Jul 062012

I posted yesterday on the famous Spectator interview with George Osborne, in which he is clearly at ease spreading muck around the Westminster farmyard.  To date, the interview has been interpreted as, initially, a clever move by Osborne to muddy the waters for a public inquiry into banking and bankers, a sector which funds the Tory Party to the tune of fifty percent of its income; and then, latterly, as an example of Osborne continuing his unhealthy obsession with the career of Ed Balls.

But there is a third interpretation I’ve yet to see – to please you all, a conspiracy-theory interpretation at that.  As I just tweeted, it goes thus:

Did the #Spectator publish that interview with #Osborne *in order* that he might overreach himself? #conspiracytheory #justwonderin

And is the Spectator actually guilty of a cunning entrapment – an entrapment which Osborne, for all his alleged political wiles, has walked straight into?

I wonder.

Jul 052012

There seems to be a bit of a palaver going on at the Spectator at the moment.  Yesterday, this content was launched upon the web, making the following accusations about Ed Balls MP.

George Osborne has now let it be known that he withdraws any allegations it is alleged he has made.  I do wonder, however, if any legal proceedings were to take place as a result, who might be alleged to have fallen foul of the truth.  It’s true that Osborne himself only alludes to the possibility that Balls might have had something to do with the scandal.  As any clever politician would, he chooses his words with great care.

And if you read very carefully, the only clear reference to any accusations as such resides in a very weasel-like phrase which – allegedly – must have come from either the Spectator‘s own author, sub-editing or style team.  The phrase in question runs as follows:

One wonders if it is also intended to bring into question Balls’s defence that he couldn’t have known about any rate-fixing as he was Secretary of State for Children at the time.

I say weasel-like simply because of the use of the word “one”.  Who, exactly, does “one” mean?  Osborne; the collective intelligence of the Tory Party; the writer of the article; or simply a vacuous humanity?  And if so, how on earth are you going to take such a humanity to court?

It’s nasty stuff, isn’t it?  People around Brown; discussing reports; the regulatory system devised by Brown and Balls (without mentioning the fact that – at the time – the Tories were pushing for more deregulation rather than less) … almost, in fact, as if both Osborne and the author of the article are deliberately throwing out political coals for the rest of us to foolishly attempt to leap across.

Nick Robinson, not my favourite journalist, tweeted this evening this choice phrase:

George O will be delighted if row about Labour’s handling of the banks in office trumps argument about whether to hold a public inquiry.

Politics really is a disgusting business.  A spectator sport for the vast majority of those affected.

And as another bank – this time RBS – is also apparently on the point of being fined hundreds of millions of pounds for fixing Libor rates (more here), the Osbornes of this world can only continue to delightedly dance on our encroaching graves.

Jul 042012

Joris Luyendijk has published a fascinating blogpost on the nightmare which the financial services sector may now have become.  In it, one of his most eye-catching paragraphs runs as follows:

Over the past 10 months I have interviewed dozens of people working in finance in London and if I had to name one thing that this investigation did not do, it is restore confidence. External accountants explained how nobody at the major banks can have a complete overview any more – they have become simply too big. Well before RBS ran into deep trouble, IT consultants painted a truly terrifying picture of banks’ software operations. Forget too big to fail or too big to rescue, IT and accountancy interviewees said. We need to talk about too big to even manage.  […]

Meanwhile, he gives a degree of praise to Ed Miliband for demanding a public inquiry into the whole mess, pointing out (clearly in the light of the above) that:

[…] His reasoning was puzzling though, arguing that only an independent inquiry would “restore confidence in our financial services”.

The assumption being that financial ignorance has been bliss.

A bliss which we should not hastily discard.

Which does make me wonder – and perhaps it should you too.  If a public inquiry on the lines of Leveson were set up to investigate everything and everyone involved in this mounting crisis of confidence, wouldn’t it seriously implicate politicians from within Miliband’s own party in one of two possible scenarios?  That is to say, either:

  1. they didn’t know – leading us to believe they were incompetent; or
  2. they didn’t care enough to do anything about it – leading us to believe they somehow benefited;

Is, then, he playing a far darker – and highly politicised – game?  Is he not only calling the political shots as far as general and widespread public opinion is concerned but also laying the groundwork for a definitive nail in the coffin of New Labour – and, by extension, any attempt that Tony Blair might be engaging in to try and make a comeback to the British political scene?

Yes.  I’ve seen tweets fly before my eyes over the past couple of days concluding that Miliband wouldn’t be entirely unhappy if Ed Balls’ wings were clipped a mite by such an inquiry.  As Gordon Brown’s best mate during New Labour’s regime, a public inquiry into banking practices over the past decade wouldn’t half keep some political people on their toes whilst it lasted – even if nothing shameful were uncovered by its end.

