The Search for Change 254


The linked long term phenomena of falling electoral turnout and a decreasing percentage of those who do vote, voting for the two main parties, leaves politicians in power with the active support of an increasingly small minority of the population. To date this has not seriously impacted on consent – the Majority are apathetic, and devoid both of interesting sources of useful political information, and of social cohesion. Membership of organisations of horizontal solidarity is also in long term decline.

I would love to see an attempt at long term quantification of the difference between the parties in terms of the manifesto policies they offer. I have no doubt that there will be a very sharp reduction in difference, or rather policy convergence between the parties. If you look at 1911 – social insurance, pensions, power of the hereditary aristocracy, 1945 – nationalisation of major industries, initiation of the NHS and full welfare state, and 1983 – privatisation, nuclear weapons – there were very real and sharp political differences that offered voters a distinct ideological choice. The country – and your own future – could be recognisably different dependent on for whom you voted.

The last two times our government changed parties, the new party came in to pledge to continue the fiscal measures already projected by the treasury under its predecessors. Anyone who believes the Treasury would be fundamentally different under Balls or Osborne is delusional, and responding to tribalism not real difference. Who introduced tuition fees? New Labour. Who accelerated the “marketization” of the NHS? New Labour. Who vastly expanded PFI? New Labour. Who bailed out the banks? New Labour.

In effect, the parties offer exactly the same neo-con policies. NATO, Trident, Occupation of Afghanistan, Privatisation, Tuition Fees – the only apparent alternative at the last election came from the Lib Dems, and the electorate grasped at it in larger numbers than a third party had ever received before, something we have quickly forgotten. The reason that we have forgotten it is that Clegg, who was never any kind of Liberal, dumped the entire radical heritage of his party as soon as he came to power.

There is a much wider point to what happened to the Lib Dems. Two other changes – the introduction of PR for the European Parliament, and the large increase in expenses for MP’s staff – had made a radical change to that party. Lib Dem conferences were suddenly places of power dressing, not woolly jumpers. A great many young professional politicos – MPs research assistants, and staffers from Brussels – were all over the place. Bright, presentable, highly paid, most of them had no connection with liberalism, had never read John Stuart Mill or Hazlitt, had no idea who Lloyd George was and cared less. They had latched on to a rung of paid political work, had become part of the political class – that was the entire purpose of their activity. The woolly jumpered chap who had campaigned about paving stones in Salisbury and passionately wanted to abolish Trident and adopt green energy became sidelined, an amusing anachronism, the subject of the jokes of the sophisticates.

Of course, their focus groups showed that the people want policies which the ever shrinking ownership of the mass media promotes, because they are the only policies they have ever heard of. But the people no longer trust the ownership of the media, and the expenses scandal caused a much-needed scepticism of the appalling political class. People are desperate for leaders who look honest and say something different.

So do not despise UKIP supporters. They are not vicious racists. They are in fact brighter than those stupid enough to continue voting for the three neo-con parties, despite having their lives crippled for the next three decades to pay unconceivable sums to the bankers. The UKIP voters at least wish to punish the political class and wish to hear of some different policies.

The problem is that the only alternative of which the mainstream media is prepared to inform them is Mr Farage and his simple anti-foreigner maxims. Many of the bankers are keen to leave the EU, as Nigel Lawson told us. So if people want an alternative, that is the one they will be offered. Only in Scotland have people been offered a more radical alternative – and while I do not wish to exaggerate the economic radicalism of the SNP, they are markedly to the left of Westminster on issues like tuition fees, healthcare and PFI.

The great question of the day is, how to put before the population, in a way that they will notice, a radical alternative other than simple right wing populism. I have a strong belief that there remains a real desire in society for a more social policy, for a major and real check on the huge divergence between rich and poor, for good public services, for a pacific foreign policy, and for leaders not just in it for the money or to promote wealthy interests. But how do you get that message to people?

UPDATE

From comments made, there must be an ambiguity about this article which I don’t see myself. I made this clarification in a comment and I add it here for certainty:

Of course UKIP are not a real alternative. I said “do not despise UKIP supporters”, not “do not despise UKIP”. UKIP are a false “alternative” dangled by the mainstream media and the bankers. But the support for them is evidence that the public do very much want some alternative. I shall append this to the article as it must be more ambiguous than I thought.


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254 thoughts on “The Search for Change

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  • Indigo

    Remember the Pamphleteers? Those campaigners who got their (varied!) political messages across by handing out sheets of paper … and the Catholic church at the time of the Renaissance using lots and lots of images in their churches to inform their (illiterate) believers and counter the Reformists …

    When you consider how the popular right-wing media informs and converts their readers to a way of thinking that is more often than not against their own interests you realise that they use the self same methods; simplified image (in picture and/or words). No statistics, no complicated facts – just a subjective (and often untrue) image.

