What is the role of government?
Just now the role of our government seems in doubt. The UK will now have to give the right to vote to prisoners in UK jails. Opinion polls, (for what they are worth!) suggest this is not popular. Thus, had this been in a manifesto it would have been a vote loser. It has come to pass due, initially, to the campaign of a single person being given a wider and more sympathetic hearing. The UK government has neither debated or voted on this matter. So government has been ignored. But then our government often ignores the public.
The Anglo French agreement to share aircraft carriers is not popular either. Likewise the 'victory' that David Cameron has credited himself with regarding the EU budget is seen by the public as nothing of the sort. All three of these things have roots in either the EU or European/EU related areas and will sap the coalition's approval rating in time. But then there are some things that government should ignore and local government, in the form of the Surrey borough of Spelthorne, should ignore Sacha Baron Cohen.
The town of Staines is part of Spelthorne, which is the 'home' of Ali G and Cohen is the London born actor and writer and has, via Ali G, Borat and Bruno, made many people laugh. These characters have been popular because they are unusual, but then the whole act by Cohen is unusual. Each character is so extreme that this is why, you tell yourself, there's never been anything like this before. But then you realise that every mile you go and every hour that passes you meet a never ending stream of such creatures.
This is why the laughter is such a wonderful release and relief. Naturally some of the people who laugh have done so because of the discomfort of others. Luckily this is still legal! I've noticed an uneasy relationship between some faint-hearts from the political left and the Cohen characters. Between them Ali G, Borat and Bruno are sexist, racist, misogynistic and the really big one of the moment, homophobic. In other words something for everyone. But people complain. Much as Kazakhstan complained about Borat, Staines is now complaining about Ali G. Now Cohen seems to have 'retired' Ali G a good few years ago but then when did government ever keep up with reality? In fact there will many people who will have forgotten the Ali G and Staines connection and, along with those who were too young to remember, you do wonder what the good people of Staines are up to; are they trying to get noticed?
It's worth noting who, apart from Staines and Kazakhstan, did complain about Cohen and what happened. Several people who have appeared in Cohen's films have tried to sue for damages, and a few people who had been interviewed by Ali G. They all had their cases thrown out of court. But it's different being a borough you can rely on a steady stream of income from the public which you can waste at will. This whole thing is so stupid it puts local government into perspective. As a large number of politicians in Westminster came up through local government it's a window on how the political class think. One to watch?