Monday, 20 June 2011

Won't get fooled again...

I'm really enjoying BBC2's new series on The Kennedy's rise to power in the early 1960's. We all know the fairy tale - Camelot, Jackie O, '...ask not what your country...' - and the series tells that same compelling narrative that has propelled the myth of the Kennedy's to its current fiftieth anniversary. Gordon Brown even had Ted Kennedy knighted - largely because he was on his deathbed - but then our former Prime Minister did many strange things.

And as I watched, I felt a nagging familiarity taking hold. A young virile new pretender challenges the old order, offering the hope of a better future. His team cleverly harnesses the media, whipping up the kind of optimism, enthusiasm and devotion usually reserved for a rock star. The momentum is stoked to a tremendous crescendo as everyone wants to be part of, and vote-in, the winning team. And once the office has been achieved and the hype dismantled, we experience the deep and profound disappointment at how little is actually achieved.

I see a vision of Tony and Cherie grasping the hands of well wishers as they walk up Downing Street for the first time to the depressing beat of Things Can Only Get Better. I hear the words 'Yes We Can' - emphatically repeated across the lips of a hundred thousand emotionally-drained devotees at a Chicago rally - and realise we have all been here before. And not just once. Three times that I can recall in that last half century of western liberal democracy. Perhaps this is the End of History. Or perhaps history is not repeating itself, just rhyming with its past. But I doubt it. Apart from a rather good spin doctor, on each of those occasions, a young, next-generation, left-leaning candidate has been the phenomena. In each case his greatest attributes have been his looks, his optimism and the lyricism of his oratory - not the content of his manifesto.