The characters of #GE2017

Mat Mathias gives a view on the characters of the general election

I wrote something for Click on Wales last week about the election being boring, it was meant to go out on Tuesday and then the dreadful atrocities in Manchester happened. A heart breaking, anger invoking and horizon shrinking event that adds more darkness to a world where light seems a little scarce at the moment.

Since Thursday the campaigning has begun again. Security is now the only thing that is on the menu of discussion which means that the terrorists have stopped us thinking about ideas to make life better, make our society and us better. Who can blame people, but now our ambition is to feel safe. How crippling that what we look for in life is to send our sons and daughters to a pop concert and for them to come back home safe to us.

I’m sorry, I don’t do serious well. There are better writers out there for that. I write random thoughts on a political world that infuriates and fascinates me. so I hope you don’t mind if I do so now.

My Mam and my aunties have been writing anonymously for quite some time to the IWA asking for their favourite writer to appear in these esteemed virtual pages. The thing is I had been trying to write something for ages, but every time I’ve written something mildly farcical, Donald Trump has opened his mouth. There’s been no point continuing. He is destroying satire so much quicker than if we put every bit of satirical stuff on channel 5.

I met with friends last night over some cheese straws and some um bongo and after talking about Manchester we were back on to the election. Everybody again, repeated what I had heard a few weeks ago. This election is boring.

To me, this is the equivalent of, say, laughing at the comedian Jethro or buying petrol at exorbitant prices in Pont Abraham service station at the forgotten end of the M4 or the use of snapchat by grown-ups.

It’s something I don’t understand.

Ok, it probably seems quite boring if you are a loyal supporter of anyone but the Tories and believe the polls to the point of inertia. I also understand that lots of you in readerland have voter fatigue and this election is as welcome as the sight of AM Neil McEvoy turning up at the Cardiff West Labour Christmas party.

But come on! This is exciting, this election could be historic. Lots of you out there have moaned for ages that everybody is the same and now, that is clearly not true. Clean Brexit Tories, nationalising Labour, defending Wales Plaid, second referendum Lib Dems, chlorinated chicken UKIP. Eh? Eh?

Hmmm the more I write the more I am doubting myself, maybe some have a point. I suppose there is a boring part of the election, and that’s some of the leading characters. Remember when politics was so flipping brilliant that the programme ‘Spitting image’ used to take the mick out of John Major for being boring? They used to make him look mousy and literally grey. Compared to the greyness of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn he is Carmen bloody Miranda. Compared to Philip Hammond he is the lovechild of Brian Blessed and Robyn Williams on speed appearing in a united colours of Benetton advert in HD.

I know it works, but what really boring is hearing the party tropes over and over again.

‘Strong and stable’

‘For the many not the few’

‘Pernicious Tories’

‘I played professional football for Tranmere Rovers, I’ve got a PHD, I blew up the Death Star.’

Tim Farron keeps trying though, love him. He stays upbeat, sometimes straying away from the mind-numbing pithy strapline indoctrination I mentioned above which infects the other leaders.  In reality his party’s bounce back has, so far, had the bouncibility of a very hefty and very angular stone. He has the haunted look of the last cassette tape salesman back in 1990.

Corbyn and May, no matter how hard they try, show hardly any personality. May is like some sort of android programmed with only five sentences, like some really fashionable dalek. Corbyn is a bit better and I can’t help thoroughly enjoying that when he is interviewed he always has an expression on his face as if someone has farted. Laura Kuenssberg probably has.

It wasn’t long ago when our politicians were judged by if we could see ourselves having a pint with them down the Boozer (the boom and bust? The tax and spend? The process not an event?). Those two would fail that test.

The big three in Wales would pass it easily. Big Carwyn is a deffo and while Andrew RT sometimes sounds like a strange boisterous Yoda he does, he would be great company down the pub.

Me: pint Andrew?

RT: yes, Pint I will have…

Sometimes I feel that Leanne is so Borgenized by her team that you rarely see the real her, the one you could definitely have a pint with. What about Neil Hamilton? Roger Scully (political geeks equivalent of Harry Styles or George Best or Han Solo) told an audience last week that figures showed that Neil has the most negative polling of any leader in the nation ever, so maybe he needs a pint, at least Christine would be a laugh.

My editor told me I have forgotten Mark Williams. I did.

Actually, on Twitter it’s two Labour politicos, both have taken a kicking in recent years, who have made me chuckle. Ed Milliband is officially hilarious, acerbic, self-effacing and interesting to follow. Was he like that when he stood? I should have paid more attention. Closer to home Leighton Andrews is the same. His defeat by what he saw as a cheap date has transformed him. No longer grumpy with a mouth so sad it looks like a kid had drawn it, he is straight to the point, funny and even better, much more potty mouthed. He’s like a New Labour Father Jack. There is precedent for this.  Once, the only time people liked Michael Portillo on their telly was watching old re-runs of him losing his seat in 1997. Now they love watching him going on trains, with the only thing giving away that he was ever a Tory is his red trousers and his inability to talk to real people.

Back to now and back to the election. The exciting one. Look at Wales; there is talk that Labour will lose every seat north of Merthyr. But do you know what? – winning is a habit and it’s not one that they are willing to break. People are talking about the Newport seats being in play, the local Labour teams will have something to say about that. They have more than stepped up.

The last election saw Gower go Blue for the first time in a hundred years, this time it looks like Wrexham will do the same, but for the first time ever. The fact we are talking about Bridgend and seats in Flintshire makes this exciting. Polls reckon Ynys Mon could go Tory but can we discount the wily operator Ieuan Wyn Jones? Has he ever lost an election in that seat? Rhondda? Blaenau Gwent? I jested about Mark Williams earlier, but he works some magic in Ceredigion, and aren’t we hearing rumblings that Jo Stevens isn’t as popular as people think in Cardiff central? As for UKIP, where are all those votes going to go? Are they going to go? Where the bloody hell did they come from?

Politics is belief and passion, often better seen in black and white, because that’s when it’s easier. Politics is about people’s lives, it’s not meant to be easy. There is often so much to be positive about but the negativity of the black and white spreads like a plague, especially online and makes allowances for people to behave like massive knobheads, it lets us indulge in our worst traits.

Most questions asked by the audience in debate programmes recently seem to be accompanied with a sneer. We don’t want to hear answers, we want (insert politician here) to be caught out. Putting people on the spot, making them account for their beliefs is integral to our democracy, can’t we just be respectful, even if we rail against everything that politician’s party (remember Party!) stands for?

Maybe it’s time to accentuate the positive.

There is about a fortnight to go, events this week show that lots can change. Two million people have registered to vote since the election was called which is around three thousand per constituency. With more national polling, more party polling, more canvassing information, we will start seeing the movement of activists into the seats that are winnable or under threat.

Boring my arse.



Mat Mathias is a regular contributor to Click on Wales, so we should know better