Friday, April 23, 2010

We deserve what we get

The public wants what the public gets/But I want nothing this society's got

Going Underground, Paul Weller The Jam

MacMillan didn't quite say, "Events, dear boy, events." Wilson did say, "A week is a long time in politics." And Brown said, for advocates of snappy aphorisms that catch the moment, "Get real."

In the last few years, though, the two wings have been fighting a war that (latterly over expenses) has been lost by the politicians. It is ironic — more than ironic, actually, in its gorgeous boomerang arc — that having duffed up the main parties and ignored the Lib Dems, the press has now found itself confronted with a resurgent party that owes it nothing.

We deserve what we get. For years we have dismissed the Lib Dems as they had “no chance” of power. We’ve laughed in our meetings when forced to discuss the pronouncements of their leaders, and then, furrow-browed, examined with microscopic precision the minor doings of the big two. We have ignored the growing gap between votes and outcome.

Putting the 'we' in 'weasel' is our man David Aaronovitch. ('Wings' rather bizarrely refers to Dave's idea that there are but two estates of any importance in the modern pursuit of power: parliament and the media. Apparently the media won.) I think it's revealing that Dave thinks the press "duffed up the main parties" as if this was laying siege to the castle of its ancient enemy rather than, to borrow from Orwell, being "like a windowpane". The press barely had a role: the heavy lifting was done by the Freedom of Information Act.

Surely our man reads the Guardian, especially when it covers politics and the press. David Yelland on his former paper (and, of course, the Times' stablemate).

I remember in my first year asking if we staffed the Liberal Democrat conference. I was interested because as a student I'd been a founder member of the SDP. I was told we did not. We did not send a single reporter for fear of encouraging them.

Both versions can't be right. Don't forget Dave's employer's recent record of, er, straight reporting. (This is simply splendid.) It's not just the political parties that the electorate is fed up with. And speaking of the Guardian, I wonder if Dave's seen this:

Via Dave Hill. DA's calling it a "Labour-held three way marginal" before it became a "surefire Lib Dem gain" seems to be a bit loose with the facts.

Update: straight after posting: I may have misunderstood Dave's opening sentence. Here it is: On Thursday night of last week, after the first leaders’ debate I went to bed in a Labour-held three way marginal. He could be referring to the whole country, rather than his own constituency, but who considered that the 2010 was three-way until the debate last week? However I try to interpret that sentence, it seems historically wrong.

Update 2 17:44 Friday 23 April. Craig Murray on What The Public Really Think.

"Craig Murray" has been displaced for the first time ever as the most used recent search to bring people to this site. The most used search this morning is "Debate sky bias", And that is only those who used that precise search - there are 78 searches relating to Sky or Murdoch bias in the most recent 100 searches that brought people here.

Also see Marina Hyde on Sky leaders' debate spin room: the live abortion of democracy.

Since Dave mentioned expenses, I'd like to note that anger wasn't limited to the scribbling classes. I heard someone say last night, "I was appalled by the behaviour of some MPs and no punishment is too great for them." No punishment? I think Europe has strong views about boiling in oil, Gordon. (I'm sure the Prime Minister made an understandable slip: he meant the Tory peer rather than the three Labour MPs "due in court over expenses".) Up there with "We deserve what we get" IMO. Dave, you and the rest of Murdoch's minions will never get what you deserve. It's not the illegality so much as I don't know where to get hold of Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons. (I think I've totally outgeeked myself there. Story not available online according to Google. If you've read it, it's not easily forgotten.)

Update 3 18:15 Friday 23 April That was a tad harsh. After all, I follow some Times writers on Twitter, certainly Giles Coren and Ruth Gledhill. And there are some Times writers I actually like: I'll come out and say that I think both AA Gill and Jeremy Clarkson can write (I don't value their opinions, however, and am not bothered if I miss them), and... I'm sure there are others. But Murdoch is poisonous. Here's another link Dave Weigel on 'New Left Media' (aka unfunded students):

"It is our belief, and to us it is superficially evident, that the Tea Party movement, purported to be disparate grassroots organizations of people who all woke up one morning with the same ideas about government and the Obama administration, is the public manifestation of the narratives pushed by Fox News -- narratives that are good for television ratings, but bad for political discourse, policy, and even the Republican Party. David Frum might agree."

And what does New Left Media think of the competition?

"CNN, like Fox News and MSNBC, should be largely dismissed as serious sources of news," said Whiteside, "as these outlets are all in the market of selling journalism through personalities, talking haircuts who report as much on what each other are saying as they do on reality. We could gather similarly substance-less interviews from people whose primary news source is Ed Schultz, but until those people gather with misspelled signs to protest policies they don't understand, we have no reason to."

The sooner the paywalls go up, Murdoch loses a few millions, and News International's influence on British politics is limited to a few flat-earth Climate Change deniers, the better.

