An American friend is coming to visit for a few days next month, and since she’s never been in my part of the UK before, we’ve been exchanging e-mails for the past few weeks in order to discuss what she would like to see while she’s here. A stately home, a village with a lot of history, a wonderful bookshop are all on the agenda – and so are leisurely dinners with lots of opportunity to chat and put the world to rights. One of her e-mails suggested, with a certain sense of resignation, (sometimes it really is possible to gauge the tone of an e-mail) that since so much is happening in our respective countries at the moment, we’ll have plenty of politics to discuss.
Readers, I hope not.
It’s not that I lack political views, and I know my friend doesn’t either. And it’s certainly not that we might disagree violently, and therefore blight our rare few days under the same bit of sky. I like to think we’re both right-thinking adults with a sensible approach to life and the ability to see past rhetoric and propaganda.
It’s just that... well, do we have talk about the EU referendum and the presidential election? Aren’t there more important things to talk about? I have a house groaning at the seams with books, about half of them crime fiction; my friend is almost as big a fan as I am, hence the scheduled visit to the bookshop. Can’t we talk about that instead?
Besides, aren’t the media and the pundits and everyone else in the public eye, not to mention the interested parties themselves, saying more than enough already? Aren’t both events claiming so much airtime and column inches that talking about something else comes as a welcome relief?
I missed the radio news item yesterday morning, about how Super Tuesday panned out, so I asked my husband what had happened. He summed it up in a sentence, and not a very long one. And frankly, that was all I needed to know. Which was why, the same evening, I reached for my reading glasses and current book-in-progress and turned the volume down when the TV news settled in for a ten-minute session on the same subject.
And as for the referendum... We’re planning to be out of the country on the day of the vote anyway – not deliberately; we’d booked the flights long before anything actually happened. All the same, I really wish someone would tell me what it’s all about. Dave says in, Boris says out, and that aside, all the news coverage seems to focus on which members of Parliament are going to be given access to which pieces of information; no one is making any attempt to explain exactly how my life will change as a result of the vote. I might start listening if someone did, but fudging and hedging and displacing seems to be the way politics works. Real issues? What are they?
Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believe politics is important. Done properly, it does affect our lives. I just don’t see how it’s possible to do this very important job properly – or at all, if it comes to that – when the priorities are a) winning the next election so that everyone keeps their job, and b) each top guy making his mark, which seems to entail getting as much coverage as possible in the media so that when he finally loses his job, his name is the one at the top of the list for something new and lucrative. I came to the conclusion long ago that the wrong people go into politics, and the best people to do the job are probably the ones who want it least.
I feel I should apologize for this post. I really didn’t mean to go off on a political – or anti-politician – rant; a blog devoted to crime fiction is no place for it. It was one of those don’t get me started... situations. But I did start, so now I’ll finish, as the guy on the quiz programme said.