Don’t Give Up Your Day Job Mate!
As a budding stand-up comedian, the phrase ‘don’t give up your day job, mate’ is a glorious rejoinder uttered by some helpful punter every time I pause for breath. This is, in fact, a lie; the over-used trope isn’t even used by the most hack of hecklers at their first comedy gig. I only hear it now at home when I burn the fish fingers, or at the gym. Or at my day job, when I say I’m thinking about giving up my day job.
But it is this rebuttal that comes to mind whenever I try to engage with twenty-first century politics. Was it really always this bad? What did these MPs do before they decided to throw their hats into the Palace of Westminster ring, and take up leading roles in the story of this fair land? Should they really have given up their day jobs?
The truth is, lots of the leading lights in Parliament held ‘research’ posts with their respective parties. George Osborne did research for the Conservative Party for more than 10 years. I can’t wait for him to publish his findings. What stunning insights might such a towering intellect deliver? We can only begin to imagine.
David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools, did, rather fortuitously, give up his day job as an investment banker years before the economic disaster of 2008. Sadly, scandal meant that his tenure as Chief Secretary to HM Treasury lasted only 17 days. I, for one, hanker for the danger and excitement of a few more investment bankers behind the wheel at the Treasury. Fast and loose, that’s the way I like my economy run.
According to Jeremy Hunt’s Wikipedia entry, (Oh Wikipedia! Well, it must be true then...! I hear you grumble: Well with 42 page watchers and 922 edits in 9 years, it probably is true) Hunt is said to have “tried his hand at a number of different entrepreneurial business ventures including a failed attempt to export marmalade to Japan.” In this instance, it would appear that the Secretary of State for Health was actually rather astute in giving up his day job: Much better to have a seat in Parliament. Whether “modernising” the NHS will prove to be a better use of his efforts than marketing a Scottish jam fusion of Seville orange peelings and misery, to the Japanese, only time will tell.
When I hear David Cameron tell me, “it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going” or “we get behind people who want to get on in life”, I am frankly inspired. What a glorious meritocracy we live in; Dave’s words refresh me each morning, on my way to work, and comfort me each evening, on my journey home, tired from all the ‘working hard and getting ahead’. I just hope that everybody else isn’t listening to Dave, otherwise we’ll all be ‘working hard and getting ahead’ at the same time, and that’ll just look like no-one is moving.
Sometimes on the bus on the way to working hard and getting on, my thoughts also turn to Margaret Thatcher, who was famously the daughter of a grocer, and Edward Heath (who, ironically, was nicknamed Grocer Heath), whose father was a humble builder, and, I feel inspired and warmed inside by their, meritocratic achievements. If they can do it, anyone can.
But then my ruminations turn once more to George Osborne. Wikipedia tells us that Osborne (1,915 edits in 10 years, 92 watchers) “did a few part time jobs” before starting his research for the Conservative Party. These part time jobs included “briefly working for a week at Selfridges, mainly refolding towels.” Ah, the horny-handed son of toil.
Seriously, if that is one of the jobs (out of “a few” that he did) to make it on to the list, then one can’t help but wonder what other jobs Osborne could possibly have done that didn’t seem worthy of a mention.
In this supposed meritocratic age, I am left wondering, just how brilliantly must George Osborne have re-folded those towels to go on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer? They must have been near goddam perfect. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to open up a towel folded that well. You’d rather just drip dry.
But that would make it next to useless.
Russell Mulligan's show, Democracy Is Broken (And What You Can Do About That) is on at La Favorita Freestival, Edinburgh 2014; August 1 – 11 @ 19:30