originally published April 25, 2014
As much as I try to avoid writing about politics (mostly because I’m far more informed about other topics, like bacon and juggling), I am nevertheless somewhat boggled, baffled and befuddled at the fact that Rob Ford could very possibly win his bid for re-election this fall as Toronto’s mayor. Look, I can understand the appeal of a crack-smoking drunk – we all know the bad-boys got all the chicks in high school. I myself once wore a mullet and owned a ratty old jean jacket.
But I think there has to be a line of responsibility drawn here. Someone like Rob Ford should not be tasked with running Canada’s largest city. There needs to be a cap on how high a slovenly misogynist with a penchant for substance abuse can climb in society – I’m thinking an assistant manager at a Denny’s. Anything more important than that and we’re just asking for trouble.
Mayor Ford is hardly the world’s only example of a poorly-chosen leader, and I’m not even including the numerous corrupt dictators and store-bought US Congressmen. We North American types have been mostly oblivious to the antics of Godfrey Bloom, an independent Member of the European Parliament for the Yorkshire And The Humber section of England. This guy is classic Rob Ford material, minus the crack use.
Godfrey Bloom was elected to the European Parliament in 2004 as a member of the United Kingdom Independence Party, a right-wing libertarian group that supports the monarchy and frowns on same-sex marriage and climate change. Godfrey served as the party whip until September of last year when he (and the party) decided their fundamental differences in opinion were a little too wide for that relationship to continue.
Neither Bloom nor Ford are feminists by any stretch. While Ford was accused of groping mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson’s posterior during a party (which of course he has denied), Bloom lays his opinions on the table, free from static or misinterpretation. Shortly after being elected, Bloom was appointed to the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. He told an interviewer that “no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.”
Bloom told a BBC-4 reporter that his remarks were said “for fun”. Okay, he wants us to believe he pulled off a Colbert-esque feat of satire. I’ll buy it. Let’s see what else he wants us to believe.
The story about him visiting brothels in Hong Kong was interesting, in particular the part where he admits having done so, but claims he never partook in anything while there. So… he just dropped in to check out the décor, I suppose. But he didn’t inhale.
Women are better at finding the mustard in the pantry than driving a car. Feminism is a passing fad, created by shrill, bored, middle-class women of a certain physical genre, and the men who support it are slightly effete. These are Bloom’s (slightly paraphrased) words, flung together in black & white, and a little too blunt to be satire. Sure, Rob Ford may have “enough to eat at home” and claims he doesn’t need the escorts his staffers swear he has used, but he’s got nothing on Godfrey Bloom.
Shortly after UKIP party conference last fall (during which he jokingly referred to the ladies in the audience as ‘sluts’), Bloom got into a skirmish with reporter Michael Crick, swatting him on the head with a conference brochure. That was caught on video; what we didn’t see was the alleged threat Bloom threw at ITV reporter Paul Brand: “You treat me badly, you’ll get a lot worse than that.”
Alleged, of course – I have to be clear on that. That’s Brand’s story; I’m sure Bloom has his own take on what he said. Though I’m not sure how he’d justify the comment he made about how he was thinking of taking up shooting and that Crick “might be the first cartridge.” Rob Ford may knock councilwomen to the floor, he may head-butt news cameras and bellow at reporters, but he hasn’t actually hit one yet. I suppose he needs something to strive for.
The one area where Ford clearly has the edge is when it comes to drunken buffoonery. But Bloom is doing his best.
He was carried out of the European Parliament in 2008 by an intern for his inappropriate behavior. He had drunkenly proclaimed to the Parliament that the officials from Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic do not have the ability to understand economic relations. Apparently this was his second removal for being drunk on the job. In 2012, after having swilled back some booze along with a few heavy painkillers, Bloom interrupted a floor debate to ask where on their jerseys the Cambridge University Women’s Rugby team should wear their logo.
Say what you will about Rob Ford, I don’t recall a story in which he showed up drunk (or for that matter cranked on Casper) to work. But Bloom doesn’t need the room to be spinning for his foot to find its way into his mouth. He’ll cut off a German member of Parliament by shrieking a Nazi slogan at him. He’ll demand that the unemployed lose their right to vote. He even celebrated the French government’s 1985 bombing of a Greenpeace boat, despite the fact that a guy died.
Bloom is exactly the kind of insane that late-night talk show monologue writers love.
Though it was the “sluts” comment that ultimately precipitated the termination of Bloom’s tenure as party whip, his party’s patience had been tested a few months earlier when Bloom referred to overseas countries that accept British financial aid as ‘Bongo Bongo Land’. He didn’t make the term up of course – it has been a derogatory expression for foreign areas for more than a century. When the story broke open and flooded the pages of British newspapers, Bloom apologized profusely.
I’m joking, of course. He acknowledged that he was intending to be derogatory, but he didn’t mean for it to be racist – a differentiation I’m not fully sure I can wrap my think-muscle around. He regretted that his choice of words had caused offense but offered no apology, the equivalent of saying, “Yeah, that sucks that you were hurt by what I said, hey?”
I don’t know. Rob Ford is a train wreck of a human being, not at all fit for the office to which he barely clings (and will hopefully lose completely in the fall). But Godfrey Bloom is almost a caricature of a moronic leader, seemingly proud to soak in his own fantastic absurdity. I actually hope he remains in the public spotlight, just for the comedy he provides.
Though if it ever came down to it, he wouldn’t get my vote.