    Why don’t/won’t those who are concerned somehow use the same methods to get their arguments across?

  • April Showers

    This good piece by one of the co-editors of Medialens has received nearly 20,000 ‘hits’.

    The Illusion Of Democracy

    18 December 2012
    By David Cromwell

    Liberal Journalism, Wikileaks And Climate Deceptions

    In an era of permanent war, economic meltdown and climate ‘weirding’, we need all the champions of truth and justice that we can find. But where are they? What happened to trades unions, the green movement, human rights groups, campaigning newspapers, peace activists, strong-minded academics, progressive voices? We are awash in state and corporate propaganda, with the ‘liberal’ media a key cog in the apparatus. We are hemmed in by the powerful forces of greed, profit and control. We are struggling to get by, never mind flourish as human beings. We are subject to increasingly insecure, poorly-paid and unfulfilling employment, the slashing of the welfare system, the privatisation of the National Health Service, the erosion of civil rights, and even the criminalisation of protest and dissent.

    The pillars of a genuinely liberal society have been so weakened, if not destroyed, that we are essentially living under a system of corporate totalitarianism. In his 2010 book, Death of the Liberal Class, the former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges notes that:

    ‘The anemic liberal class continues to assert, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that human freedom and equality can be achieved through the charade of electoral politics and constitutional reform. It refuses to acknowledge the corporate domination of traditional democratic channels for ensuring broad participatory power.’ (p. 8)

    /..
    http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2012/713-the-illusion-of-democracy.html

    Well said.

  • punkscience

    Craig, why are you ignoring the Green Party of England and Wales?

    Also, see this for a comparison of recent manifesto commitments.
    http://www.politicalcompass.org/

    Your suggestion that there is no difference between Tory, Lib Dem and Labour is bang on. UKIP, however, are no better or worse. In fact, if you look at their bizarre policies (or lack of them) they’re worse. A protest vote for them risks empowering lunacy.

  • mike cobley

    Must agree with PunkSci – UKIP may be a sump for a mixture of the protest vote and the bloodyminded exasperation vote, but they have clearly attracted candidates from the wilder shores of Dementia (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Looneytuneiana!) The likelihood of any policies grounded in something vaguely resembling reality are slim at best, yet what I fear is that when they serve up their predictable dogs dinner of blinkered 1950s toryism the BBC etc will take it seriously.

  • Komodo

    So do not despise UKIP supporters. They are not vicious racists. They are in fact brighter than those stupid enough to continue voting for the three neo-con parties, despite having their lives crippled for the next three decades to pay unconceivable sums to the bankers. The UKIP voters at least wish to punish the political class and wish to hear of some different policies. (and caveats)

    It needed to be said. Granted, UKIP are in the happy position of the Liberals, before they made the mistake of thinking that a coalition would benefit them in the long term. They don’t have to have credible policies, just a cheerful shouty public face. Which I think is the answer to Craig’s last question. Trouble is any credible policies are going to involve acknowledging the necessity of a haircut all round…cheerful shouty face has to advertise jam tomorrow.
    It’s also the answer to punkscience. Frankly, we’re all doomed.

  • JimmyGiro

    “The problem is that the only alternative of which the mainstream media is prepared to inform them is Mr Farage and his simple anti-foreigner maxims.”

    In your effort to trivialise UKIP, you have inadvertently highlighted the point that the mainstream State sponsored orthodoxy, recognises UKIP as the only true challenger to its continuance, and also tries to trivialise it.

    The main message from UKIP is one of countering ‘big State’; whether that is the Brussels Leviathan, or the home-grown Bureaucracy. The green agenda would simply be more Statism, as James Delingpole points out, the ‘greens’ are really ‘reds’ on the inside.

  • craig Post author

    Punkscience, Mike,

    You misread me. Of course UKIP are not a real alternative. I said “do not despise UKIP supporters”, not “do not despise UKIP”. UKIP are a false “alternative” dangled by the mainstream media and the bankers. But the support for them is evidence that the public do very much want some alternative. I shall append this to the article as it must be more ambiguous than I thought.

  • Mick S

    The need for an alternative is apparent. There are possible signs of life based on the same-sex marriage debate though.

    In falling over themselves to find an angle that wasn’t homophobic the media picked up two angles of attack. The first was the so called rebellion by Tory MPs against Cameron. This was played as him being dictated to by his MPs and not being a strong leader. The second was that local parties were having an influence on the votes of their MPs over and above that from the leadership. Isn’t this what is supposed to happen? Aren’t MPs the representatives of their constituency and accountable to it? Isn’t the leader of the party accountable to his party too?

    A similar thing happened over the Queen’s Speech and the announcement over the Europe bill following the fall out from its omission from the speech.