But far more important is the message that under New Labour, and years before the banking crisis became apparent to us mortals, certain activities, atmospheres and ways of seeing and doing were tolerated by a massive superstructure of essentially cruel makers and shakers.  As Luyendijk also indicates:

A wide-ranging public inquiry could bring out the deeply problematic scale and complexity of global banks. It could show that most banking employees do not have headline-grabbing salaries. And it could get some of those regular employees to talk about how their bank is a zero-trust, zero-loyalty environment, creating a culture of fear that makes sounding the alarm or blowing the whistle so unlikely.

Are you telling me New Labour would easily escape being tarred with the same brush?

And if not, are you telling me Ed Miliband doesn’t know this?

Jan 172012

I argued back in December that Ed Miliband was not his own man – but, rather, ours, through a dedication and affinity to the democratic cause.  Then later the same month, I posted this:

[…] I think most politicians and commentators in modern politics are actually jealous of Ed Miliband.  That he has got so far without owing anything to the media of one sort or another must really frustrate them in their own carefully marketed strait-jackets of thought.

Which is why I do say: “Ed, you still have my vote.  The power you can take advantage of, channel and mould is as yet largely untested, untried and unseen.  But if you manage your opportunities well and effectively from now on in, if you manage to see them exactly for what they are before the rest of us are able to even sense their wisdom, you will be marking out a new territory: a new territory which will change British politics forever.

“It’s now your only alternative.

“It’s now our only option.

“So understand it for what it is – and take it whilst you still can.”

Today, Éoin suggests Ed Balls’ blinking in the face of an immoral confluence of financial interests – that is to say, being pig-headedly decisive instead of continuing with thoughtfully patient – is just about the best and most important thing Ed Miliband has sanctioned in his short reign:

You do not have to get people to like you in order to respect you and sometimes when everyone agrees with you it means you are doing the wrong thing. By accepting cuts and pay freezes Ed Miliband has done precisely what the Tories had prayed he would never do. By picking a fight with the Unions Ed Miliband has caused Cameron headaches because it makes the ‘red Ed’ label harder to pin.  Likewise, the ‘bandwagon’ jibes from the PM and PMQs will now fall flat as Ed grows into his role as leader of the Labour Party. Ed now understands the number 1 rule of politics; always do what your enemy would least like you to do. The media is once more listening to the Labour leader and voters will now take notice. If the price for that was some daft equivocation using Tory language it will have been well worth it.

And so, once again, politics becomes just as sleazy as well as downright unlikeable as – in reality – we always knew it to be. 

So let’s drag out the emotional and medical metaphors – tough love, respect, economic medicine, diagnosis – and go down that damn awful route of people at the top deciding things on the trot without communicating, consulting, listening or engaging with the ordinary people (that is to say, the non-politicians amongst us) who they are supposed to serve, for goodness sake.

No matter that it’s wrong, immoral and unjust.

Such words matter not a jot in the helter-skelter race to get to the top.

Problem is if you get used to trampling on the people when in opposition, because you judge – perhaps, in political terms, quite rightly – this to be the only practical alternative, how on earth will anyone manage to believe that you will resist the temptation to behave in the same manner when you actually have you hands on the real levers of power?

The battle to win power almost inevitably makes you unfit for the office.  Ed Miliband and Éoin, I am sad to say, are now showing us exactly how.

Jan 152012

Alistair Darling says a number of revealing things this weekendHere’s one – with what, for an intelligent man, is a bizarrely total absence of irony in a unmistakeably ironic situation (the bold is mine):

If Scotland retained sterling, as Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has suggested would happen in the event of a vote for independence, Darling said it would find itself in a mini-version of the eurozone, unable to set its own interest rates, tax rates, or spending policies.

“This is precisely the argument that is being engaged in the eurozone at the moment,” he said. “If you have a single currency area [for sterling] you come back to having an economic if not a political union [with London].

“So you go through all the trauma and expense of leaving the union, only to come back and discover that because you want to be part of this common currency you are back to where you were. I just don’t see the sense of that.”

Essentially, what he’s saying is if Scotland voted for political independence but retained sterling … well, then it’d be on a par with joining the clearly toxic euro – something we might right now all believe is unnecessarily risky but also, according to Darling, just as bad – just as toxic – as remaining within the current sterlingzone.

That is to say, again according to Darling, the choice Scotland has ahead of it right now is to remain a part of a relationship he simply doesn’t see the sense of because any other alternative is just as impossibly senseless.

