Sunday, November 25, 2007

Every man is an island

The humerous defence against the loss of the personal data of 25,000,000 civvies 'Oh, it was a lone 23 year old lackey making a cock up...and anyway morale is low...and erm...' fails to disguise the fact that significant cracks in the consensus of MPs are becoming apparent. The commons select committee has been told this week that the 'der' should be taken out of the description 'undertrained' for an average minister of the state.

It hardly needs pointing out how extraordinary it is that this 'new' Labour mob maintain quite such a firm grip on power, given that they have spent six years taking away our civil liberties on the pretext that we will be more secure under their protection, while going to ever greater lengths to demonstrate their incompetance.

But given that context, a few clues as to how the past decade will settle into historical context seem to be emerging.

1) The population has become divorced from Westminister to a remarkable extent. This is not, and never has been, political disengagement (fuel strikes, anti-war protests, countryside alliance marches inter alia, and raises the prospect that, if the government goes to lengths to win the next election (more boundary changes, another low turnout...), that the final ousting of them will be through unconventional methods. It is not inconceivable that a single issue public protest could force an unscheduled election, given the vogue of recent years for taking to the streets.

2) Mandleson's ghost has come back to bite Brown. The 'spin' project was an extraordinary short term success. But its effects did not go unnoticed. That interviews on Newsnight and Today are utterly devoid of substance is not because Humphreys and Paxo have totally lost their journalistic bearings. The orthodoxy of spin is total. Journalists no longer waste their time questioning ministers to trap them into spilling the truth. These interviews are no more than a traditional charade. Instead, every utterance from a politician is assumed to be spun. The whole game has become unravelling the spin. Nick Robinson is the new Paxo. This is a dangerous place for journalism to be, but at this moment the analysts seem to be doing a fairly good job. This is not least because the routine of spin has sucked it of any ingenuity. The sort of commitment to PR that made September 11th 'a good day to bury bad news' has been replaced by a workaday evasion by politicians, most of whom are kept in the dark by the fiercely centralised Labour machine. The problem being...

3) Centralised government doesn't work. Time will tell what the alternative will be. It seems at this point inconceivable that an a depoliticised civil service and a strong independent House of Lords could be reconstituted. Without them, central government has failed as an executive, a position the public can afford to accept until the economic doo-doo hits the fan. The winds of change will rise sooner rather than later, and they don't smell too good.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger UK plc said...

The thing is that when the economic doodoo really does hit the fan, it's going to be such a catastrophe that the kinds of things you are describing will fade in to insignificance. It happens on a global scale or not at all. For as long as it is things like Northern Rock, governments have the resources to guarantee against collapse . When it's something on such a scale that government is unable to guarantee against it, then the whole system will be in trouble. Whether this might happen in the next decade, or not in our lifetime, is hard to say.
But if we are to do anything about this insane economic system, it is as well to pick targets that could deliver fast and tangible benefits. Pressure the government to make good on its commitment to ensuring that AIDS sufferers throughout the world have access to anti-retroviral drugs by 2012. If you half-succeed, you save a few thousand lives. If you entirely succeed, you've dealt a serious blow to the system of intellectual property that underlies a lot of this speculative transnational investment.
Try to keep the energy up for trade justice - again, if you half succeed, you save a few thousand lives; if you entirely succeed, you've made a big difference to the global trading system, and that counts for a lot in these terms.

One could argue that climate change eclipses all other priorities right now, and probably it is worth keeping the pressure on there, but there are few signs of a 'movement' around this issue, which is splintered and thrown off course by consumerist solutions and the fetishization of a 'green' lifestyle (transporting your glass bottles for recycling by car etc...) On the other hand, with enough popular support, the government might do something like banning internal UK flights - and that would make a big difference. In short, if you are right (which you are, mostly) there can only be one response: to the streets!


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