Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right, Stuck in the Middle with You

The headline above refers to a Stealers Wheel song from 1972 made famous (again) by Quentin Tarantino as part of the soundtrack for his deservedly acclaimed 1992 movie, Reservoir Dogs.

If you ask my teenage daughters, both of those references are “SO ancient! SO old!” But to me, they are extremely timely.

In the next few days, we are likely to see “blood on the floor” from some of the mainstream parties in the European Parliament. In fact the political scenario might make the scenes in Reservoir Dogs look like something out of Toy Story. In all probability, during the post-election phase, attentive observers will be able to see lead negotiators of those same mainstream parties sing the above song – probably off key and definitely not in unison –as a chorus.

Why? Politics. Tactics. Nationalities. All are legitimate explanations. Governance issues are equally important, chiefly the Parliament’s need as an institution to assert its position as a credible counterpart to the European Council.

But there’s a bigger explanation, a meta explanation, which transcends all of these reasons. If you believe in democracy, the explanation is this: real politics (not to be confused with realpolitik) is made by those people who will and can.

So you can make a very simple matrix…

martin 1

Brilliant people will arise on either side of the political spectrum. By showing that they are effective communicators, they will convince us that they could – probably – make European politics. These same people will also make it abundantly clear – as written in their very programs – that they are not willing to do so.  Despite the speeches, rallies and massive support…. nothing will materialize.

Throughout the political spectrum, you will also have profoundly good and willing candidates – soon to be MEPs – who have a lot of unguided goodwill but no real ability to put it to use. Failing to devise any revolutionary strategies and feeling disappointed at being misunderstood by electorate and colleagues (politicians rarely recognizes their own lack of abilities), they will become innocuous, doing no evil, but falling in line to follow those who are genuine leaders.    

Equally dispersed across the spectrum – but hopefully not in equal numbers – you will find those who don’t care and don’t want to do anything – the passive and disinterested. They ran for office and won the election for reasons unexplained and inexplicable. They will be forgotten even before the first picnic-trip to Strasbourg, regardless of how many times they are re-elected to Parliament.

And finally you’ll have those who are both willing and able to do what they are here for, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum.

If an election can be about “Yes, we can” the post-election reality for ‘real politicians’ will always be “yes we will.” These latter specimens will be able to make political compromises and decisions that determine the future of Europe in a wider sense, because they can.  They will lead the colleagues who can’t step forward, and energize some of those who simply won’t, and in the end, it is they who will make politics – stuck in the middle as they will be.


Martin Bresson



May 26, 2014 | 10:25 AM

RT @fleishmanEU: Clowns to the left, jokers to the right... who will be the 'real politicians' of the new #EP2014?