Jan 222012

Politics should not be about doffing our (benefits) caps in mutual incomprehension.  But it certainly looks to be heading in that direction.

We simply do not understand each other, do we?  On the one hand, the government has clearly decided that the whole nation needs re-engineering far more than it needs a helping hand.  On the other hand, the opposition (that is to say, the political party I am a member of) can only see the degrading piecemeal destruction of a vast infrastructure of little-by-little policy decisions – all originally put together with the very best of intentions by New Labour and its protagonists over a long decade of social repair.

Sadly, most modern politicians seem – eventually – to get stuck at “changing things” instead of “changing things for the better”.  Even such enlightened observers as Éoin are now urging Ed Miliband to come over all pragmatically populist.

Out of sheer desperation, Labour is now uncertain whether to triangulate the short game of the general election in 2015, in the faintest hope that maybe the polls will eventually support what is now fast becoming a manifest absence of convictions; or, alternatively, give up on the short game entirely and properly play the long game of 2020.

Between two such stools we are rapidly falling.  And no: populism is not the answer. 

On the other hand, a careful weaving of a tapestry of real and appropriate convictions, whilst surely just what the (spin) doctor ordered, doesn’t seem to be all that close to a sensible realisation.

For we, on the progressive side of politics, appear to have learnt absolutely nothing from our last disagreeable encounter with a conviction politician.  Mrs Thatcher finally managed to impose on us her cruel brand of politics because we gave her the space to demonstrate she was perfectly coherent in everything she did.  She might not have been, of course; but her discourse clearly gave the impression she was.  And that, far more than populism, convinced us there was no alternative.

Triangulation; populism; to be reactive; to have no clear centre of political gravity … well, these are ideas I all find an anathema to what I believe a politics of the people should really be about.

Essentially, we need to know three things: why we are here; what we want to achieve; and how we want to achieve it. 

Defining oneself in terms of one’s eternally piecemeal responses to a multitude of government policy objectives – objectives which only serve to shotgun our body politic – is a lily-livered and ultimately futile exercise in short-term political survival.

We have no alternative, any more, to entirely reinventing ourselves. 

This is not a party political luxury of the self-indulgent. 

This is a precondition to long-term survival.  A precondition to any progress from here on in.

Jan 222012

I honestly think this is all a conspiracy of sorts.  The population is ageing dramatically; the consumers are getting grey- (or no-) haired; and potential markets in developed worlds are beginning to seize up.  Who wouldn’t, then, want to release onto the open market the massive host of products and services that is health, social care and legal support?  In this sense, everything our British government is doing right now can be seen as a way of sustaining future profits for companies which are surely worried about the end of rabid (and youthful) consumerism.  In the light of such a thesis, we could even argue that socialism in the UK was spreading not because New Labour made it stealthily so but – rather – simply because as you get older you are going to be more inclined – out of understandable self-interest – towards a society which cares.

And so we come to the subject of this post: the complex and astonishing choreography behind the calls – in the midst of economic crisis – for a new yacht for our dearly beloved Queen.  Or, as I have cared to title it, “Gold Diggers of 2012″.  Here’s the historical reference:

And the background from Wikipedia. And the definition of “gold digger” from Wiktionary:

gold digger (plural gold diggers)
  1. Someone who digs or mines for gold.
  2. A person (usually female and considerably younger) who cultivates a personal relationship in order to attain money.

But since this is the 21st century, the female bit has reverse-liberalised itself considerably.  Nowadays, I suggest, we could safely assume that instead of “considerably younger females”, we might (though it still has yet to be entirely proven) be talking about “considerably older males”:

[…] it seems the support is part of a well-choreographed campaign to make the yacht a reality. The project has had the backing of the royal family, a national newspaper, and the tacit support of at least two major organisations, for more than two years, suggesting last week’s enthusiastic headlines have been a long time in the planning.

The campaign can be traced back to the mid-1990s when a powerful group of industrialists and monarchists, anticipating the scrapping of the royal yacht, devised a replacement that would not require funding from the taxpayer.

Thus far, no surprises.  This is par for the course in a democracy where the wealthy reserve the important levers for themselves.  The next bit is rather more disconcerting, mind:

The accounts note: “Particular interest in the project has been expressed by British Antarctic Survey and Edexcel, who are the project’s science and education partners respectively.”

Edexcel is owned by the FTSE 100 company Pearson, and describes itself as “the UK’s largest awarding body offering academic and vocational qualifications and testing to schools”. It has major contracts with the Department for Education, whose secretary of state, Michael Gove, has been a vocal cheerleader for the project.

Though Edexcel then go on to rather hurriedly distance themselves from any significant association:

An Edexcel spokesman said: “In 2009, we had some initial conversations with the group about the educational aspects of their plans, and said we would be happy to offer our expertise in support, if and when the project came to fruition. We have not been closely involved with the project since then.”

Which does seem a little unseemly.  After all, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is either a jolly good thing or it isn’t; it’s hardly something one needs to be so equivocal about.

Does it?

And if so, why might that be?

Anyhow, the Guardian report clearly indicates that a considerable level of media management has been taking place.  And I do wonder if this is the case in something as surely iconic and uncontroversial as our Queen, how much more choreography is going on behind the scenes in other areas to ensure that our grey-haired futures end up firmly in the pockets of our large consumer-loving corporates?

Gold Diggers of 2012?  You bet your bottom dollar on it!