And whilst Darling winks at all us from up there on his sophistic throne (“whatever you do, you’re up the creek – ha ha ha”), and whilst Ed Balls blinks in a politically monumental Coca-Cola Classic sort of a moment (more here), surely every imaginable bit of our politics begins to sink in all our estimations.

No one but no one at the moment talks about anything but taking heavily postured decisions on behalf of people they don’t know, don’t really care about and really don’t have to face from day to day.

Frankly, I’m getting right sick of representative democracy.

These days, it serves to represent only those who need no representation.

If representative democracy were a machine, it would have been put in a museum long ago.  As it is, it weaves evermore imperiously its looming disgracefulnesses over our socioeconomic spaces – all the time claiming a credibility it utterly lost from 2008 onwards.

We need a new machine.  And we need it right now.  And no one seems prepared enough to forge it.

So what next?

Nov 272011

Sometimes Twitter really does know how to dot an “i” and cross a “t”.  This, from my timeline tonight, being just one example.

And let it be publicly known that I would like to be able to wish Mr Balls well.  But I do think that heads should roll as far as the content of his feed is concerned.  You can’t, for example, intervene so shamefully in a public sector strike – and then the very same day be toying with the stupidities of reality TV.

Can you?

Sep 292010

I wrote a few days ago on the choice that David Miliband had to make between losing further or winning on behalf of us all:

It’s easy to be gracious in victory.  It’s far more difficult to be gracious in defeat.  Your true measure can only be fully understood when you have to experience and express despondency in public.

Today, he indeed does show his measure as both politician and person.

In defeat, I like him so very much more than I did when I felt that he felt he had a God-given right to cruise to victory.  He is a different and better human being for having lost – at least in my (sometimes jaundiced) eyes.

If only we could have heard triumphal leadership acceptance speeches from all the candidates before our final votes were cast.  We might have realised many things we did not understand at the time.

I am sure David Miliband will return.  What’s more, I’m sure he will deserve to.

Meanwhile, a different Ed from the one who cares to dominate the news cheers me up immensely here as focus and real politics, rather than the psychodramas of distraction, return – at least for the man in question – to centre stage.

I’ve said it before and will repeat it here – Ed Balls was the only leadership contender who grew in my estimation as the campaign progressed.

Ed Miliband may grasp his opportunity to impose his cunning intuitions on the rest of us.  Meanwhile, people like Ed Balls will swallow their pride and reservations on behalf of the people who really matter.  His pitch to parliamentary colleagues, but also ourselves, also to the rest of the country, here.

Politics is a dirty business.  Neither you nor I can change that.

And what I fear (so unhappily) is that Ed Miliband – despite knowing this all along – has chosen to keep it from us, has chosen to keep from us the fact that he knew.  His chubby-faced exterior, the sort you’d be happy to see your daughter going out with, hides a fierce recognition that the world is a horrible place, where people with power do unspeakable things to people who suffer from being at the bottom of the pile.

Unfortunately, it is precisely that certainty on behalf of the interests of others that I fear will drive him to hubris.

Perhaps that is always the fate of any politician of worth.

One thought to close tonight’s post.  I do wonder now if David wasn’t our Goliath after all.  I do wonder if Ed used us in some subliminal way and encouraged us to believe that he was the hard-done-by of the two Miliband brothers, when in reality it was the other way round.

I do wonder if, in fact, the more kindly of the two wasn’t the man whose smoothness I feared.  That is to say, what I interpreted as the smoothness and polish of a professional salesman a la Blair was, in reality, the kindness of an elder brother suffering politely – indeed, almost regally – what he knew like no one else to be the insufferable and ruthless triangulations of a younger brother on a hiding-to-nothing.

Ed Miliband has already shown himself able to publicly snub his supporters in the interests of electoral popularity as he puts the unions firmly in their place.

And he’s only on Day 4.

I realise now that David Miliband was nothing like Blair.

My mistake, I’m afraid.

My mistake.

Further reading: LabourList tonight follows up on the meme of Ed Miliband the Ruthless in this short editorial from Mark Ferguson.

Sep 162010

I cast my two sets of votes, as Labour Party member and Fabian, about two minutes before the BBC’s “Question Time” special aired tonight.  The invited cast was, for a change, all from the same political party – though, after the triangulation of the New Labour years you might be forgiven for thinking this had happened before.

As those of you who regularly read these pages will already know, during this Labour leadership campaign I have promised myself that I would see as little video coverage of their activities as possible – and spend most of my time filtering the excesses of marketing and soundbites from my fevered brain.  I also promised myself I would wait until the very last moment possible to finally deposit my virtual ballot papers.

