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Political virtue

Don Watson writes an ode to retiring independent MP Tony Windsor over at The Monthly:

A good bloke lost as collateral damage, people are saying. If that is all we can make of it, we will only deepen the folly. You could be the dead-set best bloke in history and be no loss at all. What matters is that you were a good politician: good enough to be the measure of what’s missing in modern politics.

I mean the qualities that the media no longer much values or, in its more extreme and youthful forms, even recognises, and which the major parties only sometimes reward. Not “the vision thing” – though I suspect you have one – but the dependable, intelligent, worldly, unbreakable, character thing, on which democratic politics and our faith in it depend. This is more than “good blokeism” – or “good sheilaism”. It is having good judgement, including the judgement of others’ character. It means hearing and representing the people, but neither aping them nor manipulating them; nor being only for them, whatever the broader interest; nor telling them only what they want to hear, or only the messages that your spin doctors reckon they must hear to the exclusion of both the demands of intellect and the refinements of civilised discourse.

Good character and good judgment. If politics is the way we resolve our differences and find some way to live with one another, what else can it come down than this? The focus-group-driven machine ‘politics’ we all know and loathe doesn’t deserve the name. Surely it’s about time we reclaimed its proper meaning.