heard the Italian one which asks ‘Brothers of Italy where is the victory?’
      I too like the look of Trudeau fils….

      1. Trudeau fils? Really?! I know he was the only alternative because Stephen Harper had to go, but I don’t think there is much substance to Trudeau. I’m afraid that I was amused by the story about Trudeau ringing David Suzuki to get his blessing and Suzuki being so irritated by him that he called him a twerp over the phone.

  2. I agree that people need to vote. You can buy every minute of ad time and space there is, but if people vote for someone else, someone else gets the job. So maybe throwing in a few classes in critical thinking wouldn’t hurt. Numerous thinking voters: what a concept!

    1. Watch out for the knock on the door in the early hours of the morning…you’re close to heresy there!
      Voters capable of discerning bullshit…what can you be thinking of!

  3. . . to paraphrase Bill (the Bomber) Clinton, ‘It’s the system, Stupid!’ Which is now so entrenched within ‘government’ and bureaucracy that real change – even minuscule change – for the benefit of the human resources is impossible to envision. Well said (and written), Helen.

    1. And not much chance of bloody revolution either…keep people with their noses screwed down to paying the mortgage, looking for the nearest food bank or working for nothing in the empires of the rich and they’re too exhausted even to think of it – even if what passes for education these days had mentioned such a thing to them…

  4. Get elected on a platform only to find that ‘it can’t be done’ within your term of office. The next one in is blessed / stuck with the half hearted changes and wants to ammend them. Repeat ad infinitum.
    We are all in the Doo Doo.

    1. Certainly are…and when you try to climb out of it there’s always some privileged boot ready to push you down again. You need a fair few people with you in the Doo Doo to seize that boot and tug the owner of it down.

  5. I don’t think France has ever seen such an incompetent government. The only consolation is that they can’t actually do anything because all orders come from elsewhere. Heaven knows where we’d be otherwise.

    1. They seem to be doing quite well on taxes….nice one of Sarkozy to dump his successors in it by removing the half part exonerations so that some people are having to pay the sky high local taxes for the first time in their lives…just before the local elections too…

  6. A cynical but entirely accurate summary of present-day politics! Either people are in it for what they can get, or their early radicalism gradually fades, or they’re bought off by big business, or they’re too stupid to understand the big issues and cheerfully make everything worse. Intelligent, effective and incorruptible politicians are almost as rare as gold nuggets.

    Yes indeed, where is today’s Gladstone? Or today’s Clement Attlee? Or just a bunch of politicians as sensible as the Icelandic government?

    1. I suppose no one bothered to bribe them, thinking of Iceland as not counting on the global stage.

      Honest people don’t touch politics these days…and the parties would sniff them out and refuse to select them were they to apply.

  7. To be perfectly frank I think you have a far weightier selection in your local pool of hopefuls for Mayor than the US has for President at the present time and don’t get me started on France. Or England …. 🙂

    1. Looking at what is on offer..yes. I had had hopes of Melenchon but as usual the Left can’t get its act together…
      No, don’t let’s start on England! I just hope that the SNP will govern Scotland in a way which will show the rest of the U.K. how it can be done…but with their attachment to the EU I have my doubts.

  8. The effect the election of Corbyn has had on the rest of his piers and the press shows how impossible it is deemed for a non-self-seeking person to get on it politics.

  9. Is there an honest politician? Anywhere? I doubt it. I’m still furious at the results here. Although I feel it was inevitable that the party would get the majority they needed…by any means available.

  10. Aptly captured as always, Helen. So depressing that the shallow and morally corrupt in power seem to be able to peddle their self interests uninterrupted and any ‘good guy’ that appeArs on the horizon is harassed and bullied and harangued out of town. We really need more people like Corbyn to come to the fore. How on earth do we do that though? Makes you feel like giving up on the democratic process….

    1. Just what our masters want…I don’t have any ready made answers…we just have to start building communities from the bottom up – no wonder the filth want to monitor our internet use.

  11. How about getting the French Filly to stand in you election?
    That would cause an interesting argument.
    Gladstone, if only he were here today, boring or not!

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