Tuesday, June 02, 2009

They Don't Get It. Do You?

Aaro today. In some ways such a perfect David Aaronovitch piece that it might have been written by a sub. In others - well, the subs among you may be offended by that suggestion.

People don't yet know what needs to be done, because they don't know what is wrong, because they don't really yet understand how things have changed, because they don't get it. Except me. And now, you.


Read the whole thing. Do you think you know what is wrong? Do you now understand how things have changed? I don't think DA tells us about either. A Level mark circa 1984: C-. A level mark 2009: A.

77 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

Football's got faster, A-level results have got better because teachers teach to the test, politicians have to think on their feet because there never used to be 24-hour news, and this is why... er, what?

There's the glimmering of a Gladwell-ish impressionistic thesis about how we live in the age of speed or something, but apart from that I'm buggered if I know what he's saying. We expect more than we used to because we expect more than we used to? And... what? The logical implication (which would fit with his column from the other week about MPs' expenses) is that we ought to go back to expecting less and stop bothering our MPs, poor things, but the Hennessy quote suggests he's setting his face against that.

In any case, it's nonsense - things have actually changed. MPs couldn't claim mortgage payments until 1985, and couldn't redesignate their first and second homes at will until 2004.

6/02/2009 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

My gloss on this would be that it is the week in which Aaro finally manages to articulate the spluttering rage that's been enveloping him for the last two weeks (cf last week's embarrassment, where among other lunacies, he questioned whether the LibDem's enthusiasm for electoral reform wasn't just a bit of conveniently adopted politicking). It also reinforces my theory that you cannot understand Aaronovitchism unless you start with Birtism, because his politics have been shaped much less by Eurocommunism, and much more by a) being a researcher on Weekend World, and b) his career as a middle manager.

The source of Aaro's fury over all this is indeed his "monitory democracy" theme, but his point is that in a Birtist regime, rigorous monitoring, constant assessment against targets and swift and unsentimental punishment for failure are things that the top bods do to the workers below, not that they have done to them. Any attempt to put the indignities of surveillance, databases, etc toward the ruling class is a reversal of the natural order of things. It's the ideology of an unclosed feedback loop and it's pretty central to Birtism that this mustn't happen - Birt tends to reach for the word "rigour" when he wants to say that someone else's view shouldn't be allowed to count, Aaro reaches for scatology.

I find myself idly wanting to juxtapose and mash up this column with a few of the ID cards and ASBOs ones. After all, the vast majority of MPs have terribly boring lives, and most government departments don't really do anything that the public might want to campaign against. So what have they got to fear?

6/02/2009 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

By the way, what is this fucking obsession with 24 hour news? The radio has always had hourly bulletins since the days of the Light Programme. If politicians really decided to change their entire approach to government simply because there were two ineffably dull satellite channels blethering away with nobody watching, then it's hardly our fault they're stupid.

6/02/2009 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

It's a classic rant not dissimilar to an adolescent or a grandad getting something off his chest because no-one understands him. DA needs to read some fucking books.

Has he just realized the parlour game that is party politics or, maybe, was his faith in socialism always faked?

6/02/2009 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

From the article:
But let me put another suggestion to you, which is that just about nobody gets itWhat's not to get DA? Politicians were too scared to vote a pay increase, so they abused expenses. As tends to happen, with no negative feedback constraining bad behaviour (public scrutiny, or an expenses office willing to rein them in), behaviour got worse and worse. And as tends to happen, when this was finally exposed the public didn't like it very much. Its pretty much the oldest political story there is.

or comprehend in any useful sense what it really means. It means that power corrupts absolutely, without institutional, cultural and social checks to constrain it. In general those are quite good in the UK, which is why this is a relatively uncorrupt place, except for councils where there are no checks whatsoever. Oh hang on, you're arguing against those checks and balances.

Berlusconi is apparently David Aaronovitch's wet dream - that's what I took away from that article.

6/02/2009 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

B2 - I hope this doesn't mean that we need to picture Aaro running naked into the sea to understand his columns in future.

My best summary of his argument is: MPs abuse their expenses because they hate us because we dare to criticise them for fiddling their expenses.

His argument that MPs "have to keep shtoom" (sp?) only works if he doesn't believe that they can earn at least as much elsewhere and could, in fact, just do something else if the terms and conditions and remuneration don't suit.

