Daily archives: May 30, 2009

The Arrogance of James Purnell

James Purnell has decided that the answer to the problems of our political system is for the taxpayer to give out yet more money to politicians, by increased state funding of political parties.


The comments section reflects the predictable, and quite justified, outrage over the public at the sight of a politician planning to siphon off yet mote of their taxes to his own advantage. Purnell’s ludicrous suggestion is a sign of how completely New Labour are out of touch with the mood of the electorate.

But his proposal is much more dangerous than the sums of money involved. The parties assume they have a god given right to be entrenched in our constitution. They act as though the political parties embody democracy. In fact the parties, with their spin, vicious leadership structures and whipping to stifle thought and debate, are the enemy of emocracy. Why should the people fund them, and further disadvantage independent candidates and emergent parties and groupings?

One solution to the financial problems of political parties is to ban national advertising during election campaigns.

The current system is farcically unfair. As an independent candidate at the last general election, I was severely constrained in the amount of money I was allowed to spend by law on campaigning. Yet all around the constituency, vast billboards carried New Labour posters. That did not break Jack Straw’s spending limit, because it was national not constituency advertising. But I was not allowed to do anything to match it.

I am not convinced that the ever larger budgets of the major parties at elections do anything to enhance our democracy. Certainly let them campaign, hold meetings and press conferences, get all the media coverage they can. Let them raise money and fund it themselves. But paid national advertising should be banned. Local meetings, leaflets, canvassers and the electoral address should become principal sources of information about candidates again. The internet is relatively inexpensive.

I have no difficulty with trade union members paying a levy to New Labour, providing they choose to opt in to it. But I can think of no reason why any trade union member would think it was in their interest to fund people like James Purnell.

There should be a cap on the size of individual donations to parties – perhaps twenty thousand pounds might be reasonable.

The answer to the funding problems of political parties, is for the party organisations to become much smaller, less powerful, employ far far fewer amoral besuited spin doctors, spend less on advertising and go back to being highly dependent on voluntary workers.

Now that’s real democracy.

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Those Mythical Right Libertarians

I had a go last week at so-called libertarian bloggers who are really just neo-cons. It led to some interesting debate on this and other sites, with a general view that I was being too harsh. I would say that I was not claiming that every blogger who calls himself a libertatian is just a neo-con.

But most of them are.


I am impressed by the work of The Political Compass. Their system of classification seems to identify differences in political belief that do relate to important divisions in practical political life. Their system is intuitively easy to grasp, which is a good sign of relevance.


What follows is my own result. I am delighted to say that on this measure I am even more saintly than Nelson Mandela or Gandhi. That is using the word saintliness in its true meaning, which is diagonal opposition to George W Bush.

Your political compass

Economic Left/Right: -5.38

Authoritarian/Libertarian -6.21hereistand.png

The fascinating thing about the work of The Political Compass is their identification of the very narrow area of political ground occupied by current world leaders, and the fact, surely true, that Gordon Brown is grouped there with the other right wing authoritarians.

The other fascinating thing is that none of the leaders measured falls into the bottom right hand segment. I would contend that this is because right wing libertarians, though a theoretical possibility, do not actually exist in any significant number.

I think the reasons probably come down to the psychological motivation of most right wingers; they are just really nasty people. Right wingers tend to be psychologically incapable of not wishing power over others in what they view as the lifelong struggle for personal economic advantage.

Paul Staines is a good example. Paul and Charles Crawford are two of the better known alleged right wing libertarian bloggers who in fact, should they answer the questions honestly, would fall in the George Bush quadrant.

Blogwars aside, the truth is that the majority of professional politicians fall in the right wing authoritarian quadrant, yet those who command the most universal respect fall in the left wing libertarian quadrant. That is a primary cause of the public dissatisfaction with the dysfunctionality of our political systems.

We have politicains who are more intersted in wielding power than in helping people.

That is a function of the mechanics of our political systems, controlled by party machines, where competitiveness, and ruthlessness allied to conformity and subordination to the leadership as you work your way up, are the qualities which enable the scum to float to the top.

So right wing libertarians are rare beasts. I am, however, glad for those who do exist. The state’s numerous attacks on civil liberties and the increasing pervasiveness of the controlling, surveillance, database state has become the most acute problem in our politics. Western states have been shooting towards authoritarianism at an alarming rate.

The authoritarian/libertarian axis is currently the most important dividing line in modern politics.

Let me know where you stand:


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