Do they have literacy hour at Eton?

May 2, 2010 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

On this occasion I’m not Tory-bashing (don’t worry, it’s my default position and normal service will  resume shortly) No, I’m about to muse about our political process more generally. My theme is the dumbing-down of our political discourse, and how much of it is media-driven.

 Gordon Brown is known to be a bookish type. Nick Clegg’s favourite book is The Leopard (see ‘How I stopped worrying…..’) and he says that his hero is Beckett and that he reads a few pages of a novel each day. I imagine that’s difficult when you’re in the eye of the political storm, as it’s far from easy when you’re running for a common or garden parliamentary seat. Cameron? I know not, but he does like music (even some good music) so there’s a good chance he’s more literary that his predecessors. Thatcher and Major were both notoriously ill-read, and you’ve gotta say it showed.

 So now we come to it: why is there so little evidence that the three white men like to read? Where are the quotations, references, and influences? Not a whisper during the hysterically-hyped leaders’ debates! The Clegg stuff is from the Grauniad, which has adopted him as their mascot for the lack of any other, and asked him outright. But Charlie Kennedy was asked about Clegg’s reading habits on telly and hadn’t a clue, suggesting that he keeps his bookishness quiet. Maybe, just maybe, modern politics has evolved to an extent that it’s a disadvantage to be thought literate? After all, it was known that Harold Macmillan read 3-4 books each week even when he was PM!

 Why this change? I think that ordinary voters quite like leaders who have a bit of learning and a bit of a hinterland. I have a nasty suspicion it’s the media, mainly the Murdoch media of course, which has decided that we want them either to be philistines (Mrs Thatcher in particular – at least wee Johnny Major likes his cricket) or to pretend to be. God help us all, if so. I don’t know what the reverse process would be called (dumbing up??) but let’s start it here!

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” ~Mark Twain, attributed


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How cold is my valley?

Who I am

This blog started during the months before the 2010 General Election, in which I was the Green candidate for Calder Valley. It's morphed into an account of green activism...and other meanderings.

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