Ben Delicious writes from Paris: Let me tell something about politicians: the moment they get into power they roll their sleeves down not up, enjoying the perks of office, until the bell tolls and it’s time to fight another election. Yes, campaigns leading to general elections are the only periods in the lives of political leaders when they are actually forced to do something. The rest of the time they just chill out with their cabinet chums, attend useless summits, like that G20 gathering in Cannes, where they have a good time or come up with cheap stunts to fool everyone into thinking that they are busy dealing with affairs of the state.
Take France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who has wasted more than four years of his first term, massaging his vanity and other parts as well. He’s done precious little to write home about, if you pardon the pun. Mr Sarkozy came to power and the first thing he did was to start looking for a new wife, having had his previous one walk out on him after he became President – in itself serious proof that he was not exactly the best of choices for the job.
So he goes and finds himself a former rock chick and a groupie, Carla Bruni, and starts a very public affair with her, supposedly juggling his many responsibilities while he was at it, ending up marrying her and looking like a schoolboy who got to bang his teacher. In effect, the first year of Mr Sarkozy’s presidency was spent on courting Ms Bruni and then honeymooning with her as his wife, popping down to Egypt, by the way, as a guest of the then President Hosni Mubarak.
So that was one year totally gone to waste. And then Mr Sarkozy spent his next couple of years trying for a baby with Carla, while pretending to battle the economic crisis, mostly at G8 and G20 summits, where he talked passionately about ‘reforming the banking’ system that he knew perfectly well would never happen.
At times Mr Sarkozy did realise that he needed to get something done, so he would dash to mingle with some dictators in China, Libya or someplace else, signing deals with them and returning home victorious. Or he would do something very dramatic, like expel all gipsies from France or introduce a ban on wearing burkhas in public places – to confirm his right-wing credentials.
No wonder the French President’s popularity fell below the 30 per cent mark this year, and that is when he got really frisky, both at home and at the office. So what did he do? He started wars in Libya and in the Ivory Coast, taking a tough stance on all the dictators that he was hanging out with less than a year before. And, most importantly, he finally got Ms Bruni pregnant, and is now using all photo opportunities he can squeeze out of fatherhood. His performance at the last G20 summit was a disaster, but he still things that he’s got a good chnace of winning the presidential election next year.
And it’s the same all over Europe and the rest of the democratic world. Grey unimpressive politicians weaselling their way into power, thinking only about one thing: how to enjoy themselves as much as possible and get re-elected. British Prime Minister David Cameron took the drastic route and started his re-election campaign practically on the next day after he had entered 10 Downing Street, making his politically correct credentials known to everyone. A year and a half on and he has pretty much nothing to boast about, having more spin doctors at his disposal than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had had, talking in soundbites all the time. He prides himself on having been instrumental in starting the war in Libya, but the way things are going the country might have another civil war soon. Claiming Gaddafi’s scalp is all very fine, but no one knows what will happen now.
And as for US President Barack Obama, he has started his re-election campaign in earnest last summer and will probably devote all his energies to it while problems pile up. And as for the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his stay in office has been one long party, a fact confirmed by all those criminal charges brought against him.
In Spain Prime Minster José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has walked away from it all, having decided not to stand in the next election. He is presiding of an economy that can crash at any moment under the burden of debts. Which sort of implies that he didn’t really do much, if anything at all, while in power.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is another fine example of a politician who loves the perks of high office and has a talent for making it look as if she overworks – when in reality she does nothing of the sort. Her fine performances at G8 and G20 summits, where she pretends to be engaged in ‘serious discussions’ with other world leaders the moment the cameras start rolling, is something that every politician should learn to do. Ms Merkel, a devout communist in her youth, got re-elected for the second term as the lesser evil of all other candidates – an indictment in itself of her overall performance.
And it’s happening all over the democratic world, with only the hardened dictators not bothering to pretend that they don’t do much while in power, expecting to be re-elected anyway – or else.
So what’s to be done about our politicians, you may ask. Well, one way is not to elect the ones who do nothing while holding positions of power. But then again, they are all at it really, so the German option is probably the best one: choose the lesser evil.
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