    Debate, including internal party debate, is good for democracy.

    Sadly this won’t continue into other matters as the whips will be out, debate stifled, and normal service resumed.

  • guano

    April Showers

    ‘It refuses to acknowledge the corporate domination of traditional democratic channels for ensuring broad participatory power.’ (p. 8)’

    Your quote is spot on as you say. If you are on the motorway network after 17.00, you will see a commuter fleet of brand new corporate BMW/Audi/Mercedes black estate cars driving home in the fast lane. This display of multi-cloned, Thatcherite individualism doesn’t come with individual opinions fitted.
    They are personalised clones, not individual minds.

  • Komodo

    Mick S….
    Possibly the least fundamentally important events of the last few months are the gay marriage debate and the continuing argument, largely between politicians, over Europe. And look at the media coverage!

    The neoconmost Tories are right on one point, though. They have a weak leader, and this spells disaster for any group of people.

    Returning to April’s relevant quote:
    What happened to trades unions, the green movement, human rights groups, campaigning newspapers, peace activists, strong-minded academics, progressive voices?

    They were outflanked by industry, commerce and finance. It’s an arms race: between Them and Us. As can be seen by the constant infiltration and subversion by government “security” agencies, of most of the abovementioned, the government-of whatever shade- is necessarily a party to this. “We” need to evolve new weapons and structures. And “we” need a charismatic leader. That works best of all. Imagine where the SNP would be without Salmond…

  • Jay

    Steady on Craig- your in danger of re-defining the term ‘Liberal Intervention’.

    Defeat them with kindness.

    Education is realised at the ballot box, and education is a social issue and presently our decline seems to be caused by our lack of definitive outcome or aims at least for the most.

    As life is entirely oppposed boredom in societys search for meaning we are aimless and wanton in our struggle, with much emphasis put on the realsation of capital and material wealth.

    As we know those aims for some but not for all.
    Therfore for the majority to come together liberal intervention is needed, aims of which yourself Craig or Nevermind would see us well.

  • Fred

    “And “we” need a charismatic leader. That works best of all. Imagine where the SNP would be without Salmond…”

    Well they might be doing a bit better with a charismatic leader instead of a beached whale shoehorned into a pair of tartan trousers but I think it’s fairly obvious to all but the fanatics he’s no different to all the other sociopaths.

    Like the BBC propaganda on their web site today “Scotland ‘can afford independence'”. Like there was ever any chance whatsoever he was going to make the report say anything else.

  • Greg Dunn

    Can you have a “Democrary” in any real sense when there is no real difference between the two parties who will always be in power in the London parliament? As more and more people do not bother to vote politicians of those parties feel they are no longer answerable to the people. The media constantly distorts the truth or simply doesn’t cover stories adverse to the Establishment parties. Come up to Scotland and see how the BBC political output is not remotely balanced for example. Ultimately both the Tories and Labour are storing up massive trouble. As they continue to exploit the situation and become more and more greedy the poor will, at some stage, realise that the balot box no longer brings about the possibility of a fairer society. Suppression only works for so long.

  • Komodo

    Fred,

    Salmond appeals to Scots, and has led the SNP successfully for years because that’s what he does. They had to bring him back after the Sweeney interregnum, because Sweeny is a nice guy but not a leader. I am sure he can bear the fact that he is not very appealing to the English, still less to the Tories, whose arses he handed them some time ago, or to Labour, because he retained a socialist ethic while they sold out to various hedge fund managers.* I take it your main objection to him is that he is overweight.

    *and no, I don’t think he ought to have courted Donald Trump. A sign perhaps that new blood is at last needed. It gets to them all in the end. There is no such thing as a successful career in politics, as someone is rumoured to have said.

  • fedup

    …… the Majority are apathetic, and devoid both of interesting sources of useful political information …..

    In a local election night’s question and responses from the candidates, one of the Independent candidates addressed the press as follows:

    ”Tonight those absent voters numbering as much as seventy percent of the electorate won in this election, they voted; “none of the above”. Their choice however does not matter, and the minority voted politicians will go onto waxing lyrical about their approved mandate”

    Needless to point out this observation never made it into the corporate media. Fact that majority of the plebeians are rejecting the current arrangements, is misconstrued as “apathetic plebeians” and in the words of Willie Whitelaw the fault of those going: “round and round the country stirring up apathy”!

    Fact is the mass rejection of the current arrangements has little impact on the plutocrats and their hand picked and groomed henchmen who are foisted upon the minority of electorate as their would be political leaders. This follows the case; as in any re-branding affair, the said plutocrats offer even more choices, by introduction of various new “parties”, which for certain upon accession to power will be equally as bad as the last lot which were supposedly tossed out of the office.

