I saw this film ‘The Ides of March’ with a pal on Friday night and it was brilliant. Dark, sinister, awful, and brilliant.

What is it about politics that provokes acts of treachery and intrigue? Why does it so often descend into the arena of personal destruction?

Plutarch records the intrigue surrounding Brutus’ assassination of Julius Caesar. What’s changed? Nuttin’.

When I hear someone say they were brought up in an intensely political family, I know more often than not that means they heard schemes and plots to cut the ground out from under political rivals.

Look at the language of the dark side of politics: knee-cap, knobble, cripple, crush, destroy. They mean business. These words, used as verbs (‘doing words’) describe actions aimed at neutralizing (at best) the ‘opposition’. It matters not, of course, whether that opposition is, for the time being, within one’s own party or not. Ambitious political animals will savage each other and climb over each other’s still warm body (figuratively speaking) for political advantage.

The binary choice: ‘You’re either for us or agin us’ applies. Intimidation and threat is, distastefully, very common.

If it is possible to undercut one’s enemies and destroy their confidence to the extent that a battle or actual showdown is avoided, well, so much the better, seems to be the approach. Truth is secondary. Consider the political leaders you know about who, presented with information (true or false) chose to resign rather than wait for an axe to fall. Don Brash has been on all sides of those equations — the shafter, the shaftee, etc. Beneficiary and victim of the process.

Hang out with political animals, as I have done, and you’ll find they are, by nature, schemers. (Even worse than journalists! Actually, in my experience most journos are intensely interested in the whole wheels-within-wheels, story-behind-the-story aspects of life. We’re curious to know the ‘real story’. Oh, and we’re gossips.)

Arch schemers like National’s Michelle Boag and Labour’s Mike Williams, now both relatively mellow (or so they would have you suppose), still benignly spin and machinate when they can. They have been in many a brutal campaign.

By the time a polished political figure (like, say Barack Obama) appears in any meaningful public profile, they’ve in most cases experienced the private, behind the scenes deal crunching, trade-offs, arm wrestles, alliances of convenience, neutralizing of opponents, dealing with political scandals real and manufactured, and ugly, cynical compromises … which is what the movie ‘The Ides of March’ is all about,

Chess, they say, resembles war — it’s a strategy game with bursts of ‘killing’ and planned sacrifice. So it is with politics.

- P