|Mr Khan - Community Leader (click for hilarious video)|
One of the BBC's funniest programmes of the past few years has been Bellamy's People; where the spoof DJ turned documentary maker Gary Bellamy meets unusual but highly believable characters from the length and breadth of these diverse isles.
It's an excoriatingly brilliant fusion of Little Britain and Louis Theroux. One of the characters that comes back again and again is Adil Ray's superbly portrayed Mr. Khan the Community Leader. In the scene that sets up the back story to the character, Mr Khan is desperately trying to prove to Gary Bellamy that he is the popular local spokesman of what appears to be a predominately Muslim community even though it is embarrassingly obvious that he has no such mandate.
Truly great satire is often the subtlest; after the Summer riots of 2011, the comic geniuses behind Mr. Khan have stumbled over an all too painful social phenomenon. The self appointed community leader.
Black, white, Asian, Christian, Hindu, straight, gay, old or young, it seems that in every community there are these self-important self-appointed self-promoting characters. They're on the rise, and mark my words, before long they will be coming to a pub and school gate near you.
When I fought the Labour stronghold of Erith & Thamesmead, these amazing characters would from time to time crawl out from under the barrel I was busy scraping the bottom of. I remember taking tea with a chap who was very keen for me to meet with him, his business card said he was a Professor, he told me about his impeccable links to 'his' community and that if I stuck with him I was assured of literally "thousands" of votes from 'his' people. This Mr. Khan was easily rumbled, as was Mr. Khan the local barman at the working men's club along with Mr. Khan the manager of the local mini-mart both of whom assured me that they spoke for 'their' people. What became apparent after the election was that most of them had made the same promises to the other candidates. They really were, as Boy George may have put it, Mr. Khan the chameleon.
During the summer looting and general mayhem of 2011 was I alone in being amazed at how many ghastly Mr. Khans were speaking for 'their' people every time a TV camera was stuck in their oh-so earnest boat races? I'm really not sure what I found more annoying, but it was a close run thing between the ugly unprincipled looters and the unctuous utterances of these unelected 'community leaders'.
Today, British blood is being spilt to allow the citizens of other countries to have a democracy. Our brave military are creating or supporting democratic principles across the globe, whilst back home we are all to ready to abandon these principles with a lock-jawed pig ignorance that makes me wonder if any of it ultimately matters. Imperfect as our democracy is, it has taken nearly a thousand years of honing and polishing to get it to where we are today, and yet it seems it's the people without a popular mandate that are given the soapbox.
Personally I blame the media. Instead of seeking out and giving airtime to the local ward councillors or even the local Council Leaders, they rush to Mr. Khan or even worse some has-been D List celebrity that never was. At the next election that same media will no doubt be lamenting the lack of voter engagement, citing voter apathy as they sharpen their knives ready to cut the legs off democracy at the next possible opportunity.
So my plea to the Mr. Khan's of this world, if you want to represent 'your' people, get elected. I don't mind for which party, that's the beauty of democracy it will be down to the people to decide. Until then, please just be quiet, you have even less of a mandate than the village idiot.
My plea to the media, if you need to fill your rolling news agenda, is it really beyond your wit to go online and find out who the locally elected people are? Until then, just speak to the village idiot, at least he will have been appointed to the role.
And for the rest of us, if we value our democracy, if we think it something worth fighting for, let's reach for the off button the next time Mr. khan is on the telly. Unless of course he's speaking to Gary Bellamy.