Friday, 27 May 2016

Tyrion the Whig vs Varys the Tory in Game of Thrones S6/E5.

Well that was all a bit meta wasn’t it? Kevin Eldon playing an actor playing a comedy northerner. Richard E Grant as a rep luvvie. Brienne channelling the Jon-Snow-Comes-To-Dinner sketch and contemplating the Promised Prince’s brooding nature. And Bran’s slip in the warg-time continuum leaving the riddle of whether Hodor’s name or the hold-the-door mini-battle came first in GRRM’s imagination.

Anyway, on with the politics, which is reducing to its most basic form: might is right.

The growing Stark entourage are off to rally potential allies and their hosts to the cause of taking back The North. Intelligence from the scheming Petyr Baelish is directing them first to Riverrun, supposedly retaken by Jon and Sansa’s Tully cousins. Surely anything from Littlefinger’s mouth should be graded at a minimum of ‘E4’, though.

Over in the Iron Islands, the new king, Euron Greyjoy has been anointed via the traditional method of taking in a lungful or two of Ironman’s Bay. In future, claimers of the Salt Throne might find a seawater colonic irrigation more cleansing and less threatening to life. With the Driftwood Crown jauntily perched on his head, he wasted no time in calling for his escaped niblings (and pretenders to the throne) to be murdered, before demanding the sort of naval expansion that would have put the Vinson-Walsh Act to shame. His plan is to ‘seduce’ Danaerys with his ships by proposing to unite them with her Dothraki horsepower. Which makes you wonder just who was responsible for burning her original fleet in Meereen.

Tyrion is still trying to keep a lid on the chaos developing in that city and has become most whiggish in his approach. The Whigs were forerunners to modern day ‘big-L’ Liberals and, in British political history, emerged during the English Civil War and were founded on principles of constitutional monarchism. (There was also an American Whig Party which was one of the predecessors to the Republicans and whose traditions are still reflected!). Whiggism emphasised the importance, even the inevitability, of personal freedoms, democratic values, human knowledge and scientific progress. Tyrion’s deal with the Masters in E4, to allow Meereen to be free of slaves while slavery is phased out in the rest of the Free Cities, is a typically whiggish compromise. It was the Whig Party that abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1833, except for territories controlled by the East India Company. Those exceptions were removed ten years later.
East India Company territories (Slavers Bay not shown).

In E5, Tyrion is once again trying to rally the people of Essos towards a freer, richer future. Varys is sceptical of this approach and openly presents a more Tory position. Although now a synonym for Conservatives in British politics, Tories also originated during the English Civil War as Royalist supporters of King Charles I. As they developed into a political project, now often referred to as High Toryism, they emphasised tradition and hierarchy as the source of guidance for any change, which they preferred to be incremental. They were suspicious of commercial and individual interests undermining community and order.

Tyrion wants to consolidate Danaerys's power by spreading the story of her bringing peace and security, and the idea that history is with her. He seeks the advocacy of the the Red Priestess Kinvara, a leader of the Lord of Light faith. Although startled by her somewhat genocidal rhetoric (well you can't make an omelette without breaking a few dragon eggs), he accepts her offer to promote the Khaleesi as the leader "against the darkness, in this war, and in the great wars still to come".

Varys objects on the basis that Stannis Baratheon's support from another Red Priestess (Melisandre) led only to his defeat in his attempt to claim the Iron Throne. He openly doubts the wisdom of this new religion and its representative.

By the end of the 18th Century in Britain, the Tories represented established interests such as land owners, merchants and government administrators; while the Whigs stood for religious dissenters, industrialists, and social and political reformers. In Game of Thrones, the nouveau riche Lannister and the paternalistic Spymaster still share the same goal of reuniting the Seven Kingdoms. But differences are emerging in how they want to get there.

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