    These placebo measures are designed to maintain the status quo , albeit executed by differing actors, with a differing narrative.

  • Indigo

    @Fred

    “And “we” need a charismatic leader. That works best of all. Imagine where the SNP would be without Salmond…”

    It’s all about perceptions … say SNP to people and they (usually) immediately think of Salmond’s face. CND to many of us, conjures up their logo … Parties need images to impress themselves on people’s minds. New or small parties have to create one. A charismatic leader helps …

    The Green Party has a great manifesto but no image … most don’t inform themselves of what’s in it and think ‘Green’ means only that … not so.

  • James Chater

    I think there is a lot to be said by changing the qualification to be an MP. Let no one below the age of 60 be allowed to serve in Parliament.
    Parliament is full of career politicians who have had little experience of life outside politics. We need people who have had experience in all walks of life whether as parents, directors of companies, freelancers, employees, or unemployed. This way the gap between rulers and rules would be narrowed. Theory would no longer trump practice and there would be more attention paid to the practical consequences of this or that legislation.
    Introducing an age bar of 60 would encourage pensioners to come forward and offer their experience, leisure and maturity.
    In ancient times, the “senate” meant literarily a group of older people who were deemed wiser. Most often, they were.
    If such a system is not possible, at least we could consider the election or appointment of 60-plussers for the upper house. Let it be the same system as for the jury service: a group of “good and true” men and women who “weren’t born yesterday” and who could take a good hard look at the legislation and filter out what is obviously ill-conceived or plain daft.

  • Summerhead

    As two previous contributors have commented, Craig’s post has completely ignored the Green Party which does indeed offer real alternative policies to the mainstream. As for UKIP; I wonder how many UKIP voters Craig has actually met. I know lots and can assure you they are all 100% small minded racists. I have as much contempt for UKIP as the other three main parties, all of whom are slaves to their corporate masters and all of whom promote discord and hatred among the general population.

  • Komodo

    We probably need some token youths, James, otherwise I agree.

    Other thoughts on the kind of MP we want:

    1. Same wage as a senior nurse. Legitimate expenses on top of that.
    2. Must relinquish any directorships on entering and be barred from holding any directorships or consultancy/advisory positions for two years upon leaving Parliament.
    3. Must have resided full-time for five years in the constituency for which he/she stands.
    4. Abolish Party whips. Free vote at all times.
    5. Appointments to the House of Lords to be made by the party opposite to the candidate.
    6. Standards of debate to be rigorously enforced, if necessary with tear gas and tasers, in the House.

    7. No Etonians . We’ve already enjoyed the democratic quota of Etonians for the whole of British history plus the next thousand years. These people are TRAINED to keep the peasants down and the fat cats purring. It’s the reason for Eton.

    8. PPE Oxonians ditto. Do a proper degree and get a job before you ponce your way into government and tell the rest of the country what to do.

    ….there’s much more.

  • Indigo

    @James Chater and Komodo

    Common sense suggestions – and none the worse for that … but what to do with the upper echelons of the Civil Service!

    Bet Craig could say a few words about that …

  • Komodo

    The Green Party has a great manifesto but no image … most don’t inform themselves of what’s in it and think ‘Green’ means only that … not so.

    Yes. That’s the point. Though the image many people see is tainted by sandal-wearing, or worse, bicycling, vegetarian hippies. The Greens do have an image but it needs work. And the Jolly Green Giant ™ to explain things.

  • Giles

    Komodo, Eton still churns out a lot of guilt-ridden lefties of the Occupy variety, who go on marches and bash the bankers, even though daddy probably is one.

  • April Showers

    O/T As sorry as I am for those affected by the tornado and for those who have lost their lives and everything else, is it necessary for both Sky and the BBC to be giving it full time coverage? Anyone would think that America had never razed other countries completely to the ground and killed millions.

    The nearly empty HoC is still droning on with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. They are discussing whether Humanists can have the same rights as proposed for other religious groups.

    They are completely out of touch with the electorate when there is mass unemployment and a broken economy, enormous state and personal debt, a collapsing infrastructure and many other shortcomings in the country.

    Was this bill ever proposed in an election manifesto by either of the coalition parties? Was NHS privatisation similarly proposed in 2010? etc etc No. No and No.

  • Komodo

    Eton still churns out a lot of guilt-ridden lefties of the Occupy variety, who go on marches and bash the bankers, even though daddy probably is one.

    I’ve met a couple. They grew into fat caterpillars, pupated and re-emerged as the great and the good, despite their early romantic intentions. No Etonians.

    James, I don’t rule out the possibility that you encountered the real world and reformed. Nevertheless, I would recommend doing a degree in aeronautical engineering, before putting your name on the ballot paper. Some sort of genuine penance is required.

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