However, I couldn’t not watch “Question Time” tonight, so found myself in a dilemma of almighty proportions.  In the end, resolution was easy.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I decided to vote two minutes before the programme aired.  Everything after that, for me at least, had that kind of feeling you get when you watch a footie match where you know the result and it’s your team that wins.

For this tweet summed it all up for me:

@BevaniteEllie still say EB might not be next leader but will be next Labour PM… He was great tonight

Ed Balls has grown into the role over the campaign.  He gives that air of knowing all the answers – but even when he doesn’t, he makes you feel he’ll be more than happy to dig them up.  He is pugnacious, he fights your corner, he makes you feel included.

He’s in favour of learning lessons and applying them to the future – which, of course, is great in a potential leader of a party in need of renewal.  He’s big enough to take things on the chin.  He doesn’t wriggle – he doesn’t need to.  He is clever and he is acquiring the ability to be humble too.

I voted Ed Balls, of course.

You can tell really, can’t you?

Meanwhile, the only other commentary I would find myself obliged to make tonight is that I really don’t get Miliband (E).  He gives the impression, at least in my opinion, of needing to grow up.  And fast.  There is an air of the sixth form monitor whom teachers seem to rely on about him that I fear very much.  I fear the Peter Principle, I do.  I fear it mightily.

I fear we will all come to understand it only too well, if he wins the election as they say he will.  By which time, of course, it will be far too late to do anything useful about it.

So what about the other candidates then?  Miliband (D) is a smooth operator (his “moral economy” soundbite makes you wonder whether he does God or actually is God), but he’s inevitably tainted in one of the two major roles he’d have as Prime Minister – that is to say, as Labour leader.  He’d make a good presidential candidate – to use a Fraser Nelson phrase he’d make a great “statesman without a state” – but we don’t have a presidential system.  (Or at least we don’t right now.  Who knows what the Coalition might bring?) 

He most certainly would not have the Labour Party in his pocket.  He doesn’t even seem to realise that people can get fired en masse and then rehired the following month these days. And you want to lead a party of the workers?

Andy Burnham was the most disappointing of all the candidates tonight I think, though.  Whereas Ed Balls’ soundbites sounded wise not rewound, Burnham’s “hollow and disconnected” New Labour mantra was repeated for about the two zillionth time this campaign.  Also, his political ineptness when he attempted to stride the heights of honesty and sincerity by virtually saying Labour would have cut almost as savagely as the Coalition just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Finally, Diane Abbott continues to wield her political purity with astonishing disdain.  I’m just so very glad she doesn’t have a chance of winning.

Sorry Diane.

And that’s me done and dusted.

Sep 122010

“All good leaders follow the led!”  Yes.  An oxymoron of a phrase if there ever was one.  But I realise, now, that I have my touchstone for the Labour leadership campaign.

There seem to be a number of rather unpleasant comments floating around at the moment, which – if true – insult us all.  Forrest Gump is a story of notable triumph over considerable adversity.

None of us should care to use the object of such a tale, however fictional it may be, to smear another’s character.

By doing so, more than anything else, we uncover our own prejudices. Prejudices which revolve around the relative virtues of individuals: in both their particular qualities and their innate usefulness to society.

A sad day in the leadership campaign, I have to say.

Meanwhile, David Miliband’s team interprets the future from a concept of people management located firmly in the past.  Unable to perceive the sea change that will rock British politics over the next few years, it is clear that he and his advisers can only construct themselves in terms of their opposition, and how they choose to currently run things.

Essentially, in exactly the same way as the large companies which sponsor them.

On the other hand, I find myself looking for a good leader, a responsive leader, a manager and facilitator rolled into one: that is to say, a leader who knows how to follow the led.

Which leads me to my final score.  Ed Balls first choice.  Andy Burnham second.  And Ed Miliband in third position will do me just fine.

But let it be understood I was only going to preference the first two choices until today’s childish news of these kindergarten slurs.

In fact, we might say “Bad Day At Red Rock” all round, Mr Miliband (D).  I mean if you’re that prepared to threaten us so we feel obliged to follow you before you’re duly anointed, just think how you might act after the event itself.

I now shudder to think.

Sep 112010

This tweet has helped generate an interesting train of thought:

‘Right wing papers don’t win elections 4 the Tories but by being timid and pandering to them, we lost our true values’ @edballsmp #CoopParty

The truth of the matter is that what the Coalition is now implementing is what those right-wing papers wanted all along.  But what’s also going to be just as clear is that just because you read a right-wing newspaper on a daily basis – and vicariously get to kick the immigrants/scroungers/students/hoodies whilst they’re down – doesn’t mean you’re actually as happy for such policies to be fully implemented.

