Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My New Professionalism

I wouldn’t want to encourage the decline of our civilization any further by suggesting that you should load ‘Simpsons Tapped Out’ on your iPads and Android devices, though if you do, be sure to add ‘StanMadely’ (note the spelling), to your friends list. It’s a strangely enjoyable game, mixing a love for the characters with delayed gratification. I’m currently forced to wait 24 hours until Krusty the Clown has finished walking his monkey.

Speaking of delayed gratification, I’ve finished three cartoons but I’ve had to stop myself from immediately publishing them here. I’m trying to be more professional about the way I conduct myself and that’s difficult given that I despise professionalism with every atom of my being. I’m just not cut from professional cloth. Ideally, I should have been born a century ago where I could have enjoyed the company of the determined amateurs who really led the way in everything. However, I’m motivated by a new urge to get at least one of these bloody cartoons sold and published in a proper magazine. I’m also trying to save my best work for another competition, so, again, I don’t want to ruin my chances by posting anything that might then be considered ‘published’.

This new found professionalism leaves me with a big gap to fill on the blog today but thankfully the Conservative Party (‘For Hardworking People’) Conference has been taking place not far from here in Manchester. A Tory Party conference is always a thing worth seeing from the ground. I used to work around the corner from the G-Mex and it was always hell during conference week when the city was overrun by a very peculiar form of beast: young men with big hair, sharp teeth, and the Oxbridge manner; women with headbands, curls and cruelty in their cold distinguished laughter. I’ve never understood that kind of person. I assume it’s that distinct breeding that comes with class and the belief that the world will give them what they want.

Yet what strikes me about conferences these days is that there’s very little conferring going on. It’s probably naïve of me to assume that the word ‘conference’ actually takes its meaning from the verb ‘to confer’ but this last week has demonstrated how too much of our politics has become debate free.

I flicked over to the Parliament Channel last week and stumbled across some minor session of the Lib Dem conference. They were voting on some proposition in a half empty hall, led by a woman who was from central casting’s idea of what an event organizer looks like. It was spiritually warming and I smiled because the whole thing was so damn charming. It renewed my faith in the political system, knowing that there were still people willing to spend their days debating issues and taking part in votes. The alternative was watching the Tories this week. It was as far as you could get from the old Labour Party conferences from years ago, when the whole thing was a badly organised slanging match held in something that looked like an abandoned bingo hall. Those were the days when Derek Hatton would storm around the hall waving ballot papers and important votes took place. They were ugly febrile events, full of passion, bad suits, and beer guts. These days, politics have got rid of that element. Politics have become a profession and it is consequently polished, spun, and utterly vacuous.

It’s why people like Nigel Farage do so well catching the eye. I’ve long argued that people don’t (in general) like professionalism and with each passing year I become more convinced that I’m right. Professionalism is often a thin veneer of respectability, promising excellence but offering a bland form of service. It’s most notable in TV news. Back when it started, Sky News was a slightly amateur operation but it was full of wit, banter, and intelligent people filling air time with intelligent talk. One of the few who remains and seems to embody that ethos is the brilliant Tim Marshall but his ad-lib lectures on the Middle East are relatively rare. So too is the banter between presenters. Instead, we have a polished operation, the same five or six new stories repeating every fifteen minutes until it’s taken over in the early evening by the same dozen London bloggers ‘doing the papers’. In this house, Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce have got their own fan club because they provide an antidote to all the professionalism. They provide good old argument, laced with humour and the occasional intelligent point.

And in many ways Nigel Farage is Andrew Pierce but without such good dental hygiene. He is far from polished and that makes him attractive even as he generally spouts 1950s-era bullshine. And that’s the problem with professionalism, in daily life and in politics: it is life led without the humanity. It’s the postman who runs around unable to stop to speak to his customers. It’s the shop staff who can’t crack a joke but must repeat the same ‘do you need help with your packing’ or ‘do you want stamp, cash or top-ups?’ It is the politician who is so keen to stay on message that he doesn’t say anything and we either switch off or start listening to people like Farage.

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