Also, the Robin Cook quotation seems to support the case that "they don't get it." Most MPs seemed to understand the consequences of the Freedom of Information Act the way three-toed sloths understand deforestation. But to Aaro, MPs must be 'in denial.' That is, they *did* understand, but prefer not to.

6/03/2009 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

They don't get it is the sort of thing 22-year-old pop music "writers" write. Perhaps Aaro could also tell us how he was there right at the beginning....

Incidentally, and I know said this recently but it bears saying again, the Labour Party as currently constituted is Aaro's party. It was specifically reshaped in order to - apparently - be effective in the age of rolling news, TV soundbites and so on, to put over in the conditions of modernity policies acceptable to people like Aaro and to exclude people and discussions that people like Aaro did not want. The leading thinker (and arguably the leading actor) in the process was another associate, to follow BB for a moment, of John Birt.

I have a certain sympathy for the view that the expenses scandal is an outgrowth of The Way We Live Now, but it's really about unaccountability, isn't it? There was a very good comment on the Virtual Stoa not long ago to the effect that if the Party was worth anything any more there would have been deselections all over the place. But local parties selecting and deselecting people is precisely the sort of thing that wasn't going to happen any more.

6/03/2009 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

It was specifically reshaped in order to - apparently - be effective in the age of rolling news, TV soundbites and so on


Yes this is the really weird thing, the phrase "how's that media strategy working guys?" comes to mind. John Lloyd worked this up into an entire thesis in the quite stunningly unreadable "What the media are doing to our politics", which basically runs:

Political parties have been forced to reshape everything they do so as to be popular with the media, which is why the media hates them.

6/03/2009 07:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DA doesn't get "it" because DA is "it." Irredemiably Nu Labor. But then blindness has always been the prime prequisite for hubris.

johnf

6/03/2009 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are politicians really that important anymore? Bankers and high finance have stolen most of their power to do anything serious. Murdoch has arranged an assembly line of of megalomaniac "politicians" with enormous majorities who wreck the country and then go into spectacular meltdown. Cabinet government, local constituencies with power, life and an economy in the provinces - who needs them?

johnf

6/03/2009 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

There's a sly reference in there: "Now they are judged on results, on performance, on demeanour - without any agreement on what success constitutes."

This idea that they are terribly misunderstood seems to have also taken root in the Labour party. They've achieved lots of things, but because of blah, they don't get credit for it. Which is pretty much bollocks. Sure there are a few successes that they don't get credit for, but that's mostly because they combined with stupid, unpopular and often bloody irritating ideas. If you push a bad idea, that's unpopular, like PFI - don't be surprised when thh electorate blame you for it. If you create a Kafkaesque nightmare for parents such as "parental choice", while preaching about "empowerment", don't be surprised when parents don't thank you for it. If you ignore a major problem that you promised to fix (the railways), don't be surprised when the electorate blame you for it.

6/03/2009 08:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The missing link in Aaro's thinking may be found here, though you seem to have overlooked it: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article6372760.ece
Phil D'Bap

6/03/2009 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Cian - yes, it's a bit like Aaro's assertion that the outrage about expenses was fake because people seemed to be equally upset about huge cheques and bath-plugs. But it's quite possible to be angry with people for being extravagantly greedy and cheap - just as it's quite possible to be angry with this government for the bad things it's done and the good things it's done badly and the good things it hasn't done. No 'criteria' as such, except that if you piss off enough people enough times, those people will start to feel permanently pissed off.

6/03/2009 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Re: Cde D'Bap:

Especially at a moment of extreme vox populi, vox Dei sentiments in which no one really dares tell "the people" that they may be wrong.

Not so much a missing link as a restatement, no? We know Aaro thinks this: personally, my point above is that Aaro's Labour Party deliberately ceased to tell the people that they were wrong, a process of which he approved.

6/03/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

OT but...

Finally got round to getting a copy of Voodoo Histories and there is something sinister about this in the conclusion:

"If the preceding chapters have demonstrated anything, it must be that conspiracy theories originate and are largely circulated among the educated and the middle-class."

This is horse shit

CT's are from the ground up. Within 6 weeks of JFK it was "ordinary" people who began to to cast doubt on the Oswald theory not the other way around.

