Sunday 22 January 2012

Potter Politics

If there was remake of the Harry Potter films where politicians of any era could play the characters, who would play whom? Sounds like a down the pub discussion with the other geeks who attend CLP meetings. If you have any thoughts then drop me a comment below or tweet with the hashtag #potterpolitics.

The Harry Potter books have been compared to many things. But you have to be careful. Be wary of comparing Harry Potter with Twilight on twitter, people take such comparisons pretty seriously. As far as I can see Twilight is for people who have grown up with Harry Potter and now need something a bit more risqué, vampire lust clearly fits the bill. I had intended to make a comparison between Hogwarts and Parliament, the architecture is similar, and even the colour scheme is reminiscent of Gryffindor house colours of red and gold in the house of Lords and and the Green of Slytherin in the Commons. Whitehall is like the Ministry of magic. Some MPs in the Westminster village might see themselves as part of a rarefied, wizarding world, looking down on us muggle voters. But it is not that simple.

Start to make comparisons between political and Harry Potter characters and you are left with a staggering number of tricky choices. For example is Dumbledore the occasionally magical Dennis Skinner or, a more obvious choice the legendary Kier Hardie. This blog post, like the film The Deathly Hallows will be done in 2 parts, mainly because I couldn’t make up my mind. In part 1 I will describe a scenario in which, like in Hogwarts, little attention to is paid to the passage of time: some people are immortal and the dead can show up at any moment in a picture frame. Part 2 will be a more up to to date analogy.

Politics and Harry Potter Part 1: A Historical approach.

The House of Gryfindor and the Order of the Pheonix are the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement, they fight the evil forces the evil forces of Voldermort and his Slytherin Cronies (the Bankers and the Tory party).

The leader of the Tolpuddle martyrs, George Loveless would play Godric Gryffindor. Godric was one of the four famous founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and an enlightened fighter against Muggle-discrimination1. Coincidentally they both hail from the countryside, Godrics hollow said to be somewhere in the west country2, and Tolpuddle is not too far away.

Kier Hardie would have to play Dumbledore, a true giant of both the trade union movement and the Labour Party. He still marches with us at the Durham miners gala, carried on several banners (Pictured2) casting a watchful eye over proceedings.

Nye Bevan; Welshman, thinker, socialist: The architect of the NHS would play a character that only true Potter fans may be familiar with; Mungo Bonham was the founder of St. Mungo's hospital for magical maladies and injuries, The name 'Mungo' is possibly derived from Welsh mwyn meaning gentle or kind 3. Couldn’t be more apt.

Thatcher is a difficult character to cast, my first thought was Bellatrix Lestrange. She is ruthless enough but more of a follower than a leader so I settled on former Minister for Magic Delores Umbridge. A strong women who punished her enemies mercilessly, notably giving out lines that had to be written in the blood of the victim. She was highly intelligent, driven and despite her evilness she always believed what she was doing was right, and showed no remorse. Thatcher is definitely Umbridge.

Nancy Astor the first female MP could be Rowena Ravenclaw, as a Tory you might expect her to play a Slytherin, but she because of her role as a true pioneer it seems appropriate that she is one of the founders of Hogwarts. Ravenclaws are famous for their intelligence, creativity and wit, qualities Nancy would have needed in abundance when she entered in the the House back in 1918.

Churchill is Mad Eye Moody, a bit obvious and perhaps disrespectful, but apart from the physical similarities both were at their best in times of war. Clement Atlee who succeeded Churchill is Sirius Black, the moustache is not the only similarity. Sirius came from a noble pure-blood family, but chose to fight against elitism and was a supporter of both the order of the Phoenix and later Dumbledore's army. Atlee was also from a privileged background, attending prep school, Haileybury boys school then graduating form University College, Oxford. He advocated policies of investment, job creation and redistribution of wealth;
“Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly”
Atlee's words are still true today, maybe Phillip Green and other 'rich men' should take note.

The main characters are the most difficult to decide upon, Neil and Glenys Kinnock are Mr and Mrs Weasley. Mr Weasley is hardworking, has compassion and values but when it comes to a fight he will not back down. The same could be said about the former Labour Leader.

Voldemort represents for me, not any one historical figure but, the break up of communities. He is the spectre of unemployment in the 80s and the the rise of a more selfish society in the early Nineties. I have not mentioned mentioned John Major in this histrorical account but he can be Kreacher, a house elf loyal to his former master. Micheal Heseltine can be Fitch and the caretaker squib who wanted to cast his spells but never quite managed it.

Harry Potter, the wizard who defeated Voldermort when he was just a boy is in this historical account could easily be Tony Blair. A bit of a wizard, talented and with a touch of celebrity, Tony fits the bill. There is another character however who Tony could play equally well, the dashing and popular Gilderoy Lockhart; a hit with the ladies, always on hand with a signed copy of his book about his past adventures.

Politics and Harry Potter Part 2. The Current Cohort

The sorting hat is a hat that reads your innermost thoughts and puts you into a house based on deeply held beliefs. I wish there was a real life political one. When MPs go into the house they have to put the hat on and it would shout out which party you truly belong to. That really would be interesting...

