Claire Black: Can the politicians stop shouting?

Many people seem to believe that the louder they are, the more persuasive they become. Picture: Contributed

Many people seem to believe that the louder they are, the more persuasive they become. Picture: Contributed

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I’VE got a headache. I’ve had it for days. It is because I am surrounded by people who shout. One of these people is my 20-month-old son. His favourite phrase to bellow is, “I want” followed by one of a variety of words, usually “more” (often in relation to “biccies”), “nama” (his name for Thomas the Tank Engine) or “mummy”. He’s a toddler, you can’t reason with him.

It’s not his shouting I mind. The noise that’s making my head bounce is a kind of generalised shoutiness that feels like it’s assaulting my ears at every turn. I can’t be certain that it began with all those people who have recently been bemoaning – loudly – the fact that we’re not allowed to punch our work colleagues (what’s the world coming to, it’s political correctness gone mad, I tell you) but they certainly raised the volume. And then the #battlefornumber10, which officially doesn’t even start until tomorrow, rumbled relentlessly into the public consciousness and the noise levels climbed ever higher.

Politicians shouting at the last PMQs of the parliament. Paxman shouting at Cameron. Cameron shouting back. Paxman shouting at Miliband, Miliband shouting back. Kay Burley shouting at Miliband. Kay Burley… no, that was it. All this shrillness and obfuscation masked as sincerity by way of the decibel. I’m not sure I’m going to make it to 7 May without earplugs.

To be completely frank, I’m a little bit surprised to be finding it so tiresome. I like people who feel passionate about issues that impact on their lives. And what’s on the telly. I don’t mind some healthy anger either – for me it’s a sign of strong feeling, of commitment, of really wanting to be heard. I’m up for that.

So why the headache?

I think it might be that I don’t actually believe what most of the shouters are shouting. And more than that, I don’t really believe that they believe what they’re shouting. It’s as though, somehow, they seem to think we will be persuaded merely because they’re loud in their opinions. But I reckon the only thing they’ll persuade us of is the need for some way to drown out their din.

I don’t believe for one minute that anyone really believes it’s OK for people to be punched at work. If they think they do, I feel convinced it would take only a light slap to the back of the head to relieve them of their silliness. Stop shouting (and signing petitions) and engage your brains, you dolts.

As for the politicians, well, I really don’t want to go down the route of believing them to be self-serving, self-deluding, disingenuous egomaniacs who have little respect for those they serve and even less for the democratic process, but, seriously, some of them make it hard to resist.

Do you watch The Good Wife? I am a fan. There is a political campaign going on in that, and the opponents are trying to run their campaigns without “going negative”. It’s not clear that it’s going to work, but the aim is laudable. I’d like a bit more of that – less shouting and more sincerity, less volume and more values. Is it too much to ask?

Fitness, fine, but hands off baffies

I’LL tell you something for nothing – I will never burn my slippers. Never. They are sheepskin, made in Sweden, and they not only keep my feet warm, they fill my life with joy. Frankly, I’d rather throw myself in a fire. And I’m guessing this is what a lot of older people felt like doing with the latest advice telling them how best to live.

The plea for a “bonfire of slippers” came from Sir Muir Gray, NHS ex-chief of knowledge, no less, who announced by way of the burning baffie that older people need to become more active for the sake of their health. We live in Scotland, eschewing slippers won’t make you healthier, it’ll give you chilblains. And what is this about slippers – are they the preserve of the elderly? Not in my house they’re not.

Does Sir Muir live in a house with underfloor heating? That can be the only explanation for encouraging such recklessness. Staying active keeps us healthier. Yes, yes, we can all agree with that. It’s just that it’s not quite the whole story. It’s not laziness that stops people from being active, it’s often lack of opportunities, or support, or cash, or company.

I don’t disagree that being active improves our lives physically and emotionally, I’m just not sure trotting out tired old stereotypes (slipper-shod or otherwise) is the best motivation.

Elton lookalike a star turn

ELTON John’s mum, Sheila Farebrother, celebrated her 90th birthday last week. Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a birthday shoutout slot, (although Many Happy Returns, Sheila. Hope you had a lovely time).

Really, I only mention this because Elton’s mum did something a bit special by way of birthday entertainment. Being rather sadly estranged from her famous son, Mrs Farebrother hired an Elton impers­onator as well as the real Kiki Dee to sing at her party. Sheila decided if she couldn’t have the real one she’d have the next best thing. From the photos of her grinning alongside the lookielikey, it worked, too. Talk about Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. «

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