6/03/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thank Cde D'Bap for drawing our attention to Aaro's review of Mr Keane's book, because without reading Aaro's review it is hard to make sense of Aaro's article yesterday. The ideas put forward by Mr Keane in his book seem to have transformed themselves into solid facts in yesterday's Aaro piece. Perhaps Mr Keane does make a case in his book for the idea that our elected representatives are monitored, checked, constrained, goaded and humbled in a system of monitory democracy. That is not the way that I see it, however, so I found it puzzling the way that Aaro refers to these ideas in his article as if they are established facts.

Aaro fails to distinguish between trust and blind faith. (Possibly Keane fails to make this distinction, or it might be Aaro's interpretation of Keane.) The development of trust requires all those checking mechanisms: we trust people more if we can see that they are following the rules. The development of trust also requires that our elected representatives can explain why they think that they are right and that the people are wrong. That's not what's happening at present.

Guano

6/03/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Reading the review carefully, I have a suspicion that Aaro has read rather more into it that Keane actually wrote. Maybe the LRB, or TLS have a review and I can (dis)confirm this. There wouldn't have been an expenses scandal if all this monitoring that Aaro speaks of had existed. And of course on many issues the monitors have been right, and the government wrong. How exactly does this fit into DA's thesis? He seems to be arguing that the public have no right to know, regardless of the competence, trustworthiness, or corruption of politicians. There could well be a problem here (Tax Payer's alliance?), but by glossing over inconvenient facts he fails to make a convincing case.

He also completely ignores the fact that Labour were trusted at the beginning of their period in office. Over time they lost trust, and a big part of that (which he completely ignores, even though it is the elephant in the room) was Iraq (didn't Aaro himself have something to say on that point...). Get caught out in a big lie, and people will assume everything you say is a lie.

And the argument that politicians live their lives in fishbowls is bollocks. Most people couldn't name more than a few cabinet ministers. Alan Johnson has been in the cabinet for god knows how long, and people still don't know much about him. Politicians who do stupid things get scrutinised by the press; which is nothing new (Gladstone, anyone?). Maybe this is unfair, or disproportionate, but there is a reason which DA chooses to gloss over.

6/03/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick look at some pieces that Keane has written himself, other reviews and notices of talks by Keane suggests that Keane quite likes this idea of monitory democracy or at least thinks that it is happening and we'd better get used to it. It is writers in the Times and Telegraph who worry about monitory democracy and the rise of a new elite in NGOs and human rights monitoring organisations, who sepnd their time monitoring what our politicians are up to. Quelle surprise!

Guano

6/03/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like Nick Cohen is editing his own wikipedia entry again. Mysterious cuts of all critical material, dismissing it as "guff" (a classically Cohen word)...

6/03/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Keane's book I imagine is similar to this piece he wrote

http://apo.org.au/research/monitory-democracy-and-media-saturated-societies

It's a bit long and tiring, I found, but he's broadly in favour. He doesn't have a lot to say on MPs specificially.

6/03/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can do a post about Cohen editing his wiki entry, or you any commenters here could come over to the page to support me, it'd be great

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nick_Cohen&action=history

6/03/2009 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

My God, if that is Nick, it seems to be the strongest evidence yet that he's having a nervous breakdown. Here are just some of the alterations to a randomly seelcted edit by "Attyfurly", as he goes about "removing nonsense":

"In 2007 the journalist Johann Hari reviewed Cohen's book 'What's Left' in the American 'Dissent' magazine, where he called for Cohen and others..." is changed to "...crying for others..."

"Hari called this response "bizarre" and offered quotes from Cohen which he argued backed up his claims, accusing Cohen of "a baffling denial of his own words" is changed to "Hari called this own response [sic] "bizarre" and offered quotes from Cohen which he argued backed up his claims, accusing Cohen of "backing up his own words".

And, my favourite, "Conor Foley" is changed to "Conor Folly". Our thoughtful, educated commentariat at work.

6/04/2009 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

At least nick's worked out not to use the wikipedia editing name 'ncohen2' like he used to.

If the preceding chapters have demonstrated anything, it must be that conspiracy theories originate and are largely circulated among the educated and the middle-class.