...Back to the casting call, I will start close to home. My MP Pat Glass is one of the new cohort of Labour MPs elected in 2010. She is a great constituency MP and is an asset to the Party. She comes from a background in education so she won't mind me casting her as one of Hogwarts finest teachers: Pemona Sprout. Ms Sprout uses her considerable horticulture skills to defend Hogwarts against the relentless attacks by Voldemort's death eaters. Pat makes every effort to defend North West Durham against the relentless attacks on the most vulnerable in our region by Cameron and his coalition partners.

Media figures do no escape: Andrew Neil is Professor Flitwick: intellegent, quick witted and probably likes a bit of polyjuice potion (or blue nun) on a Thursday night. Nick Robinson is Cornelius Fudge, subconciously  succumbing to pressure from Malfoy and Voldemort, all the while trying to convince himself, and others, that he is impartial. Rita Skeeter will do anything for a story and so, is Rebekah Brooks. Murdoch could play Voldemort but instead the whole of News Interational organisation will roam the land, as soul-sucking Dementors.

John Prescott is one of the most straightforward casting decisions: Mad Eye Moody. A fighter who always stuck to his principles and stayed true to the cause. He also had a softer side and would always do his best to pass on his wisdom to others.  Another deputy prime minister who gets a starring role is Margret Beckett as Professer McGonagall, highly competent, dependable, steely but at the same time, compassionate.

Neville Longbottom, the unlikley hero could be played many Labour politicians, Middlesborough's Tom Blenkinsop perhaps but I think Tom Watson fits the bill perfectly. Chris Bryant also easy to place, he is one of the Weasley twins, Fred I think, they both use humour to good effect and are brave enough to take on the Dark Forces of the Murdoch Empire. Luna Lovegood is played by Stella Creasy, tenacious in highlighting a cause, and fighting for those forgotten by the mainstream, Stella publicised the Credit Regulation Bill and continues to fight for those trapped in a viscous cycle of high interest debt.

Ed Balls would be a Quidditch player who doesn’t mind launching a bludger or two, I thought of Viktor Klum, but he sounds a bit too Marxist for Balls so I have settled on George Weasley, beater in Gryffindors Quidditch team. Which means unfortunately Yvette Cooper can't be Hermione which is a shame. David Miliband is Cedric Diggory, popular, good looking, charming, at times heroic with exemplary manners.

Hermione's part is a difficult one. There are quite a few forthright, able women MPs on the Gryffindor side of the House but I'm sure that Rachel Reeves would play the part well. On the opposition side, Sayeeda Warsi would have to be Bellatrix, she follows the party line with gusto and seems fiercely loyal, good traits for a party chairman. 
Eric Pickles and Ken Clarke are Crabbe and Goyle; it's a no brainier, real heavyweights who protect their leader. George Osborne is Wormtail; obedient but envious of his master. Andrew Lansley has to be Lucius Malfoy. He has a sense of entitlement, but wants to be seen as if he is a fine upstanding pillar of the community. The fact is that he strives to create an unequal world where pure-blood wizards like himself can look down (from their pay beds) on those they deem to be less worthy.

The Liberal Democrat party are not to difficult to place either. They are like Hufflepuff house; the house of tolerence, they play a bit part in the story but crave a more central role. Nick Clegg is talior made to play the part of Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse. We don't get to know much about the true nature of Thicknesse because he is placed under a powerful spell called the Imperius Curse. This unforgivable piece of dark magic causes the victim of the curse to obey the spoken/unspoken commands of the caster. The experience of being controlled by this curse is described as a complete, wonderful release from any sense of responsibility or worry over his actions, at the price of his free will.4 Clegg displays all the symptoms of being under this spell. Symptoms which are all too which are common in Westminster where Lib Dems are frequently spellbound by even the whiff of the leather in a ministerial car. Tim Farron is Professor Quirrel, making a good show of appearing free from the control of the dark forces, some even believe that he is not, but we find out in the end that he is just another puppet.

Which brings me to the two main characters: Cameron is Voldemort. I understand that it could be cast that Voldemort is the interest of big business and Cameron is just another Death Eater but that would miss the point. Voldemort co-ordinates the attack. He is the mastermind and he doesn’t care how many Muggles die on his path of destruction. Voldemort controls all the rest of his squad and there is only one person that can defeat him.

Enter Ed Miliband, our Harry Potter. He steps out of the shadows of his famous wizarding father. In the early chapters you think he is too weak that he's got no chance, but he survives everything that is thrown at him. Over the course of a few years he gains strength though twists turns and tortuous tribulations. He builds an army around him who challenge the dark forces of Voldemort wherever they show themselves. We know how the story must end. Harry can, and will defeat Voldemort.

The Wikipedia articles on Hogwarts are extensive, fun and written as if it is a real place. Long live Wikipedia!


Malcolm Clarke said...

Nice to read something a little different!!

Syzygy said...

Not just very entertaining but also food for thought. Thanks.

Pam said...

Love it! It's very clever…. and yes, thought-provoking.

Unknown said...

I could have written a book but had to stop somwhere, I couldn't decide wich Trade Union Leader Hagrid was, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon maybe...