Political Promise

The accounts of a disappointed audience member

In Richard Cunningham on March 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm

The Five Rules of Representation; Dodge, Dip, duck, dive and dodge. Gordon Birtwistle’s visit to Richard Cunningham‘s school lived up that mantra.

Gordon Birtwistle MP, today answered questions at a Burnley Sixth form in front of around 40 Politics students and others interested in current affairs. With the pleasantries and timid “What’s it like in Westminster?” questions out of the way, those who had been looking forward to grilling the newly elected MP got down to asking the tough questions. Typically the MP for Burnley seemed reluctant to answer anything except the questions he’d wished the students had asked him.

His deviance from the line of discussion was predictable and seemed to suggest that Gordon’s meagre 8 months at Westminster has smoothed over his northern honesty and pragmatism quite substantially. This slippery smoothness manifested itself when Gordon, upon every opportunity, took the line and agenda of discussion away from Tuition Fees and Education Maintenance Allowance to a whole-host of other current affairs, most of which bored the audience, and myself included to absolute tears, whether it was trident, the removal of the cheque  the MP presented the audience with a ‘news night’ knowledge, the honourable member for Burnley regaled much of what the audience already knew, and that anybody would know from watching this morning’s edition of ‘Day Break’ on ITV1.

What was asked from the MP was not only a clear answer to the questions, but reassurance that he was attempting to make a difference for his constituents, he did in all fairness explain that he had been canvassing on behalf of the town for  the recovery of its Children’s Ward, yet often proceeded to think that the dropping of names such as “Lans” and “Vince” proved that he was doing something productive for the people he represented.Gordon didn’t seem to understand that the audience cared very little about who he had been making friends with and that they rather he be known as an irritating northerner, pestering and prodding into “Lans” into submission. The electorate of this town sent him to get a job done, not to make friends as if Westminster were some jovial summer camp.

Still he continued to avoid answers and the atmosphere was becoming a little more hostile with every word he spoke off-topic, tempers were becoming frayed and now questions were being asked with a louder more assertive tone, as this continued an element of heckling emerged with the spouts of “What about that pledge!” and “How can you be trusted !?”, the volume of discussion made the MP eat his words “ I never supported fees!”.

The audience now alive and loud with the sound of disappointment seemed to realise that this politician was turning into the very sort they had grown to loath on the television screens.

Perhaps the most telling question of the day though, was not from a politics student, academic or even anybody interested too fervently with public affairs. It arose from the mouth of a young woman when there was a gap in the sighs,  she was quiet throughout only shaking her head when the others were yelling and clapping, her question far from articulate seemed to stun Birtwistle the most who had planned on responding to intelligent  and articulated questions with equally articulated yet somewhat less intelligent answers.

“The poor bear the brunt of this governments debt, they are the ones going to pay, don’t you see? You represent a town of low earners and you support that?”

It posed a fundamental failure to his whole argument, his whole career as a politician and as normal working class man and although it was not so elegantly worded or outstanding in its content, it was beautifully simple and hit the MP like a wrench square in the nose.

One could not escape the reverberating crunch of speechlessness from the MP that seemed to suggest that he had been outwitted and outdone by the simplest question of the morning, the simplest most unavoidable and most revealing respectively.

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