Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nobody's Fault But ...

... someone else's who cannot be named for legal reasons, obviously.

Today, readers, we're doing personal responsibility. Thanks to John Falhammer in the comments to the last post, we have Aaron on the Today programme (last item). "The sort of things I feel strongly about nobody seems to organise a protest about very much really." This is David Aaronovitch, former president of the NUS, now a Times columnist - sadly unable to exert his democratic rights because no one organises protests for him. Poor baby.

OK, that's a little unfair - and he was being very affable along with Mark Thomas (I can't imagine there's much common ground there; it's nice to find people still capable of civility under the circumstances).

There is a new Aaro theme emerging. The witch-hunt against politicians is the real scandal (July):

Far from leading to good government and good politics, it is in danger of creating neutered government and supine politics. On every programme that I saw and heard, Mr Lewis's departure was discussed as an “embarrassment” for the Tories, not as a possible setback for the fight against youth crime. Mr [Ray]Lewis [Boris Johnson's pre-disgraced deputy] should have stayed with his academy; once he had stepped into politics, he was doomed.

My emphasis. Actually, the fault lies outside Lewis: yes, he should not have entered politics, but then he should not have been selected.[1]

Dammit, I think I've had a change of heart (April):

But my difficulty, and one that I acknowledge today, is that so much that is said and written and polled indicates that I am the one who is out on a limb. Well, me and Daniel Finkelstein, also of these pages. When he wrote recently suggesting - very reasonably, I thought - that we take a less punitive and childish attitude towards our MPs, his column managed the almost impossible feat of attracting unanimous hostility from online commenters. To a person they excoriated our representatives as lazy, lying, swindling scumbags, and their defenders as apologists for a decadent elite.

We should be nice to MPs, see. Classic Dave (July): The truth is no one really knows what is happening.

I've brought this up because something about DA's colleague Daniel Finkelstein struck me. But first, Gill Hornby in the Telegraph this morning is right: Time for David Cameron to speak up:

When David Cameron was elected as Tory leader, he saw that changing the selection procedure for candidates was one of his first and most important jobs. He introduced A lists, and changed the format of the selection boards in the hope of creating a slightly less white, less male, more centrist Conservative House of Commons after the next election.

In November 2006, under Cameron's guidelines, Watford duly selected staunch party activist Ian Oakley. Daniel Finkelstein, who had conducted the applicant interviews on the night, described the lucky candidate as "a very stable, solid choice." Oakley himself pledged to win the key marginal for his party using "99 per cent perspiration and 10 per cent inspiration". But even so alarm bells did not begin to ring.
It is time for him [Cameron] to start telling us what he stands for. When the Ian Oakley scandal first broke, the official Conservative response was that it would be "inappropriate" to comment. But now he has actually pleaded guilty to a three-year sexist vendetta, and still the new, modern, forward-thinking, women-friendly party has failed to come up with even a line. Could we perhaps, future prime minister, hear your views?

DA may call this a "punitive and childish attitude towards our MPs". I don't.

Daniel Finkelstein: Ian Oakley - my role in his downfall. Actually, Finkelstein's role was in his resistable rise.

It is now the fashion to invite journalists to interview applicants in the final round of the seat selection. And I was asked to be the interviewer in Watford.

Is this true? It seems remarkable to me if it is. I actually had a quick search for confirmation and found the Hammersmith Conservative Association:

Open Primaries: After trials in the last parliament the Conservative Party changed the rules governing the selection of its parliamentary candidates allowing flexibility of process. The key change was the choice of an Open Primary Event. This is a significant change as for the first time non-party members can be involved in the selection of a conservative party candidate.

So maybe. I still can't see why journalists. And Finkelstein is a member according to Wikipedia. He was certainly honoured by John Major.

Back to Finkelstein:

Oakley wasn't intellectually the strongest candidate but I understood why he was selected. He seemed the most experienced of the finalists and the one most obviously ready to be the PPC.

When I was asked by friends, I said I thought Watford hadn't necessarily selected the best future MP but they had chosen the one who seemed most assured, self confident and politically mature. I thought him a very stable, solid choice even if he didn't do all that much for me.

There wasn't the smallest sign that he was, well, basically bonkers.

The episode is yet further demonstration that in politics it is impossible to predict where scandal will come from.

Indeed. The one quality they selected Oakley for, they got completely wrong. Hoodies with guns should be more responsible. Journalists on selection committees don't need to be. It's all awfully complicated and who really knows anyway?

[1] Bonus quote from the same article:

A few months ago the right-wing press scalped Ken Livingstone's black man, Lee Jasper,...

Heh. Indeed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gill Hornby writes well (and the last section of her column, on page 2, is relevant to the last discussion on Aaro Watch). Is she a stand-in for Heffer or does she have a column in her own right?

Aaro meanders all over the place, as if he's trying to string together a series of disconnected talking points. He doesn;t seem to have his heart in the defence of Mr Lewis.

8/09/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On every programme that I saw and heard, Mr Lewis's departure was discussed as an “embarrassment” for the Tories, not as a possible setback for the fight against youth crime.

Not sure what programmes Aaro was watching and listening to, because the Lewis resignation was spun as a potential disaster for the 'fight against London youth crime' on an awful lot of programmes. But the problem with that argument is that Lewis was totally unproven at getting anything other than very small-scale results; and as far as i can tell he hadn't actually come up with any proposals since taking the job under Boris. Compared with Lee Jasper he is pretty small-time. The reason it was such a tragedy is that the Tories seem to have put all their eggs on London youth crime in the one basket.

I also wonder about this excuse that there are no protests organised about what aaro is interested in. The Nick Cohen piece on Jon Snow seemed to suggest that Nick himself is a noble capaigning journalist, but the only campaigns I can remember him being a part of were 'unite against terror', which hardly went well, and the euston manifesto. Both of those were clearly more to do with point-scoring than genine campaigning. There are no links to any political campaigns on his 'blog'. Aaro doesn't even have a website. the only cause he seems to be fully affiliated with is 'Engage', which seems to very rarely indulge in anything other than letter-writing and posting links to CiF pieces.

That's not to say that either of them should link to any campaigns, or that they have to actually commit to the organisation of any campaigns, but it makes the claims on, say, the back of Nick's book where the leading question over 'why Palestine and not Darfur' is asked. The inference from Cohen's actions is that it's better not to campaign against anything, but to whinge an awful lot about campaigners who do actually take action...

8/11/2008 07:50:00 AM  

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