.
Is there any evidence given to justify this claim? David Toube seems to be in agreement as well, judging from posts on HP Sauce, but it's surely completely unprovable, and let's face it, continuing belief in the Protocols in 2009 is fairly obviously not a middle-class phenomenon. In fact the most outlandish conspiracy theorists I've had the misfortune to encounter (one bloke in particular who thought that foot and mouth originated in Iraq) were all working-class. In fact folk history in general is a pretty clearly working-class phenomenon...

Of course the middle-class thing is just another example of Decents always managing to blame things on their standard bogeymen - I'm surprised Aaro didn't conclude that belief in conspiracy theories is a left-wing, postmodern, anti-Iraq war, anti-Zionist phenomenon...

Oh and according to David Toube, Obama's speech on the ME 'reads like a Harry's Place post'!

6/04/2009 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

David T:

"The namechecking of Bosnia and Darfur was spot on."



ahh decency.

6/04/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

We are not at war with Eurasia. We have never been at war with Eurasia...

6/04/2009 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but..but..Sarah Palin's husband is a union member!

rioja kid

6/04/2009 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Were we aware of Nick's twitter site. It's not very often updated.

http://twitter.com/ncohen2

6/05/2009 05:10:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

"according to David Toube, Obama's speech on the ME 'reads like a Harry's Place post'!"
I haven't seen the speech, but I assume that lengthy portions of it were devoted to denouncing Gilad Atzmon then.

6/05/2009 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Denunciation of Atzmon and rehashing points about why democrats had to support the Iraq war, were the two principal points.

Oh and he devoted 15 minutes to the pressing issue of things that members of the UCU are claimed to have said, even though they deny them and they don't look all that bad anyway.

Then he stopped talking and showed a load of youtube clips from Hamas TV, before finishing off with a couple of points about how Arabic is a naturally deceitful language.

6/05/2009 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

And I didn't see any of it.

6/05/2009 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

And then took Michelle out for a date night at Nando's?

6/05/2009 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Martin Bright on Gordon Brown as Shakespearean character:

Gordon Brown is the usurper king, Claudius, who has gained the throne by pouring poison in the ear of the rightful occupant of the throne.

6/05/2009 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Where does that leave Cherie?

6/05/2009 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

She's Lady Macbeth, obviously, and Carole Caplin is the three witches. And Ed Balls is Iago. See - it all fits.

6/05/2009 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Does anyone know if it's Martin Bright's birthday today? I ask because I think one of you lot may have written the third comment.

Dear Martin, I need to steal your ideas and pass them off as my own. Give me a call on my landline. There's a pint in it for you. Best, Nick
PS Happy birthday

6/05/2009 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

I think Aaronovitch is right to say that politicians get monitored and their authority challenged more than they did decades ago, but he completely ignores the obvious point that so do most other professionals. It was politicians who decided that you couldn't trust teachers, doctors, lecturers etc to do a good job without constant interference, rating them on dubious criteria etc. (As opposed to the treatment of bankers, of course).

It's only because Aaronovitch is in one of the few occupations that escapes such outside scrutiny (even though there are times when I long for OffColumn) that he doesn't get that aspect of it.

6/06/2009 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I didn't realise that Purnell was a Decent posterboy until this week.

Cohen's latest Observer column is a new low even by his woeful standards. He clearly hasn't the faintest idea what 'Prufrock' is about...

6/06/2009 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Lobby Ludd said...

"It's only because Aaronovitch is in one of the few occupations that escapes such outside scrutiny "

I don't know, his livlihood involves making stuff public, and he is subject to a critical blog, like this one. His job is to be scrutinised.

6/07/2009 12:08:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

But the key difference is that the scrutiny has pretty little affect on his career (see practically every third rate hack columnist).

6/07/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I'm not sure what Nick expects Labour MPs to do. They have the option of Brown taking them to a possible heavy defeat next year, or another leader taking them to a certain heavy defeat this year.

The Observer has certainly swung it's weight with the Blairites, though. I'm trying to work out what their tactics are (and they purely tactics, as there's little policy difference between them and Brown). Is it to flush out Johnson, get him to lose the election, and then replace him with a true believer?

6/07/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Re OC's comment Cohen's latest Observer column is a new low even by his woeful standards. He clearly hasn't the faintest idea what 'Prufrock' is about...

