Christina Patterson: Sometimes it's so bad that you can't just blame the politicians


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The Independent Online

Take your hand, you wanted to say, away from your mouth.

Stop fiddling, you wanted to say, with your chin. Stop doing that thing, you wanted to say, with your eyes, that makes you look like a lizard that's been cornered and trapped. But most of all, what you wanted to say, when you looked at footage of Hosni Mubarak lying, for some reason, on a hospital bed when you felt sure he could have at least managed a wheelchair, was how nice it was to see a politician in a cage.

Most Egyptians were very happy to see the man who had stolen their money, and tortured and sometimes killed their relatives, and lived in very nice palaces while they couldn't even buy bread in the local market, behind a steel mesh and iron bars. Even people in other countries, who hadn't had their money stolen, or their relatives tortured, or killed, were happy. I think they might even have begun to think what their own leaders would look like in a cage.

In Greece, for example, where very poor people, and quite poor people, and not quite such poor people, are losing their jobs, or a big chunk of their pay, or a big chunk of their pension, or a big chunk of their public services, because their prime minister has brought in an "austerity" programme, which means a programme where nearly all the nice things in a society are taken away, I think they might be very happy to see their politicians in a cage. In America, where lots of people think that the country is run by a Marxist who's stealing all their money in taxes, and lots of people think that the country is run by a traitor, who has sacrificed the poor to save the country from defaulting on its debts, and lots of people who work on the stock exchange think that a 400-point drop in the Dow Jones is the President's fault, I think they might be happy to see their politicians in a cage.

And in this country, where a lot of our poor people are about to get a lot poorer, and many people are worried about losing their jobs, and most people are facing up to the fact that their pay is staying the same while prices are going up, and almost everyone is worried because the money markets seem to have gone mad, and the euro is now talked about as if it were a disease that was spreading, I think quite a lot of people would think that a cage might be going a bit far, but there would be a lot to be said for some rotten eggs and some stocks. Particularly since they were told that lots and lots of things had to be cut to make the economy better, which was now the only thing that mattered anywhere in the world, and the economy doesn't seem to be getting better. The economy, in fact, seems to be getting worse.

I think it would be quite good fun to see some of our politicians sitting in stocks and being pelted with rotten eggs. I think, for example, that it would be interesting to see what George Osborne's face would look like if it was covered in egg yolk, and if he felt the need, like Mubarak, to keep fiddling with his chin. I think it would be interesting to see if David Cameron's skin looked even shinier when it was covered in egg white. If, for example, it made him look like a toffee apple, or a fruit tart with a nice, shiny glaze.

I think that maybe when politicians say they are going to make everything better and that they are, for example, going to get rid of quangos and cut red tape, only to make more quangos, and more red tape, and when they seem to be making things up as they go along, which they do a lot of the time, then it might be a good idea to get out the rotten eggs, or maybe even make them eat them.

But when it comes to a very, very big deficit that has been caused by a global economic crisis, and by banks which had too much power and didn't know what they were doing, and by a shift in power from the West to the East, and the fact that labour is much cheaper in the East so you can't make money by making things any more, and by people living longer, getting fatter, and drinking too much, I'm not sure that what we need is for our politicians to be covered in rotten eggs. I think that if we throw rotten eggs at the politicians who are trying to sort the problem out by cutting lots of things, then we should probably also throw them at the politicians in the other party who were only planning to cut 20 per cent less.

If we throw the rotten eggs at the politicians, then shouldn't we also throw them at the economists, who didn't see the global crisis coming, and can't make up their mind what to do now it has? Shouldn't we also throw them at China? Or at people who eat too much, or drink too much, or are getting old?

Or perhaps we should remember that there are some problems that nobody knows how to solve. And that the people who are trying don't seem to be much better qualified to solve it than us, but that there doesn't seem to be anyone around who's much better qualified to solve it than us. And that what we're living through is history, and the thing about history, as the man in the cage could tell us, is you don't know where it's going to lead. And that all you can do is try one thing, and then try something else.

Introducing this year's one-woman silly season

In some ways, we should be grateful to Sally Bercow. It's actually quite hot in this country at the moment, and usually when it's hot, and lots of people are on holiday, and politicians are only in the news because they haven't tipped waiters in Tuscany, we have a little break from bad news called "the silly season". But this year, we haven't. This year, we've had big scandals in newspapers, and politics, and the police, and we've had mass murder in Norway, and we've had what may or may not be a collapse in the global markets. So perhaps we should be grateful that the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, who tweets about every single thing she does, and likes posing for photographs in bedsheets, is, apparently, "in talks" about going on Celebrity Big Brother.

She is, she said on Twitter (of course), "seriously tempted". She is, she implied, bored by people "banging on about" the "dignity of the Speaker's office". She is, she implies, bored by pretty much everything. Perhaps she should think about getting something called a job.

Everybody's ditching the present for the past

I've just about got used to the fact that the kind of clothes I used to buy, out of poverty, at Oxfam, and which were once worn by people who are dead, are now called "vintage", and often cost more than new ones. I've just about got used to the sight, in cafés and bars, of people straight out of Brief Encounter, or Mrs Miniver. Fashions come and go, and, at times of great uncertainty, people often ditch the present for the past. But the thing I can't get used to, the thing I really can't get used to, is the return of the mutton chop beard, and curly moustache. History, I suppose, repeating itself as farce.