I have become, over the past few weeks, ever more disillusioned with the dispiritingly moral bankruptcy of political reality in the UK. To the extent that I’d like to sign up to whatever peculiar Aaron Sorkin inspired cult exists that will allow me to absorb myself in a fantasy-world where the leader of the free world values intelligence over cunning and what’s right over what’s popular (not withstanding assassinating a foreign government official in Series 2 and lying to the American public about a debilitating disease, obviously).
As much as anything, this reveals that I have a disturbing level of familiarity with The West Wing. Oh yes, indeed. In fact, watching all seven series, back-to-back, is something of an annual ritual with me. I am now at my ninth go around (and considering that it was first broadcast in the UK in 2000, and in the intervening years I have two children and no time to watch TV for half a decade, that’s pretty much once a year, every year). As a result, I can pretty much quote whole episodes. I prefer Series 7 to Series 5. I have a long-lasting and pretty much unshakeable passion for Bradley Whitford – although I’ve always thought he should have ended up with Amy (intelligent, spiky, uncompromising, feminist, brunette) rather than Donna (dependable, patient, committed, bright, blonde).
But while my general relationship to The West Wing is located clearly in the realm of fiction – over the last month I’ve been actively pining for it as an alternative reality. I’m not sure how much longer I want to tolerate living in a society where the leader of one political party considers it acceptable to use the circumstances of a humanitarian atrocity to exploit the weaknesses of his rival. What really brought it home to me was the account given by John McTernan in The Telegraph of a Cabinet Minister’s early day in the House: accosted by his party whip, he was pinned against the wall and man-handled in the most sensitive area possible – along with the whispered threat “Son, you’ve done nothing to annoy me. Yet. Just think what I’ll do if you cross me”.
How can it be possible that we live in a society where the people who make our laws, who represent our views, who we ask to stand for what we believe in, have created a working environment of physical intimidation, bullying and vicious back-stabbing. Is this the representation we want? Is this an accurate reflection of us, of what we believe in and stand for? Because if it is, I want my tax-money back. I’m going to be throwing my English Breakfast into the nearest available harbour and starting my own chant – “no taxation without civilisation”.