Yes, Minister: a word on politics

This week’s WordPress writing challenge asks us to discuss the ‘state of the State’. Everything I have to say on government has already been said on Yes Minister, and it’s been said much better. (If you don’t know Yes, Minister, go here NOW.

But since everyone has an opinion when it comes to politics, I might as well play the game and cast my ballot.

I once had dreams of working as a political journalist.  Fortunately I had the opportunity to work as an intern in our Federal parliament’s press gallery before the idea was cemented in my brain and I saw that much of the work in political journalism in Australia involves playing the gossip in a high school bitch-fest. Who likes who, why, who got drunk and slept with a prostitute on government money (okay, that didn’t happen at high school) who gave who a limp handshake – “ooh is that a leadership crisis!?” – and so on. I had been out of high school a few years by then and had no interest in getting involved in a similar political system again. Scrutiny of the political system is necessary, but it’s unpleasant work.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Surveillance is an indispensable weapon in the battle against organised crime.

James Hacker: You’re not describing politicians as organized crime?

Sir Humphrey Appleby: No… well, disorganized crime too of course.

I have an honours degree in politics, which has given me the express understanding that politics is insanely complicated and for the most part non-sensical, and therefore it is impossible to write anything that is entirely right or entirely wrong about issues that are equally ambiguous.

What I have learned is that with very few cases presenting as right or wrong,  politics becomes a game of picking the action that’s ‘probably more right’ and what looks best, with the latter holding equal if not greater weight.  In countries like Australia with no life-threatening/government overthrowing issues (as far as they tell us anyway), the government has time to worry about the small ‘probably bests’ and ‘looks bests’, enabling the Nanny State to get its slippers on.

So what is the state of my State?

The political bitchiness in the caucus of our nation’s Labor party and the conservative values of our Liberal party bother me immensely.  My state and local governments concern themselves with issues like banning smoking in public streets and finding ways to spend money from digging up our natural resources. The government annoys me. Decisions are being made that are in some ways ‘probably more right’ but in others a little bit wrong. But I’m not being killed for saying the latter, so it’s doing okay. As long as the government and the constituency continue to be a little scared of each other, there will no state of disrepair.

James Hacker: I suppose we have got rather fond of one another. In a way.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: In a way, yes.

James Hacker: Like a terrorist and his hostage.

Bernard Woolley: Which one of you is the terrorist?

James HackerSir Humphrey Appleby: [pointing at the other] He is!

Artwork by Gerald Scarfe

Artwork by Gerald Scarfe