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.