Comment Editor's opinion


Resisting the lure of political turmoil

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Image by Isabella Edwards

By Raphael Henry

Recently, it feels increasingly as though UK politics has descended into the realm of full-blown political satire. Maybe it’s that we’re on to our third government of the year (with time for another); maybe it’s the feeling that there are certain ‘recurring characters’ that we just can’t seem to shake (aptly demonstrated by Boris Johnson’s bid to once again become Prime Minister, mere weeks after he resigned); or maybe it’s the ominously accurate parallels to The Thick of It, the BBC’s unbeatable parody of political manoeuvring. Liz Truss’ resignation was presciently summarised in 2012 by Peter Capaldi’s Malcom Tucker: “This is the ending of a chapter of a very thin book that nobody enjoyed reading.”

Our politics, and our politicians, have become so outrageous that it is dangerously easy to forget the real damage that they are doing. Sure, it might seem like a compelling plot point that Suella Braverman is even more anti-immigration than Priti Patel – but then you remember that you’re watching the news, not a political parody, and that immigrants are being subjected to inhumane treatment across the country for the sake of a manifesto pledge.

It bears repeating that our current political pandemonium is genuinely concerning. If UK politics was a holiday, it would be Bonfire Night (I do see the irony of that comparison, given what Bonfire Night is commemorating). Everybody watches, transfixed, faces bathed in orange light, as the flames tear through firewood: we’re utterly spellbound by the beauty of complete destruction. But these days, the British political bonfire is so bright that it is eclipsing everything else. There’s too much appeal in our satirical reality – it hurts in just the right way, letting us feel morally superior while already craving the next outrage. But in our obsession, we run the serious risk of overlooking the bigger issues just because they don’t have the same explosive appeal.

There is a balance to be struck, of course: this political turmoil has very real consequences for us, as the current cost of living crisis is making painfully clear. Maintaining this balance is something I care about deeply, and I think this print edition’s Comment section reflects that. We have not shied away from holding our politicians accountable, with Ethan Reuter outlining the Herculean tasks before Rishi Sunak, and Millie Simon critically examining whether Labour is doing enough. But we have also tried to maintain a broader focus: to this end, Nadia Sayed reflects on the ongoing protests in Iran, whilst Nick Hayes argues for why we should support university strikes, and Katy Leverett calls out for reform of the broken Student Finance system. Engaging with current cultural issues, Juliette Barlow breaks down the toxic and misleading ‘nice guy’ persona, and Ellie Robinson discusses the duty of care that reality TV shows have for their contestants. Finally, to ensure that this section isn’t just wall-to-wall bleakness, Charis Horsley points out the fatal flaws with the DUO two-factor authentication system, whilst Phoebe Leonard and James Clay go head-to-head in a Christmas-themed Clash of Comments.

It may seem cliché, but I am proud of the Comment section and the role that it plays in promoting the myriad opinions on offer at this university. Now that we are back to a full complement of Comment and Deputy Comment Editors, I am excited to see what the next few months will bring. Who knows, by the next print edition Rishi Sunak’s government might be ancient history (I pray that it isn't already ancient history by the time this paper goes to print). As always, whatever the future holds, we will endeavour to remain a port of call for meaningful discourse, with sharp minds and sharper words.