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Strange Attractors: The Delusional And The Witless

Tawfiq Chahboune


Some "celebrities" a much devalued currency have some competence when entering political terrain as partisan commentators. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Robert Redford, among many distinguished others, have with varying success been able to articulate and defend various social and political policies, usually radical liberal ones. In the UK, however, we have an altogether different set of entertainers masquerading as intelligent, politically motivated partisans. Lack of prowess in their chosen field of entertainment, as opposed to the talented Americans named above, and an inability to grasp the issues seems to be the criterion to mouth off or curiously not (see below) on political issues.


For proof of this, one need only witness the impish BBC journalist Michael Crick in action (prediction: barrel, fish, shooting). Exhibit 1. At the Hartlepool by-election the Coronation Street thespian Liz Dawn, carted in by Labour to bring some "glitter" to the campaign, was faced by the wily Crick, and with predictably amusing results. With some style did she join the roll call of celebrity Blairites who have no idea what they are meant to be supporting or endorsing. "I don't know," came the monotonous reply to nearly every Crick question about Labour policy. On one occasion, proving the versatility for which she is known, she replied, "I don't know about Hartlepool", possibly not knowing where she was. Her final, resounding riposte came thus: "You're a boring prat". It was a bravura performance worthy of her talents. That she did not feel in the least bit ashamed is revealing. Exhibit 2. On the election stump for Labour, Ross Kemp, the "actor" fantastically rumoured to be a possible Labour candidate for parliament, was asked to name one Labour policy. The man known as "Grunt" looked blank, one of the two methods in his acting repertoire. Realising that he had been rumbled as a fake and as a numskull, Kemp turned irate, his other mode of acting, and, mumbling some apelike language, scarpered (that he could not even say something as utterly banal as "extra investment" is instructive). Exhibit 3. Spotting the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson at a 2005 election get-together for Labour, Crick mocked the increasingly incompetent Red Devil (there's a name for Blair, or should that be Blue Devil?): "Why are you here? Is it because you're passed it, too?" Ferguson was uncharacteristically tongue-tied and more red-faced than usual, and that's saying something.


Some have learned that most apt of popular wisdoms: "It's better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt." Liz Dawn has not yet done so. She has the excellent excuse of being a moron. Ross Kemp couldn't decide between the two choices on offer: speaking ape or making a knuckle-dragging sharpish disappearance. The upshot was a terribly funny synchronous mixture, reminding all that although apes made the leap to man, some have unfortunately not leapt far enough (though fortunate for casting directors of London-based soaps and demented dramas involving hairy Cro-Magnon commandos). Fortuitously faced with awful footballing opposition for over a decade, Ferguson was able to win a stash of trophies with a mediocre team. Thankfully, this much over-rated manager is finally being shown-up as a result of the rebirth of artful English and European football. What is it about Blair's New Labour that attracts the most gormless of celebrities?


Over the past eight years some extraordinary instances of New Labour weirdness and descent into unreason (well, worse than usual) has made itself known. Blair's infatuation with the irrational unveiled itself in the most hilarious fashion. For example, the "thinker" Edward de Bono has developed a ludicrous philosophy of thinking known as the Six Thinking Hats system of thought: for discussing hunches (wear a red hat), for listing the advantages of a project (don a yellow hat), playing devil's advocate (slip on a black hat), and blah, blah, blah. "Not wishing to boast," de Bono boasted, "this is the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years since the days of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle." Let it not be said that de Bono is not a modest man. Philip Gould, one of the "brains" behind New Labour's success, proudly bragged that he was building "a vast, multi-dimensional structure moving forwards and backwards, upwards and downwards, meshing abstraction and concreteness, policy with presentation, future to past". Straight from the horse's mouth - a very stupid horse who ought to be put out of his misery by being introduced to Mr Knacker and his yard. In the past we have had "political" celebrities espousing mumbo-jumbo and gobbledegook. What we've never witnessed, as far as I know, is the freakish sight of a political party audaciously hiding behind celebrity-supporters who don't know anything about anything! It may simply be that the seriously delusional (New Labour) attract the vacuous and witless (celebrities). Whatever the reason - could it be that Blair and Co have nothing to offer, other than war and freewheeling capitalism, and have to manufacture gimmicks? - we should all appreciate what Crick has shown us: politics has finally entered a Wonderland - and many untalented Celebrities' Adventures therein. The Chartists, Levellers, Paine, Suffragettes, et al would find it all most amusing.




June 2005


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