Nov 272012

I read this piece by Mark Ferguson, posted on LabourList tonight:

Tomorrow Tony Blair is making a major speech on Europe, which I’ll be attending. Ahead of the speech, I received a press release entitled “Blair for EU President campaign starts tomorrow: Join us!”

Ferguson goes on to tell us:

According to the press release,

Tomorrow (November 28) Tony Blair will kick-start his campaign to become the EU’s president. We will be there to support him between 9-9.30am…Members of the London office of the Blair for President Preparatory Committee will be waiting to greet Tony with colourful campaign posters carrying the slogan: Tony Blair for EU President – Integrity in Action

We then get an intriguing bit of investigative legwork, worth reading in full, which comes to the following conclusion:

They’ve also held at least one joint event with The Bruges Group, who describe themselves as “A neoliberal think tank which researches and publishes against European federation and against British participation in a single European state.” Sound like Blair fans to you? Or a group that would want any EU President? No, it rather sounds like a bunch of rightwingers running a false flag operation to me.

Finally, onto this update, aimed at clarifying the matter:

Update: The People’s Pledge contacted us with the following statement:

“Marc has set up, in his own time, what is clearly a spoof campaign, to highlight the importance of the EU presidency. The Democracy Movement has a long history of spoof campaigns to highlight certain issues on which they campaign.”

Take a look at the website for yourself and see if you think it’s clearly a spoof…

Now in the grander scheme of things, with disabled, sick, unemployed and poor people getting the very worst treatment in recent history from the government of this once fair nation, you might think that Ferguson is playing the navel-gazing Westminster Village just one too many times.

But, on reflection, I really do not think he is wasting his – or our – time on this matter.

I think, in fact, he may be on to much more than even he believes.

All through the calvary of the last two years or so, as the austerity drum has been savagely beaten by our leaders and as the rich and wealthy have acquired more riches and wealth, I’ve found it really really difficult to understand the hatred the Tories would appear to manifest for the disadvantaged constituencies mentioned above.

As a driver to do further ill, I can understand the psychological fear that treating millions of people harshly might engender in those who impose such policies.  But hatred of the poor doesn’t seem at all the kind of motivation which – in itself – sustains, by itself, such a continuous and permanently unpleasant race against equality.

In so many cases, too, it’s almost as if the government’s yardstick for policy selection has been as follows: “Choose something – anything – which a) hasn’t yet been done and b) no one else wants!”  It doesn’t matter that there is no evidence to support the utility of a policy in particular; it doesn’t even matter that so many professionals, freely offering their advice, suggest that disaster will accompany its implementation.  No.  The important thing, the key thing, the guiding light for this current government, seems to be as I suggest: “Do it – whatever it is – as long as no one else wants it done.”

Hating the poor, the sick and the disabled?  No.  I don’t think this is enough to explain these behaviours.  For this government also hates doctors, lawyers, teachers and a whole host of other educated and fairly wealthy souls.

You know what?  I think this has so very much more to do with Blair and his legacy than any of us could quite have imagined.  Much more, in fact, to do with Blair himself; much less to do with New Labour as an entity.  This is personal.  This is painful.  This is upper middle-aged white men who spent most of their political lives in the wilderness of Blair’s shadow.  They hate the poor, the sick and the disabled – but they also hate the lawyers, doctors and teachers.

Don’t you see it?  They actually hate the intelligentsia!  That’s who they really despise.  Those, who with their intelligence and evidence, defend a permanent reworking of Darwinian capitalism.

I do really wonder if what’s at the bottom of this Coalition project, what’s really driving it mightily along at an entirely visceral and gut-wrenching level, is a vigorous and unceasing hatred of a powerful figure like Blair’s clearly was; even, perhaps, a vigorous and unceasing desire to excise him altogether from recent political relevance.

In a phrase, a pretty terrifying desire to undo his achievements entirely; to destroy all national recognition; to airbrush his presence and personal weight.

Essentially, to take him out – to take him out of the British body politic forever.

A Soviet-style rewriting of recent history?  Perhaps this is, indeed, what’s now driving this terrible terrible flock of silly politicians.  It’s not us they hate exactly you see.  It’s the “us” that Blair made us who they simply can’t abide.  The “us” that strove, however imperfectly, to create a new Jerusalem in a kingdom of the united.

