Three-and-a-half weeks: it could drive us mad

Is three-and-a-half weeks too long for an election campaign? There’s an argument that says it is. For a start, campaign reports tend to nudge aside other TV programming. Dangerous. Do that for long enough – say, for three-and-a-half weeks – and a lot of people get mad. They start out angry with the parties that’ve cut their wages, slashed their benefits, killed their jobs; they end up mad as hell with every party of any stripe that shows its face on TV, blocking the normal diet of EastEnders and the Renee Zellweger movie. Result: on election day they stay at home, catching up on why Shirley won’t marry Phil and mouthing the punch lines from Bridget Jones’s Diary. Just as well we don’t all live in the US, then, where the election campaigns last two years. By polling day we’d be putting one foot through canvassers and the other through our TV screen.

Meanwhile, back in what passes for the real world, the media are busy assigning political parties to their stereotype roles. Fianna Fail of course are the villain and yes, Brian Cowen would have made a better gang leader than Micheal Martin but you can’t have everything. Fine Gael and Enda are the slightly dim shareholder, oops sharecropper who’s been kept down by the villain for so long but figures his salvation is finally at hand. Labour and Eamon Gilmore are the sharecropper’s best buddy, except that this best buddy figures he’s twice as smart as the sharecropper and had better get a sizeable piece of the action, soon as the villain bites the dust or mebbe sooner. The Greens are the pretty girl who likes gathering flowers in the sunshine and goes for the occasional dip in the nip in the nearby lake. And Sinn Féin? They’re the plumb crazy guy that everybody slaps their thigh and laughs at fit ter bust when he says this town is gonna soon be a ghost town, ‘ceptin’ folks gets organised and stands up to the villain’s ornery friends from the neighbouring territory that’s stealin’ our cattle ‘n’ burnin’ our crops.

Can the slightly dim sharecropper really be as dim as he looks? Will his best buddy try to plug him and grab all the land for himself? Will the townsfolk believe the plumb crazy guy before it’s too late? And where is that lake anyway?

Three-and-a-half weeks: it’s too long, I tell you, too long.

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