Indeed. A more or less complete misreading of Prufrock.

Eliot's allusion was about the failure of Polonius to whack out Hamlet and a reflection on the emptiness of an entire life revolved around a singular goal.

As for cowardice to quote NC today: "In every phase of the crisis, intelligent people who could have spoken out when it may have made a difference chose to stay silent. At a time when the cowardice of the respectable has led to ruin, we do not need to concern ourselves with the pathologies of alarmists but should worry instead about the delusions of safe, sensible men and women who boast of their pragmatism."

This brilliantly sums up Cohen and Decency itself. Where were his balls on the line, when the paranoia of islamofascism took a grip on his work/world view.

6/07/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Indeed, and also, really quite crucially, the entire poem is meant to be about a lack of self-knowledge. Look at those lines he quotes, they're ridiculous if you read them as a straightforward statement from someone called Prufrock.

and Nick is clearly intending the 'fool' but at the end to intimate that the cabinet are foolish. Of course, 'Fool' means something rather different if you think about the Shakespearean context. IE the fool as the only genuinely wise character in Lear. Prufrock is not the fool - he thinks he is, but he's not. And that's the real point.

All that's a bit beyond our Nick though isn't it?

also - just to repeat - Nick is seriously citing Charles Clarke as a soothsayer?

This is where his shift to the right is fully revealed, isn't it? I mean you can just about get away with pretending to be a genuine lefty and support the Iraq war. But falling in line behind Blears, Purnell, and especially Clarke? And he's trying to lecture us on self-awareness?

6/07/2009 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Denham did go over the top with his bayonet fixed - on 18th March 2003. If some others had followed him then, perhaps New Labour wouldn't be in the fix it is in now.

Guano

6/07/2009 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

The idea that the Blairites would be more popular makes me laugh. NuLab have spent the last 12 years trashing their core vote and have run on a USP that they're the better managers of a neo-liberal economy. Now that it's transparent that they're not, why would anybody vote for them?

6/07/2009 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Because - and I propose to harp on at this theme at tedious length in various places - their media coverage is far more favourable than the Brownites get.

This is for two connected reasons:

a) their base is in the Westminster village and the party office rather than in the constituencies ;

b) for them it's an absolute shibboleth that there should never be any move back to the left even in the slightest (they'd have been against the 50% rate, obviously) and that public sector reform is a priority.

I don't want to exaggerate the actual, in-practice policy differences between the two (which are few) but as I've often said about the way the Labour Party's gone these past two decades, it's not just about policy. It's about what you think the party should be and who you think it should listen to.

6/07/2009 06:19:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

So this is a longer-term project, then - because they will lose the next election. To create a (pre-Obama?) Democratic Party a la USA?

You're right about the media/Westminster thing. For most of this week, this has been a news-driven campaign. They can't even get the votes amongst MPs to challenge Brown, and I think the party in the constituencies has their collective heads in their hands in despair. So they are relying on managing the news agenda to exert pressure. They've been busy today trailing the proposition that if the Euro results tonight are bad, and we know that they will be, then "the peasants" (as if they knew any) will be marching.

6/07/2009 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

they'd have been against the 50% rate, obviously

They were - not the Blairites in Cabinet, obviously, but Mr Tony Blair himself is on record as saying it's the worst thing they could have done. Which is quite revealing, even at this late stage.

No, there must never be a move to the Left - even to reoccupy terrain the party had only recently abandoned - because that's not how things are done. I wonder if one reason for the vague cultishness of Blairism is that it's based on a call for unreasoning surrender to a higher power.

6/07/2009 06:47:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Byers is on the record recently against 50%.

6/07/2009 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I wonder if one reason for the vague cultishness of Blairism is that it's based on a call for unreasoning surrender to a higher power.

I think the idea that you have to - and should do - what business and successful people want runs very deep indeed, and not just among the people who you'd expect to believe it. But among well-off people it's an article of faith. I'm not, I think, exaggerating or being rhetorical - it's simply ABC to affluent and aspirational people, both on economic and ethical grounds.

There are lots of people who don't really agree with this, of course, but given that they don't have any organisational or ideological clout any more, they don't count for anything in commentary. The Blairites know this and like it. Their whole style is based on recognising who the people who really count are, and being their facilitators. (I always remember that description of Mandelson as a starfucker, and that's pretty close to the mark.)

