Grandstanding the road to ruin

I had a dream. I dreamt I was a peasant living in England in the 1800s. It was harrowing but one shining moment did stick in my mind. It was of a politician who spoke from a soapbox in the commons.

His name was Sedrick Podlingswate and he had perfected the art of political grandstanding.

In 1862 Sedrick successfully secured the three votes necessary to be returned to parliament by claiming he would leap from Big Ben if the Public Hygiene Bill of 1860 was turned into law.

In Sedricks day only the landed gentry of our township, Bathenstool, had the right to vote and, if a candidate could acquire three of the six votes that made up that constituency, then he kept his seat.

On this occasion Podlingswate produced a string of boasts about how he would give his life to free the upper classes from the imposts of government. As it turned out, a sewer system was established in Bathenstool, and Podlingswate never did leap from the heights of Big Ben, much to my disappointment.

Sportspeople realised long ago making outrageous claims about their abilities just encouraged other players to bring them down. One glaring example of the consequence of grandstanding is three-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali. Ali maintained he was the greatest but at what price? During the notorious Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, Ali withstood a fearful hammering from George Foreman to reclaim the title. Although Ali won the fight he was ultimately undone by his own hubris. Yes he was the greatest but it savaged his looks and probably led to the Parkinsons disease that has left him a shaking wreck of a man.

Before every election youll witness the ideological descendants of Podlingswate and Ali, talking themselves up, personally championing big ticket projects and stymying essential services to win the votes of greedy or fearful minorities. Often their posturing wins them seats in the chamber, but at what cost?

Its easy to champion the politics of fear. Its a walk in the park to defend big public works spending. Hubris and the single issue politics that often accompany it are exactly the wrong way to go about governance, just as it is foolish to think youre unbeatable in the sporting arena. There are calm and measured voices telling us an economic downturn is around the corner. Its time to prepare ourselves for those times.


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