Julie Burchill: The older politicians get, the more they act like teenagers
Published 28/07/2010 | 00:05
Well, that didn't take long, did it? The name-calling. One minute you're drinking election night champagne out of your triumphant leader's ballet slipper – the next you're calling him a gay cowboy!
And then, to make things even more excruciatingly teenage, you claim someone else did it; "Miss, miss, it wasn't me, miss – it was Lord Ashcroft!"
What is it about politicians that makes them act like they've never grown up? I think it's because, contrarily, they grow up earlier than the rest of us; when we were hanging out with cider in a graveyard, they were yomping on the stump or taking minutes in draughty meetings. They put their heads down and trudge on drudgingly for a decade or two and then – WHAM! – they finally get elected and it's like all their Christmases have come at once.
And with the cushy foreign jollies, cheap booze and copious expenses comes space to contemplate. With time on their hands during the long summer recess, they come over all Michael Jackson. My tender, trembling adolescence... gone, like dust with the wind! They start to see the electorate the way that poor mad MJ saw his audience; as a cruel taskmaster who squeezes all the sweetness from their lives. The fact that they are being handsomely rewarded for their efforts, and that they could give it up and do something else at any point, somehow evades them.
Then the sheer unfairness of the whole shebang drives them to take desperate measures in order to feel whole again. Some get so legless that they make monkeys of themselves during debates. Some (most?) in crazed attempts to fill the teenage-shaped hole, go on a mad King-of-Pop-sized spending spree – duck houses, Hula Hoops, you name it. And, of course, they expect the Bank of Mum and Dad (us) to pick up the tab. Having spoken like proper adults about clauses and means of production when the rest of us were effing and blinding behind the bike sheds, they now revert to the language of the stroppy teenager. After only FIVE WEEKS of being elected to Parliament, the MP Caroline Nokes sexted her young boyfriend that she was "bored to death". Sir Anthony Steen's retort that his critics were "jealous" of his very large house was breathtakingly babyish, while John Prescott was one of the biggest teen manques of them all, running wild, breaking toilet seats and then claiming to be anorexic when he was rumbled.
Tony Blair famously wanted to be a rock star, the eternal dream of the teenage boy; Alan Johnson has gone one better in making a fool of himself by making a radio programme called Alan Johnson: Failed Rock Star. (I bet they didn't put THAT on his election manifesto.) And anyone who has been a teenage girl will have winced at the recent Mandelson revelations; Mean Girls as imagined by Machiavelli.
A more upfront take on the permanent adolescence of politicians can be seen in the way many entertainers, when bang to rights for some chemical, sexual or violent misdemeanour, will blame it on their inner child. If politics is showbusiness for ugly people, then these beauties feel entitled to go the whole shameless hog when it comes to regressing.
For example, I usually love Lindsay Lohan – her wildness, sexual flexibility and capacity for enjoyment recall an earlier Hollywood; when, despite what seat-sniffers wish to believe about the alleged classiness of the stars, most of the players were off their cake 24/7 on drugs and drink, and going at it like knives with whoever crossed their path or cleaned their pool down at the Garden of Allah.
So I was disappointed to see she has had an "innocent little girl" tattooed on her arm. It's one of the great ickinesses of modern life the way even the most worldly, hedonistic and downright dirty amongst us insist on seeing ourselves as just a scared little girl/boy at heart. "I'm really just a kid!" they say while they snort drugs and deceive spouses. "I was never properly parented! Now I need to learn to love myself!" There are numerous pop songs which cater to this embarrassing infant-school of thought, from Kate Bush's "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" to Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry". And the other Fergie is the most blatant blarer of these alibis – the Duchess of York, who sees herself inhabiting the moral high ground somewhere between showbiz and politics and who exhibits the worst of both dream worlds.
Rubbish. People do scuzzy things because they feel good – not because the poor oofums saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus at an impressionable age. I may have a childish voice and an embarrassingly adolescent habit of getting wrecked whenever the opportunity arises, but every thing I do, I hold my hand up to. And personally, if I ever accidentally find my inner child, I'm going to make damn sure I do an inner runner, ASAP.