They have to win elections to count themselves, of course (by the way, don't expect too many of them to hang about on the backbenches after they lose the election, they've got careers to get on with) so they'll give people law 'n' order and crackdowns on immigration, but economically they won't do anything that hurts successful and aspirational people. They wouldn't want to. They're that sort of people themselves.

6/07/2009 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

A very persuasive thesis, EJH. Am I being behind the pace to ask where Cohen in particular fits into this?

I thought Nick's latest book rages against the slavish new Labour worship of cash (even if it fingers Brown as the most culpable, as you've said, it's not like the 'cabinet rebels' would have done different)? And yet he seems to be backing the most right-wing members of the party in this piece.

Has he gone to pieces or was this in fact always his 'side'?

6/07/2009 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

James Purnell, who delivered what may prove the fatal blow, is one of Labour's liveliest thinkers. He is developing a political philosophy he has described as "power egalitarianism". For Purnell, the goal of progressive left politics is to put power in the hands of people - as parents, workers, community members - not hoard it in Westminster.

[stifles desire to thrust head down toilet]

6/07/2009 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

They have to win elections to count themselves, of course

But they're going to lose this election, and any other, until the Tory's self-immolate again, unless they come up with another USP.

Or is that the deal - we end up with a form of the old South American Blancos and Colorados, neither distinguishable from each other, who each rule in turn until they collapse under their own weight of corruption.

6/07/2009 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

[blush]Tory's[blush]

6/07/2009 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

we end up with a form of the old South American Blancos and Colorados, neither distinguishable from each other, who each rule in turn until they collapse under their own weight of corruption.

Isn't that pretty much where we are anyway. As soon as the ideological battle was lost (in parliamentary democracy anyway) "Labour" was hijacked by people in the game for power and prestige rather than genuinely wanting to make a change.
Hence the split in the cabinet around the Iraq war. The "good" Short, Cook etc walked out because they had absolute principles.

The bad, the cabinet that was left (small l) had to fend for themselves because they had long since ditched politics as an ideal and mainlined into politics as a game or a career.

6/07/2009 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

But they're going to lose this election, and any other, until the Tories self-immolate again, unless they come up with another USP

Yeah they are. But they're still not the Tories, because the Tories are (and are identified as) a party of the upper class and they want the votes of people who plainly aren't of that class nor going to be.

It's just Blue Dog Democrat stuff really, it's not the Tories/Republicans but there's nothing in it that a lot of Tory/Republican voters couldn't vote for and it principally combines a law 'n' order policy that appeals to illiberal working-class voters with economics that appeal to well-off people and people who aspire to that status. But it's not dicky-bow stuff, it didn't join the Skull & Bones or the Bullingdon Club.

I think NC might be going for this because it does make very clear that it's interested in working-class votes, it does play an anti-dinner party card, very hard, that's a card NC wants to see played.

6/07/2009 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

the idea that you have to and should do what business and successful people want runs very deep indeed.. among well-off people it's an article of faith.

I think this is an exageration. Its certainly depressingly prevalent, particularly among younger well off people. However I'd contrast it with the US where even leftish (for the US) people take this as axiomatic, and are unable to think outside these intellectual constraints. If you want to shut down a policy discussion in the US, suggest that it will be bad for business. Discussion ended.

6/07/2009 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

(Obviously being pro-war would be standard for this crowd as flag-waving and getting-behind-the-troops would be something they would never be caught not doing.)

If you want to shut down a policy discussion in the US, suggest that it will be bad for business. Discussion ended.

And it's different in the UK? Is it? Any more?

6/07/2009 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I think the Tories are going to be very right wing indeed, frankly. They're going to try and disguise it by using green stuff as a cover (Goldsmith being key here), and throwing some irrelivant populist stuff out. The Tories will also have the advantage of being able to shove spending cuts down our throats using the cover of the IMF. Given the shadow cabinet, the competence level may indeed decrease.

As for what can be done. Oddly, Paulie of never trust a hippy has some interesting ideas at the moment. Not sure they'll work, but at least he's thinking.

6/07/2009 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

And it's different in the UK? Is it? Any more?