A man who attempted the impossible and failed quite miserably abroad.

And yet not altogether – not quite when back at home.

The sick, poor and disabled who now fight for their rights; the doctors, lawyers, teachers and other members of the intelligentsia who will not lie down meekly and capitulate … they are his legacy far more than anything else we thought he intended.

And all this so reminds me of other Eastern bloc countries which operated in other awful times.  When history ends up in the hands of the obsessed and bitter, the unprofessional and the demagogue, it becomes a sour weapon which can destroy us all.

Which brings me to my final thought: if these dreadful Coalition politicians are so full of a Blair-driven spite as I imagine, isn’t there something we should see and salvage from all that Blair managed to leave us?  And aren’t the battles the disadvantaged are now waging against the intellectual impoverishment of the Tory Party exactly that sign of lasting achievement which – quite justly – Tony Blair will be able to take to his political grave?

Even as we, his unwilling sons and daughters, end up object of the worst kind of collateral damage this country has ever seen.

Nov 272012

There are three articles I’d like to draw your attention to today.  First, from Paul Evans on the reality of the “unregulated” British press:

I understand the principled arguments against press regulation. Really. I do. I probably agree with most of them as well, in all of their impoverished fiddling-while-Rome-burns glory.

But can everybody else who opposes this please also acknowledge that British journalism has been a recurring car-crash for decades now? We don’t have regulation already? Apart from the right journalists have to only print the prejudices of their proprietor that their advertisers don’t object to?

And as he painfully concludes:

Democracies and markets rely upon wide access to reliable information and our press is not, currently, an asset to civil or commercial society. If anything, it’s the opposite – and that needs fixing whatever else Leveson comes up with.

Second, from Paul Cotterill on the structures we need to pay more attention to:

Norm and Chris are in disagreement over who can represent effectively.

Chris thinks background doesn’t matter:

[H]istory shows that posh MPs can serve working class interests. Leading members of the 1945-51 government such as Attlee, Dalton and Cripps were public schoolboys.

Norm thinks, statistically speaking, it does:

Because it can happen that a woman makes good decisions for the men she represents, and a rich man likewise for people much worse off than himself; and because it can also happen that a person from the very same group or stratum as those she represents can make very bad decisions for them, even ‘selling them out’; these are not reasons for denying the old truth that one of the things individuals are moved by is their interests. Representatives do not escape this generalization, at least statistically.

I think both are missing the point.   They’re focusing on agency to the exclusion of structure.

Third, from Paul Bernal on the passion we must strive to maintain coolly:

None of us want twitter to turn tepid – if all we get is lukewarm discussions of celebrities and cold-hearted press releases from politicians then what’s the point? And yet sometimes, just sometimes, things can get too hot to handle on twitter. Arguments reach boiling point more often than they should, tempers flare and we all turn into hotheads and firebrands. Does it help? There are times when it does – when we need fire in our hearts and the heat of passion – and I for one would never want to lose that. There are other times, however, when it goes over the top, when the ‘freedom’ of twitter brings out the torches and pitchforks, and we seem to turn into a fiery mob. What is needed is a cool head. Now, for me, is one of those times. If we can stay cool, calm and collected, we can turn this possible chill into something that helps us – but we do need to stay cool.

Whilst at the same time concluding:

[…] Keep cool – but don’t lose the passion in our hearts.

The saintly trio of Pauls have certainly delivered a triplet of useful lessons in these three pieces.  Reality, structure and passion: what a powerful linking of concepts.

We must, of course, continue to ground ourselves in reality – just as we must be aware, in a personality-driven age, of the importance of structure and system when analysing the true whys and wherefores of our outcomes.  But equally important to understanding better how latterday society is operating is that acknowledgement of the power and impulse the flesh-and-blood passion of human beings can engender.

So let us analyse reality coldly; let us engage with structure creatively; and let us do all the above with a passion that never fails to push us towards better ways of thinking, seeing and doing.

I do hope we are up to the challenges thus presented.

Don’t you?