March 10, 2007

ONE COULD LEARN TO LOVE HOWARD JACOBSON:

It is better to be governed by old, nodding Lords than by cash-for-honours addicts (Howard Jacobson, 10 March 2007, Independent)

I have just been listening to a man on the radio explaining how he managed to run up a bill of £9,000 ringing into television quiz programmes. His argument was that someone should have stopped him. The night before, I heard a bedridden woman weighing 40 stone make the same argument. Someone should have stopped her ringing up the takeaway.

Suggest that the quiz-freak and the guzzler should have stopped themselves and you sound like an old Tory. No one is obliged to stop himself. The reason we cannot stop whatever it is we cannot stop - drugs, sex, answering inane questions, pork scratchings - is that we are in the grip of an addiction, and whoever is in the grip of an addiction is outside himself, and whoever is outside himself can no longer be considered responsible for his actions, and whoever is not responsible for his actions becomes the obligation of society, and whoever is the obligation of society is within his rights to complain when society does nothing to save him.

For television companies to be making quite so much money overcharging people who ring in - I am not concerned with the money made by takeaways - an awful lot of people must be ringing in. And they are not all ringing in to answer inane questions. Many of the addicted and the overcharged are ringing in to exercise their democratic right: to vote for which celebrity should leave the Big Brother House or be dropped head first into a slithery tank of Ants and Decs.

It's a proud boast of these programmes that more people cast a vote for them than turn out for an election. How long it will be before Simon Cowell or Endemol buys the rights to a general election and turns it into a game show - The X Factor would have been the perfect name for it were The X Factor not already taken - is anybody's guess.

But if we want Universal Suffrage to mean what it says, telly is the only place it's going to happen. Text your vote to ITV, wait for someone in a strapless evening dress to say "And the winner is ..." while Gordon Brown and David Cameron sweat it out in front of the cameras and Sharon Osbourne makes ready to swear in the new government.

The right to vote is wasted on the voter, we all know that. Not only is it exercised, more often than not, in a worthless cause, it is exercised, more often than not, unwisely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2007 10:47 PM
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