Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On the eve of the polls

We live in strange times. A brooding discontent has morphed into disillusion and melodrama all because of fiddled expenses. The result is that political debate has moved from the realm of the banal into that of the surreal.

Norm might be mystified, but I am downright confused. Even he had me scratching my head at one point. He took Shuggy to task for not favouring an early general election, yet the proposal would bring out the Sergeant Wilson in me, asking, "D'you think that's wise sir?". Norm wants a Labour government and hopes for a better one, as, despite everything, do I. I respect his principles and the coherence of his argument, but the tactics? Suicide has never been high on my list of reliable methods of retaining power.

I am totally bewildered by Polly "this is the best government Britain has ever had" Toynbee - calling for both Alan Johnson (my local MP with whom I have had the odd interesting exchange on adult education) as leader and a vote for the Liberal Democrats.

As for getting rid of Brown, it would seem obvious that someone who manifestly cannot do the job should be removed. However, this is the paradox of any organisation. We invest leaders, managers, etc. with vast decision making powers, regardless of whether they prove themselves to be complete idiots or not. Then, however reluctantly, we obediently go along with decisions that we think are totally wrong, purely because they have been made by someone inept for whom we have no respect, but who holds an office that we would like to remove them from. Then try getting rid of them and you find it is nigh on impossible. I fail to see the rationality in this.

And, obviously, the question of replacements arises. Who would be elected? Who will be the new leader? What sort of democratic renewal would an election bring? Ah... The eager and ambitious bunch waiting in the wings don't look that impressive to me. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. We are talking of political laxatives here, that is all.

The discussion around reforming institutions and practice in the wake of the collapse of our complacency about British democracy is important. Yet it is ultimately vacuous as something is missing - political economy. And it is missing at the time of an economic crisis that is of far greater significance than the cost of moat cleaning. Democratic renewal is not about choices of parties but of ideas. Institutions and practice are a vehicle for their advancement. We have had thirty years of elite consensus around neo-liberal assumptions. The mainstream challenge should come from social democracy, its agent should be the Labour Party. Come back ideology, all is forgiven.


Norm replies here. The main difference between us seems to boil down to the fact that I prefer the probability of defeat later over the certainty of it now.


Anton Deque said...

Looking beyond the moment, even the next General Election, I am thinking more and more that we have arrived at a one party state by default. Compared even with 1997 (and dramatically, 1957) the choice before us is between the two brands of the same essentially social democratic politics. It feels very strange.

My fear is however, not so much a government led by Cameron (will anyone notice?) but a "reform" of Parliament by the well meaning meddlers urged on by the Guardian and Observer; a reform which will not only bring into Parliament fringe parties established on a single idea – anti-EU, Sharia Law, or race – but (to coin a phrase) give them a whip hand. Look at Avigdor Lieberman in Israel. A man with 15 seats in the Knesset who is now Foreign Secretary. Is that in any true sense 'representative' government?

Shuggy said...

Suicide has never been high on my list of reliable methods of retaining power.

Uh huh. Anyway, at no point did I say I didn't favour an early election - I just don't favour one now over this issue. I thought it might have been an idea to have one when Brown took over because I thought it was a bit off for a PM to take office without a single vote being cast. Norm and most other pro-Labour bloggers didn't agree at the time. He was wrong. Me (and Ed Balls *shudder*) were right. Now it's just too late. I don't see the difference between Autumn 2009 and Spring 2010 making much difference.

Anonymous said...

At the heart of the Labour philosophy is the notion that without protection most people will be exploited by the rich and powerful. Socialists believe in the state as a means of liberating the working class from the circumstances of their birth, and through action enabling workers to receive their due reward and exercise their freedoms.

Labour under Blair and Brown has lost any notion of a political philosophy of liberation. Instead they just offer the concept that they are really clever people who can administer everything themselves, and organise the economy and society to give everyone their alloted chunk of fairness. Hence their obsession with education as a means of enabling workers to get jobs with multinational companies, not to develop their consciousness so they can better understand society and control their destiny.

Socialists believe in using the state. But not everyone that uses the state is a socialist. Some are just interfering statist idiots with nothing to offer the ordinary person.

Anton Deque said...

"Socialists believe in using the state." – Anonymous 7.53 p.m.

Well, I could follow that part of what was written. I suppose Socialists recognise the power of the state about which it would be foolish as well as counter productive to delude oneself. It is the vehicle through which beneficial outcomes may be distributed. I suspect this will still be true when the current issues of the banker's strike and personal conduct in public life are resolved.