Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Is Nick On About? Part Whatever

Funny one from Nick this weekend.

Labour and Tory politicians used to move in different worlds. The classic career path for a Conservative minister was to accept the relatively low pay of Westminster - low in comparison with what he could have earned in business, that is - as the price of having a say in public life. He would strive to get to the top of the greasy pole and go off to make 'real money' in the City on retirement.

Emphases mine. Better historians than me will probably be able to name names, but I'm fairly sure that some Tory ministers managed to work in the City while in office. Ken Clarke is perhaps the obvious contemporary example, the Tories had until recently regarded elected office as a part-time occupation at best.

When they [Labour politicians] left politics many became bureaucrats - Roy Jenkins and Neil Kinnock went to the European Commission - or journalists - Roy Hattersley, Richard Crossman and Harold Wilson's press spokesman Joe Haines - or just retired and wrote their memoirs.

One might note that European Commission bureaucrats are extremely well remunerated - quite a lot better than MPs, trade unionists, and academics. (BTW, I'm not entirely convinced that Trades Unionists are paid less than MPs; it depends on the union I suppose. I did find one article from 1998 which claimed that Arthur Scargill's salary then was '[£]65,000 a year.') I don't quite buy Roy Hattersley as having converted to journalism: he seems to write less now than he did as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (when he wrote a weekly column for the Grauniad and squeezed out some books, and kept up book reviews - an output not far short of Nick's really). Not all Labour politicians were above making money. Crossman despite (according to Nick) earning more an MP than he would have as an academic, decided to combine his backbench career with editing the New Statesman. And Joe Haines was never a politician at all. Unlike Campbell, he was just a press secretary.

In fact, Haines is the closest parallel to Alastair Campbell the 20th Century Labour Party produced. Wikipedia's rather dry stub says of his post-Downing St years:

Later, he was a columnist at the Daily Mirror and became official biographer in 1988 of Robert Maxwell, the Mirror's then owner, in an attempt to pre-empt the unofficial and less reverential work on Maxwell by Tom Bower.

A man of great principle then - given that he knew Maxwell better than most.

Yet Nick does have a valid (IMO) point.

The point that's worth dwelling on is that in the 20th century no Labour MP or party worker would have cared what First Group spokespersons said. The assurance of their American comrades that this was a union-busting firm that victimised low-paid workers would have been all they needed. Old taboos, not all of them foolish, would have been stirred. Some things weren't done, and this was one of them.

However, I'm not clear as to who he's getting at. Alastair Campbell isn't a "Labour MP or party worker". The rot set in with Blair. (To bang my drum yet again, I still think the Labour Party is much worse off for not holding any kind of contest for the new leader: this has meant that Brown is in no way accountable to ordinary members as he should be.) But Blair and Brown aren't named: who else is responsible for the close ties with union-busting Rupert Murdoch? If I can have my ideés fixes, so can Nick.

Although I can't remember ever meeting a lecturer who admitted to voting Conservative, the leftishness of the post-modern academy is an obscurantist and exclusive ideology with few concrete plans for the improvement of the lot of less fortunate citizens here or abroad.

I don't think 'leftishness' is a word, or in this case is even a coinage which denotes anything. I think the class of Labour-voting lecturers extends well beyond the 'post-modern academy'. When not attending dinner parties, Nick doesn't seem to bother with New Statesman get-togethers. Roger Scruton has a pretty impressive list of contributions to Nick's other employer. (And I very much doubt he's that isolated.)


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