Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Carve Up

There are plenty of contemporary novels with elections at their heart, Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up, Justin Cartwright’s Half in Love and Robert Harris’s The Ghost which has recently been made into a film of the same name with Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. But I want to take you back to the nineteenth century when elections were a persistent theme in novels.  

In Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers he described the parliamentary system as “eatandswill”. In Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, Augustus Melmotte is a "great financier" (read my lips . . . crook) who bribes his way into Parliament. In The Prime Minister, another Trollope book, Tory MP Gerald Fedden is elected, despite his involvement in sexual and financial scandal.
Benjamin Disraeli was a novelist as well as Prime Minister. In Coningsby two spin doctors, Tadpole and Taper, devise a catchy election theme, “Ancient Institutions and Modern Improvements”. Nothing changes.
Napoleon started out an idealist and became an emperor. When he was still a man of the people he said, "A throne is only a bench covered with velvet."  To most politicians, the electorate is a steamed pudding to be carved up and eaten. Gore Vidal, the American writer and essayist, said "Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates." Personally, I'm for the planet. Stay tuned . . . 

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