Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time For A Political Football

For the grey, paunchy men and soberly-attired women gurning down from posters on every lamp-post and bus-stop in the country at the moment, these few weeks are their World Cup. The comparison between these middle-aged, permanently besuited figures and the exotic creatures that compete for football's greatest prize may not be immediately obvious, but don't tell Ireland's aspiring legislators that their goal is a Mickey Mouse trophy.

Of course, before you even get to the World Cup, you must qualify. And just as you might have a tricky away tie in Azerbaijan or a torrid trip to Portugal to negotiate before making it to FIFA's quadrennial jamboree, so our would-be politicos must navigate the perilous waters of the constituency selection process. One slip - perhaps a careless remark by a naive young councillor about raising the basic tax rate - could be the misplaced backpass that leads to cruel elimination.

Amongst those who qualify, only a few have the right stuff to go all the way. You've got your plucky Togos and Saudi Arabias on the ballot paper, be they Socialist Workers or Fathers' Rights campaigners, who will have a go, but are ultimately let down by the gaping holes in their defence. Then you'll have a Spain - maybe a former Labour minister - a well-fancied dark horse, but who goes out on the second count as soon as the going gets tough.

In the end it's best to back those who've been over the course before - the Brazils and Italys - like the crafty Fianna Fáiler looking to be returned a fifth time, and who you'd fancy even if it went to the electoral equivalent of a penalty shoot-out: the recount ("It must be hell for those involved, Bill, but it's great to watch").

Yes, no doubt our politicians are enjoying the attention, their spats and pronouncements as discussed and broadcast as Jose Mourinho's or Alex Ferguson's are in normal times. They will be relishing the exposure, but, at the same time, will wonder why (aside from the opinions of top cabinet or opposition figures) their voices are often ignored throughout the long years between elections.

A sure sign of the people's disengagement from politics, they will mutter gravely. Nonsense.

Clearly if football, or any other sport for that matter, only held competitive fixtures once every four or five years, the people would disengage themselves pretty quickly from concerns about transfers and metatarsals and WAGs and all the other minutiae of the back pages.

While the General Election is like the World Cup, save for the odd by-election or the local elections (which, let's face it, are barely Carling Cup standard), politics gives the punters too little in the way of top-level action to enjoy during the normal season.

For all that Arsene Wenger might chastise Sam Allardyce about his team's style of play similarly to how Enda Kenny would castigate Bertie about some incidence of wasteful public spending or other, at least Big Sam has the opportunity to get his own back on Saturday afternoon. Those onlooking at a political disagreement must wait the months or years until the next election for a result. Ho hum.

The time is clearly ripe for restructuring of the political fixture list. In the same way that the qualifier system introduced more competitive action to the inter-county GAA scene, so must those on the Dáil Eireann terraces get more bang for their buck.

You'd have a weekly by-election, run-off on a Saturday afternoon of course (until such time as Sky dictate that polls must open at 8pm on Monday nights), with a league table keeping tabs on the state of the parties. In really good season you'd have the government changing hands every week, right down to a dramatic last day in which Fianna Fáil's hopes would be dashed by an injury time financial scandal.

Only the best would get to compete in the European elections, vying to get their hands on the big trophy in Brussels. Pretty soon there'd be no sport at all; Sky Sports News would merge with BBC Parliament, Michael O'Muircheartaigh would be Ceann Comhairle and, if the new approach spread to the U.S., Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be squaring up for the M.V.P. award.

Who knows, with Enda Kenny and his assistant manager John O'Mahony in charge, Mayo might even win the All-Ireland.



Blogger Tom the Tim said...

Many a true word spoken in whimsy, Tom.
Hope you don't mind being called Whimsy Tom.

You've got my vote anyhow.

The video panel would be interesting. Catching those little misdeamours that the ref misses.

3:52 p.m.  
Blogger Tom the Tim said...


A spell check would be interesting too.

3:53 p.m.  
Blogger Tom the Tim said...

Keevins was in a time warp when confronted by T O'Neil when he declared that Craig Brown had signed for Rangers.

I never usually listen to this nonsense, but it really is incredible stuff. How Keevins can have any self respect is beyond my comprehension.

6:51 p.m.  
Blogger Tom the Tim said...

oops. wrong blog

6:51 p.m.  

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