The Smug, The Sad and The Severe
I'm watching politicians on TV
And see that there are
Largely three varieties.
First, The Smug: He hails
From junior debating society,
Almost always male,
Complexion chiefly pale,
He's schooled in swingeing
Wit and verbal pugilistics,
Now in thirties, forties, fifties,
Wears a banker's suit
And smiles for the camera,
And when it comes to mooting points
He boasts interminable stamina.
See how he rises with alacrity
And crushes foes elastically,
Then, verbal sparring done,
Adopts a solemn tone: Tells us
Every hat should have a home,
(Then cocks to check his mobile phone)
But now he's back, insisting
Every dog should have a bone.
He sounds these bites
With awesome clarity,
Lips hard-selling charity,
To breed familiarity,
While hunted eyeballs scratch
The air for ever finer witticisms
With which to poke the opposition.
Behind him lies The Sad,
Male, sixty plus, who's lost the knack
For dashing verbal uppercuts.
Downcast in grey,
His limping mouth
With regrets and health
And a growing sense of unease
At the sources of his wealth.
True, he's somewhat wiser,
But finds it hard to criticize his
Protégé. What right have we to blame,
Knowing we were much the same?
He opts for a supporting role
And simply rolls his eyes
At cries of "Shame!"
No longer sharp enough himself
To play the smugness game.
Beside, beyond these Honorable Men
Sit the severe headmistresses and mother hens.
Arched and frozen, stiff with hate
(Though this is not their natural state,
In fact they are the ones who care),
Their icy stares stab
At the suited blubber
But the words bounce back,
They haven't got the knack,
Don't know how to spice the fight
With Common Room tact,
Too quick to play the part of acid ranter,
Their angry truths don't elevate the banter,
Too vexed and tense to pass off
Satire with a knowing shrug,
At night they weep and wish that
They were young and male and smug.
Poem Study Notes:
This poem was written in 2014, which was an election year in the UK.
One office lunchtime, the poet was at the gym, lazing on the exercise bike in front of Sky Sports, when the TV channel inexplicably changed to the Parliament Channel and Prime Minister's Question Time. Of course the poet could not move to an alternative machine, being halfway through his workout and reluctant to confuse his statistics.
Frustrated, the poet later vented his rage by writing this poem.
There is some doubt as to how well qualified this poet is to criticise British politicians. He has met more Russian politicians than British ones, but when he has met British ones, he has been astonished at their perfectly clean and well-cut suits (to such a point of dazzled distraction that he couldn't really comment on the words coming out of their mouths one way or another).
In his favour, this poet never reads newspapers or watches the news on TV (so you could interpret his ignorance as objectivity).