General

Politics and politicians

John Major was in town over the Sevens weekend, but swore that he was not here because of that. He was addressing a rather huge gathering of Britons in a reputable hotel, and predictably, he began by saying how much he liked and loved Hong Kong, going back 40 years when he first landed here to work on the books of Standard Chartered. This is of course the man who was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1997 and who appointed his good friend Patten after the latter failed in an election to be the last Governor of Hong Kong. In a way, he helped shape the political scene of recent Hong Kong.

He would be remembered as the person who led the Conservatives to victory in a hard-fought parliamentary election in April 1992. His government then faced a series of problems, mainly financial, including high inflation, unemployment, and a nationwide recession. His approval rating dropped to 14 percent, the lowest of any prime minister in British history. One wonders why Hong Kong political leaders appear to be so troubled by ratings of around 50 percent. Major won the following election, but one-third of the party voted against him or abstained, something he obviously would remember for a very long time. He quipped in typical British humour that he had nothing against Tony Blair and his team, adding that they were simply following his old policies. He also said his dissenters were mainly in the Conservative Party.

John Major resigned as leader of the Party in May 1997. Today, he said once again rather predictably that out of politics had given him unique and different perspectives on politics and politicians. He dismissed as nonsense and unwarranted pessimism that the Hong Kong economy was going from bad to worse and that neighbouring economies such as Shanghai would overtake us. Hong Kong is all about changes and evolution and has been doing just that for as long as he can remember.

Any politicians worth his salt are supposed to be good a cracking jokes on almost anything, starting with himself, his country, his family and so on. For example, after he spoke and before question time, he assured his audience they could ask him any question on any subject in any manner of their choice and he would answer their questions in any manner he liked. He then reassured them not to worry about questions being silly, for he had dealt with all of them for seven years in the Commons.

Here is a joke he and Gorbachev shared when they were both in power. They were having a private dinner in Downing Street after a summit meeting. During small talks, they discussed who between Britons and Russians were the more patient. Major took his guest to a window and pointed to a few men and women waiting at a bus stop. “You see, these people have been waiting there for a bus for a rather long time. They have no idea when a bus would arrive, if at all. I think the Britons are a patient lot.”

“Not necessarily,” said the Soviet leader, “You see, in my country, we queue up to buy food and necessities. This could take ages. Two men in a queue were getting impatient and attributed their woes to my policies. One of them said to the other, ‘I would go and kill Gorbachev’ and left. He returned two days later to join the same queue which had not moved very much. The other man asked him, ‘Have you killed him?’ ‘No, the queue to kill him was even longer than this one and I gave up.’ So, my friend, who are the more patient?”

Before I go, let me share with you another joke on politicians. The Democrats are considering changing their emblem from a donkey to a condom because a condom stands for inflation, halts production, discourages cooperation, protects a bunch of dicks, and gives one a sense of security while screwing others.

Talk to you next time.

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