Update 4 21:10 This should be the last one, but Johann Hari really is very good.


Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

off topic but... nick cohen, in standpoint:

Blair was probably the most idealistic, and in some ways the most left-wing Labour leader there has ever been.


the 'interview' is just embarrassing. like all of Nick's speaking engagements at the moment it's three people agreeing with each other all the time. way to conduct TGISOOT.

4/23/2010 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick changed his opinion about Blair in 2003 in the opposite direction to most other people.


4/23/2010 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Blimey: I [Andrew Rawnsley] uncovered a story which was both deeply heartbreaking and profoundly shocking: after the death of Brown's baby daughter, Jennifer, Tony Blair goes to the funeral and he and Brown are quite warm together, and they, for a brief moment, recapture some of the old closeness they'd once had. Then the Browns come back to Downing Street after mourning their lost child and things get really much worse. One reason they get worse is because of the living arrangements in Downing Street, which meant little Leo's pram would be visible to the Browns, parked outside the Prime Minister's flat door on Downing Street. Gordon Brown became convinced, and I have this from enough sources to be sure that it is true, that the Blairs were doing this to him deliberately, to remind him that they had what he'd lost — which is extraordinary. It might very well have been insensitive of them, but I've found no evidence that they'd done this with malicious intent.

I've occasionally suspected mental illness in Brown (apart from depression, which looks more and more likely), but suppressed the thought. Leaders often seem a little crazy, especially to those who dislike them. But the FT has a story What planet is Gordon on? which is very odd given how good he used to be (in opposition and his early years as Chancellor) with facts and figures. And he talked some bollocks last night. Not just the war on Iran and Somalia and Yemen stuff, which was pretty bad, but he said something about MPs not having second jobs: they should all concentrate on their constituencies. Fine, but what about ministers? Doesn't that count as a second job? Fair enough, I think Tory directorships are very dodgy, and quite possibly corrupt in some cases, but Roy Hattersley kept up a Guardian column while Deputy Leader. Churchill wrote books. Some MPs really can have other jobs at the same time. I can't see how it can be enforced. (And isn't George Galloway patron of various things?)

4/23/2010 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

"It might very well have been insensitive of them, but I've found no evidence that they'd done this with malicious intent."

Hmmm. So it's either "he'll hate this heh heh heh" or "good Lord no, the idea never crossed my mind" - and if the Blairs weren't in group A they must necessarily have been in group B. Similarly, of course, Brown is either (a) sensible and rational and entirely willing to give the benefit of the doubt where it's due or (b) in need of psychiatric care. Bit of a spectrum there, I think.

4/23/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Last update not the last: Beau Bo D'Or Disobey Murdoch on Election Day.

4/23/2010 08:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was a soft, ordinary man who had gone to a lot of trouble to become evil. Sin is a lot of work.

The Archive knows.

4/23/2010 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Heasman said...

I don't know where to get hold of Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons. (I think I've totally outgeeked myself there. Story not available online according to Google. If you've read it, it's not easily forgotten.)

Here 'tis

4/24/2010 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Hari writes:

An MP is elected if he has more votes than his nearest competitor in his constituency – even if he has nothing like a majority. In many places, they get only 20 per cent of the vote, and still win.

Which places?

4/24/2010 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I do, by the way, wish people, Hari and others, would not imagine that the Lib Dems are a liberal-left party. They're not: they're a liberal party. They do not particularly associate themselves with Labour any more than they associate themselves with the Tories, however much many of their voters might wish it otherwise. (Writes "projection" for the third time this morning....)

4/24/2010 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks to Alex and Dave Heasman for that. I still haven't read 'The Fifty-minute Hour', but I always thought this story was true. Almost too much information, really. Good to have readers who know what I'm talking about.

4/24/2010 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Just to harp on about this at tedious length, in order to get elected with 20% of the vote, you'd probably have to have five closely-matched contenders for first place. Where is this true? What is, actually, the lowest percentage of the vote on which any sitting MP (or perhaps any MP ever) has been elected?

4/24/2010 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Yes - maybe he meant 'electorate' (or even local population), which would be much more plausible.

4/24/2010 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

R4's Unreliable Evidence this week is on libel. Starting now...

4/24/2010 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

EJH - Ochil and South Perthshire, MP Gordon Banks, was elected on the lowest vote share 31.4% (SNP 29.9, Con 21.5 and Libs 13.3). Eight other MPs were elected on less than 35% of the vote.

If you take % of those eligble to vote, even then only 4 MPs got less than 20%, George Galloway one of them.

4/25/2010 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Thanks so much for that. Any idea of the lowest percentage ever?

I suppose I should correct Hari if nobody else has done so already....

4/25/2010 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

No, only had back to 1992. In 2001 there was one winning MP under 30, on 29.2, which was the lowest I found in the last five elections.

4/25/2010 06:43:00 PM  

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