Yes. I come across people regularly who are well off (50/60K+) who don't believe this. They might think that things that are good for business are important, but they don't see it as the only point of consideration, nor would they consider that just because something is bad for business you shouldn't do it..

And some are quite cynical about successful people. Obviously you will find well off people who do believe this, but then you did when I was growing up in the heavily Tory Poole/Bournemouth (the wealthy bit, due to a bizarrely successful bit of property speculation by my broke parents).

In contrast the US...oh boy. Its a scary place

6/07/2009 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I come across people regularly who are well off (50/60K+) who don't believe this.

Yes, but as I said above:

There are lots of people who don't really agree with this, of course, but given that they don't have any organisational or ideological clout any more, they don't count for anything in commentary.

I tend, by the way, to think that the love-in with the Labour "rebels" is a manifestation of this.

Of course, if there's any sort of labour movement backlash against redundancies or pay cuts or welfare changes or whatever, then this might change because what tends to get your viewpoint taken seriously ideologically is whether you have any clout politically or industrially. But pending that happy day, which may never come...

6/07/2009 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I think the Tories are going to be very right wing indeed, frankly.
If they get as right-wing as a purported Labour government that has basically sold out its soul at every juncture, domestic and foreign, we are completely fucked!

6/07/2009 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

The Tories will also have the advantage of being able to shove spending cuts down our throats using the cover of the IMF.

This is what's so galling. NuLab is going to go down in history has having thrown away three historic opportunities. Firstly, the landslide of '97, when it could have done things, and didn't (and did even less as time went on). Secondly, the credit crisis, where it has nationalised the banks debts, effectively bankrupted the country and offered a gift horse to the Tories, without substantially changing anything. Thirdly, the expenses fiasco, which should lead to substantial constitutional change, but will end up evaporating into the same hot air as previous half-hearted attempts.

6/07/2009 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Justin,
I think whatever your point is, its got lost. My only point is that I know people who by most of our definitions would count as wealthy (we can raise the limit to six figure income, and it will still hold) who do not think that policy should be simply about what's good for business/important people. Whether those individuals have ideological/organisational clout is a seperate issue entirely.

In the US, in contrast, you will meet lots of people who are on below average salaries who do think that policy should first and foremost about what's good for business. I think people who think that Labour are very right wing these days should spend some time in the US to see how bad things could be.

6/07/2009 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

MrKitty: The difference between Labour and the Tories, is that Labour had a soul to sell. And if you seriously think the Tories would have stayed out of Iraq...

6/07/2009 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Cian: Of course - which makes their betrayal so galling. The tories would have gone in; all guns blazing.

My point is that the shift after the defeat of Kinnock was that the battleground established so effectively by Thatcher and the establishment of a "new" political centre forced a tired hand from the electable left (obviously discounting the PLP)lead then to a a how-to-we-get-elected frame of mind from the labour party in subsequent elections and then paved the way for opportunists like Blair to grasp control.

6/07/2009 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic, but...

Nick. Fucking. Griffin.

Jesus Christ.

Von Pseud

6/08/2009 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think whatever your point is, its got lost.

The point is that political commentary, as practised in the mainstream media, isn't a simple reflection of what people outside the mainstream media think: it's very heavily weighted towards certain interests and viewpoints. It doesn't particularly matter, from that point of view, whether you or I have personal conversations with forty-or-fiftysomethings of any social class in which the term "wealth-creators" is unlikely to be heard.

(Of course it's true, by the way, that there are more people - that is, a higher proportion of people - like that in the UK than the US, but that's because they grew up in a society with powerful unions and a strong emphasis of the welfare state. As we gradually die out, though.....)

6/08/2009 06:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mental shorthand for this depressing process has always been 'turning into Brazil'. Luckily, one of the reasons (and perhaps the only good one) that this is going to happen sooner than I ever thought is that Brazil's moving in the other direction - though not as fast as Hilary Wainwright would have us think.

Chris Williams

6/08/2009 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

ejh: hear hear.

Leaving aside Aaro's latest catchphrase-salad, I must admit to (partial, slightly grudging) approval of Cohen's abovementioned Observer piece which (quote-pasting and narrowly partisan focus apart) at least goes a little way toward exploring the wielding of power against whistleblowers and dissenters.
It's that lingering trace of the investigative/critical approach to journalism (manifested elsewhere, e.g. in an only-just-post-Euston piece about media co-option in a blatant police fit-up) that puts him a little way above Aaro in he contemptibility stakes. (Though Cohen still comes out with the inadequate even if perhaps strictly accurate no regulators would have been punished if they had condemned the deranged policies of the banks before the crash).

