It’s strange, the way life imitates art. I once wrote a short story called ‘Booing the Bishop’, where I invented a bishop’s visit to a school being greeted by booing. In the story, the Dean is furious, so furious that, in a fast forward to the future, I had him undergo a nervous breakdown. I was convinced I had imagined the booing and the breakdown, but now my contemporaries tell me that yes, there really was an outburst of booing that day and yes, the Dean did have a nervous breakdown.
And here’s another, more recent example. Last night I was watching an episode of Borgen, the Danish TV series that revolves around a woman who is the prime minister of Denmark. It so happens that there actually was a woman in recent times who was prime minister of Denmark. In last night’s episode, one of the political parties gets access to files which show that the leader of a rival party was fined on a drink-driving charge. They argue among themselves whether they should use this piece of information, which would turn the oncoming election on its head. In the end they decide not to.
Cast your mind back a hundred years, that is to say pre-Covid, and remember what happened to Barry Cowen, who was Agriculture Minister but who lost his job because…You’re ahead of me, Virginia. Because it emerged that in the distant past he had been convicted on a drink-driving charge. Unlike in the TV series, Cowen’s opponents had no qualms about using this information from the past to nail him.
And finally, in last night’s episode, there’s an election. The leader of one major political party is renowned for his calm and logical character. The female leader of another party is convinced that he in fact will, if provoked enough, blow his top. So in a TV debate, she piles on one damning fact after another until her opponent is twitching with rage and then goes a bit bananas.
What happened two days ago in the Dáil? Micheál Martin, known for his smiling good humour, is attacked again and again by Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Féin, until at last Micheál erupts and accuses her of lying. Metaphorical blood all over the Dáil carpet.
I could go into the way Boris Johnson sees himself as a mixture of Lord Snooty, Just William and James Bond. But they say you shouldn’t shoot fish in a barrel, not even the ones that stink