10 things we can do without
Last week, the Public Policy Forum released a list of the top 10 ways to improve Parliament, as discussed at its conference in Ottawa. Thus inspired, here's my list of the top 10 things that should NOT return to the Hill along with MPs today, after the long summer break. They're mainly media-related, since, well, that's where I work.
1. Talking points for political panels on TV. Seriously. For years, we've known that these noise-fests are bad TV and even worse politics, but MPs/strategists keep showing up on the sets of those shows and thinking that it's best to use these occasions to repeat oft-said party lines. Enough.
2. Anonymous "senior Liberal strategists." Come on. We all know that everyone in that party seems to think of him/herself as a senior strategist, but for decades now, people have been using that anonymous cloak to trash the leader and complain that no one is listening to the brilliant communications advice that is being offered off the record to the media. I'm a bit bored with that now. Ditto for suggestions that the Liberals need a better leader, who turns out to be the person who didn't win last time. That's so 1984-2008. One more revolt/mutiny, and your party is done. And then where would all you senior strategists be?
3. Speaking of strategists, it's probably time to wind down the declaration that the Prime Minister is a superior tactician. See "summer of 2010."
4. The "culture of deceit." The phrase, inserted into every Liberal question last spring, is tired now and, uh, we get that you're repeating it over and over and want us to say it too. And that's why we won't.
5. Questions to Jack Layton about his health and whether he's well enough to ___________ (show up, bring down the government, etc.) Clearly he is recovering, able to do his job and he wants to keep this cancer struggle private. So let's wish him well and leave it at that.
6. Every day, before Question Period, Conservative backbenchers read prepared attacks on Michael Ignatieff that usually feature "tax and spend Liberal" and "just visiting" and "he's just in it for himself." I keep wondering what these backbenchers' constituents would feel, seeing this show. Is that why they sent their man/woman to Ottawa? And it's not true that the more you say it, the more likely I am to insert that in a story. See points #2 and #4.
7. Media conspiracy theories. On both sides. Confession: we're too disorganized to start a conspiracy. We think in terms of one day; sometimes, given the rapidly shorter news cycle, one hour. We simply don't have time for meetings on how to bring down the government and install a Communist or far-right regime. For those who persist in believing this, two words: Kory Teneycke. Look how well that worked out.
8. Anonymous, vicious commenters to blogs. Personally, I've never been overly bothered by anonymity in the comments section, but in practical terms, the policy has run its course. The anonymous attacks are so silly and predictable now that no one is paying attention to them anymore. In fact, they're officially a joke among us and yes, we do believe that you live in your parents' basement and/or that you're drunk when you press "send". (Sorry to you who put all that effort into writing that vitriol. It's now part of the wallpaper, like bathroom graffiti.)
9. "Tips" to the media on the state of some politicians' private lives/marriages. Blanket answer: uh, yes, we've heard that before and have you considered that we're not writing that because it's simply a nasty rumour and nothing else? Trust me, if you've heard it at a cocktail party hundreds, thousands of kilometres away from Ottawa, we've heard it too, probably looked into it, and found it's not much more than an urban legend.
10. And finally, a flurry of meaningless phrases. "Going forward" is the one that I find particularly irksome, but also "at the end of the day." Narrative is a fine word, when it means something -- ie, a coherent story, with beginning, middle and end -- but it is not a synonym for "reason," as in, "That politician lacks a narrative to call an election."
Feel free to add your own additions to this list in the comments section. If you want to do it anonymously, fine, but you lose your right to complain about politicians' courage. Standing behind your beliefs, in public, is sort of the point of politics, right?