Cohen's slight indiscretion in the Observer piece contrasts with the more standard-issue CT-bashing of his thinly disguised Aaro plug in Standpoint which endorses the absurd view others have mentioned: that the chattering classes are prime practitioners, rather than ruthless suppressors, of conspiratorial hypotheses.

BTW BBC2 have done a programme on Prufrock which I haven't watched yet so offer no assessment.

6/08/2009 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Don't bother with the Prufrock programme - it's really a rather self-indulgent programme about the presenter's childhood and if you know anything about Eliot it's pretty unsatisfactory. The Arena on Eliot was better but as with anything involving Valerie it was fairly hagiographic.

Protecting whistleblowers is a fairly recurrent Cohen theme, but I don't think Purnell's outburst is quite the same thing as yer actual whistleblowing. And it really is weird to see Cohen, who seemed to be calling up his anti-Blairite past in Etonians, line up behind people who'd go even further to the right than Brown given half the chance. Though if you google his name and Hazel Blears you cansee that he's spun for her on a consistent basis for quite a long time. If he honestly thinks that Blears is a politician who can reach out to those beloved white working classes he is really, tragically, deluded.

A Bring Back Blair post on HP Sauce (kerching) i see.

6/08/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Cohen's slight indiscretion in the Observer piece contrasts with the more standard-issue CT-bashing of his thinly disguised Aaro plug in Standpoint which endorses the absurd view others have mentioned: that the chattering classes are prime practitioners, rather than ruthless suppressors, of conspiratorial hypotheses.

In a similar vein I'm trying to negotiate a blast at Aaro in the guise of a review of Voodoo Histories for the Socialist Worker, but experience suggests it will be dumbed down to appeal to the table-thumpers.

6/08/2009 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Keane was on the radio yesterday plugging his new book on Start the Week (I was doing the washing up - leave me alone). I honestly don't think he could disagree with Aaronovitch more. Not only is he in favour of scrutiny, but he thinks we need more of it in the UK (he also likes things like participatory budgeting).

6/09/2009 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Justin:
The point is that political commentary, as practised in the mainstream media, isn't a simple reflection of what people outside the mainstream media think.

Well it isn't a reflection, full stop. Its not entirely divorced from public thinking (well off, or otherwise), but its not terribly connected. It may possible help shape public opinion, though I have my doubts.

However, you were making a point about what well off people thought. And I was simply saying that my own experience (median age around 35) was rather different. I don't particularly like, or admire, the views of many of the people I know. However I would say that the proportion who trusted big business was surprisingly low. I know very few people who think letting businesses run the NHS is a good idea, for example. I've yet to meet anyone in favour of local business men running foundation schools. And excluding people who believe that global warming is a hoax, I tend to hear skepticism about businesses intentions around the environment.

So I would say that well off people while not anti-business by any means, are rather more skeptical than you (and New Labour) imagine. Where that leaves us I have no idea.

6/09/2009 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

However I would say that the proportion who trusted big business was surprisingly low.

I'd agree with that, but the same people will react like they've just seen a spider in their salad if you suggest putting up taxes for the wealthy.

6/09/2009 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I'd suggest that the reaction to tax is a large pinch of self-interest (all run for cover when the interests of the middle classes are threatened) mixed with an unhealthy dose of ignorance.

I've lost count of the times I've had to explain to [bore to death] otherwise sympathetic friends who were complaining about "high taxes" the reality of marginal tax rates for the poor.

6/09/2009 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I've lost count of the times I've had to explain to [bore to death] otherwise sympathetic friends who were complaining about "high taxes" the reality of marginal tax rates for the poor.

@ GG Ah yes, been there, done that, got the spreadsheet. Problem is when I painfully try and describe this idea to them I just end up losing it and calling them mathematically illiterate.

6/09/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keane is on CiF writing about Thomas Paine and the need for far-reaching political reform. Its about as far from Aaro as you can get.

Guano

6/09/2009 10:28:00 PM  

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