Vote, vote, vote for the tax advisers and fetishists

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The Independent Culture
There I was, the other night, in an air- conditioned club, chewing things over with the media crowd. It was one of those evenings when we felt proud of ourselves. One of us said: "Strange that all the best brains of our generation went into the media in one way or another," and someone else said, "Yes, curious, the best brains used to go into politics but now it's just duds like Portillo," and then the conversation turned nasty. Someone said we were no more than butterflies, shirking our public duty, and then someone else said, "Well, it's not too late. We could all go into politics now. We could, you know. We could get adopted and get on the hustings and make speeches and get elected, and then we'd be Members of Parliament and ... well, then it would be us. Do you see? It would be us."

Everyone stared at the carpet for a bit, and then the party broke up in silence, but I have been brooding ever since, like you do when someone comes up to you in the street and says, "Tell me, brother, have you been Saved?" You may dismiss him with a casual but withering theological put- down - "Pig off, Sunshine" is a good example - but that night you will wake up at 4am worrying like a bastard: "Have I been? Have I?"

The two problems, of course, are on vastly different scales. The question of being Saved is simply a matter of abandoning all worldly ambition, believing in the literal truth of the Bible, accepting Mr Christ as your Personal Saviour, hanging out with a bunch of people with slightly worrying smiles, and forming the fixed notion that when you die you go on living (though why death should be singled out in this way, I don't know. Why not other routine activities, like sitting down? "And behold, I show you a mystery: when you sit down, you are not sitting down but standing; yea, your soul shall not sit down but continue to potter about the room, humming tunelessly." Why not? It's a mystery, really).

But the question Should I stop being a butterfly who shirks his public duty, and enter politics? is of a different order entirely, and I'm not sure I could face it. I don't mean the company one would have to keep, though heaven knows it's bad enough. I mean the personality changes you'd have to make, far more wide-ranging and profound than simple things like believing that, 4,000 years ago, a small Middle-Eastern tribe got it so absolutely right about God that, 2,000 years later, he came to pay them a visit. First of all, you have to get that politician's face, which, whatever its natural lineaments, must somehow take on the appearance of a sodomised snipe. Then you must acquire the politician's voice, sounding simultaneously affronted, determined, hectoring and soupy, like a provincial ecclesiast (and have you noticed how Mr Blair is sounding more and more like Mrs Thatcher?). You have to abandon normal human doubt, lifting yourself out of the cosy fogbound bog of uncertainty and vacillation in which most of us pass our days, and decide once and for all what you feel about criminals, work, religion, family life, morals, sex, nationalism, art, culture, deviance and money. Then you have to convince yourself that what you feel about these things is right.

And, while hanging on to that sense of righteous self-certainty, you have to cultivate a self-esteem low enough to allow other people to tell you how to dress, how to smile, how to schmooze, how to answer interviewers' questions, and even how to powder your nose. Finally, you have to suck up to your constituents. Not the everyday run-of-the-mill people who live in your constituency, who are just the usual collection of people who never realised that things would turn out like this, but the "politically active" ones, the true horrors, the incubi who sit shuddering and sweating at party conferences, who surge around at constituency party meetings, who whiffle and jabber and smell and look like hell on earth, and who ideally would like to be present every time you have a widdle or a poke, to make sure you're Representing Their Interests.

No. It's impossible. And probably a good thing, too, because can you imagine what the country would be like if it were governed by media bastards and people like me? A perpetual Saturnalia of sex and indulgence, everyone grinning but drowning in debt. Lots of talk about egalitarianism but all the action devoted to getting the drop on the next man and putting him out of action for once and for all. Fully 40 per cent of the nation's energy devoted to bitching. Nothing coming in for months on end, and then, when things got desperate, a ridiculous, short-term but lucrative sell- out job to raise a bit of cash which will be frittered away on nonsense.

In short, a country governed by my sort would turn out no different from the way things are anyway, so what's the point? None. But all is not lost. If we media bastards should be forming a government, why, so then should weather forecasters, stamp-collectors, pornographers, skip-hire operatives, video re-tuners and, frankly, everybody.

What we need is the natural end of democracy, a sort of reverse devolution. Rather than splitting up the country into increasingly weeny groups, each of which has its own government, we should accept the fact that we now live in a global economy where national boundaries no longer count. The trade-off is that we could all decide who we wanted to be governed by. I, for example, would be governed by a cross-world coalition of orchestral musicians, rubber fetishists and dodgy tax advisers, whereas you might give your allegiance to the Plumbers and Logical Posit- ivists Alliance. We'd all pay our dues to the government of our choice, and in return live by their laws. A wonderful idea, you will agree, and one on which I propose we have an immediate referendum. Send your votes in by 1 November. To whom? Well ... to whoever you fancy, of course. !

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