My blogging has been intermittent for the last few months, and this reflects a continued angst since the Norwich by-election about what I am doing, and why I am doing it. It is traditional to take stock at this time of year, so here are a few thoughts on 2009.
Two wonderful old radicals left us in 2009. Ed Teague and Gerard Mulholland both fell firmly into the “Cantankerous old git” category. Ed was well known in the blogosphere as Postman Patel:
Gerard didn’t run a blog but you found him all over the place:
I had some arguments with both of them, but continual interaction with both these larger than life personalities helped keep up my morale. I miss them.
Cameron’s arrival has been the most significant and wonderful event of the year. I am extraordinarily lucky to have Nadira, Jamie, Emily and Cameron, and that my first children have been not just accepting but loving of their new family. My home life is really happy.
I have no selfish need to take an interest in public policy. I derive no income from it – indeed it costs me money. I do it because I believe that politics is in the grip of a rapacious and warmongering elite who need to be countered. I have just finished reading Peter Oborne’s The Triumph of the Political Class, and I must recommend it as an essential work. His basic thesis that modern professional politicians are bereft of concern for the common good – of any but their own good – is devastatingly accurate.
Which brings us to the MPs’ expenses scandal. It is a symptom of an underlying rottenness in our politics, and it revealed for all to see just what kind of contemptible people so many of our politicians are. Which is why I hoped that the Norwich North by-election would provide an opportunity for the public to express their disgust at the party system by voting for an independent candidate.
I was by no means insistent that I should be the candidate – indeed as Ingo can testify, I put some effort into contacting other possible independent candidates who might do better. But the by-election showed that the political parties have an unbreakable grip on the electoral system – not least through their monopoly of media access.
In fact, independent candidates only ever win – or even score over 5% – when one or more of the major parties stands down in their favour. Only Reg Keys has made it over 10% as an independent against all parties, and my own Blackburn result was the second best.
The circumstances could hardly get more auspicious for an independent than they were in Norwich, with the expenses scandal plus all the main parties supporting an unpopular war. I cannot imagine the circumstances in which I would stand as an independent again. I am considering whether the only way to have any practical impact on politics in the UK is to join a political party.
The tremendous plus about the Norwich campaign was the wonderful group of people who turned up to help – both locally and from a distance. Ingo, Steve, Iain, Owen, Stuart, John, Duncan, Alan, Keith – I shouldn’t have started to list names as there are scores and those not mentioned will be disappointed. I am feeling guilty at not keeping in touch with everyone.
The Norwich result was the lowest point of the year for me – I really did think we would do better than that – perhaps equalled as worst by the moment when the nice Iranian couple left saying they just didn’t find me a very warm and welcoming person.
The Chilcot Inquiry has been deeply depressing, with his panel of carefully chosen Iraq War supporters failing to ask relevant questions of a stream of witnesses. It is of course more interesting to me than to many people, as I actually know a lot of the witnesses. Bill Patey, Jeremy Greenstock and Christopher Meyer I am sure would all have liked to say more, given the chance by the panel. Scarlett looked like Faust just before midnight. David Manning and John Sawers, on the other hand, were lying through their teeth throughout.
There were some high points. On the wall in my lounge is a rather striking photograph of Milan cathedral, which I took myself. I had stopped seeing it, through familiarity, but now it makes me smile several times a day. I wonder if the spire of Salisbury or the sheer weight of Durham would be best for Blair?
But we still have a political leadership of all important parties committed to continuing the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan and attacks on Pakistan. Universities are subject to philistine attack by Mandelson, while all “major” parties are committed to the ruinously expensive upgrading of the British paid arm of the US nuclear deterrent. British families all carry a huge burden of debt because their money has been given to the bankers; the full ramifications of that have not yet entered public consciousness. What political debate there is, takes place at a trivial level and the under-educated public are kept happy with a major overdose of manipulated “Reality TV”.
Blogging about it all is like throwing a banana at a nuclear explosion in an attempt to counteract the blast.
Happy New Year!