I’m pretty sure that most of us need to let of steam in one way or another.  Tabloid and extremist media allow us to do this safely in the privacy of our own homes.  I’m not, however, quite so sure that all of us who read right-wing media would be entirely happy if its exponents obtained full control over all the levers of power.

This latter circumstance would, nevertheless, appear to be what has happened in the recent general election in Britain.  As we who can vote for our next Labour leader do so, we would be well advised to fully understand Ed Balls’ succinct wisdom above – and vote precisely for that leader who best represents the real sea change that is taking place in British politics.

That of a voting public which comes to the heavy realisation that voting really does make a difference.  And when you vote from the heartlands of British decency as you read your seething tracts of casual middle-class hatred, you slowly comprehend that what you shout out in your sitting-rooms isn’t quite what you wanted for your sons and daughters.

“Make your bed and lie in it!” comes to mind.

“Never again!” I might respond.

As might a whole new generation of voters – made up of old and young alike – who suddenly understand that representative democracy is worth fighting for and the future doesn’t have to be a re-run of all those other people’s pasts.  Thus it is that I am reminded of Eliza Doolittle, as I paraphrase her famous words:

“Just you wait, David Cameron!
Just you wait …”

Sometimes real change can only come about by giving those who act in bad faith the opportunity to show their true colours.

We shall see.

Whatever else I have learnt today, I have learnt that Ed Balls really does know his stuff.

Aug 282010

This, from Ed Balls’ Bloomberg speech, referring to the Coalition government’s assessment of our current economic predicament:

And today I want to respond to what I believe was a fundamentally flawed speech ten days ago:

- wrong in its analysis of the past;

- reckless in its diagnosis of the current situation; and

- dangerous in its prescription for the future.

You really can’t get any worse than that.

Balls talks about the Perfect Storm the Americans are afraid of:

The prevailing attitude I saw in America was not optimism but fear.

Every newspaper I read highlighted people’s worries about their business, their jobs or their home and the growing concerns of US policymakers and business leaders and financial analysts at the emerging signs of a double-dip recession – and not just any recession.

They fear what Americans – especially on the Eastern seaboard – like to call a ‘Perfect Storm’.

A perfect storm where continued de-leveraging by banks and the private sector meets premature fiscal retrenchment from governments and a drastic tightening of consumer spending… as tax rises, benefit cuts and rising unemployment hit home.

The Perfect Storm we should really be afraid of is, of course, that bone-headed two-dimensional (lack of) perspicacity that will be the Coalition’s future legacy, as it proceeds to line the pockets of its sponsors and concentrate wealth evermore utterly in those who were initially to blame for everything that has gone wrong.

If Labour sometimes gives the impression of still living in the 1950s, it now looks like the long stretch of opposition wilderness the Tories have had to suffer is leading them to care more about re-engineering their future electoral opportunities than saving our nation from the generational despair of economic depression.  From gerrymandering constituencies to rigging confidence motion procedures, from allowing the wolf at the door that is the fear of illness to return to the houses of our peoples to the absolute and total massacre of school improvement plans, a destabilising strand of horror at what the future might bring is being slyly slipped into our living- and meeting-rooms.

And as a paradoxical consequence, we have this 19th century caveman approach to capitalism which – sooner or later – will reduce the income of those at the top just as much as it is hurting those poor souls at the bottom.

Don’t get me wrong.  The rich people in our societies will still have their homes and cars.  I’m not talking about their pecuniary income.  Rather more, I mean something slightly different.  It’s more their egos that will suffer the awful bruising of having to announce ever-decreasing end-of-year financial results to evermore churlish shareholders, as wealth begins to stultify and stagnate its capacity to generate more wealth and circulate wisely.

This Coalition government will go down in history as perhaps the most selfish cabal of individuals there has ever been.

This is what a proper and continued engagement of the opposition throughout the electoral cycle would surely avoid, what an improper and unhappy disengagement leads to: the tribalism of the intellectually challenged, the poverty of spirit of the rejected and absent.

We need consensual government like never before.

What we don’t need is a coalition of those who know the true value of their political sell-by date far better than we ever could.


I have deliberately avoided all videos, all TV pronouncements, all multimedia appearances from any of the leaders in the leadership campaign.

I refuse to vote this time round in the terms my national media would prefer the campaign to be cast.

I am looking for a leader who – like any good dentist interested in preventative medicine – is looking to make him- or herself unnecessary.

By virtue of his or her capacity to motivate and structure, my kind of leader will be able to devise an organisational and campaigning set of relationships that will allow a team at the top to enable the grassroots to lead and at the same time prioritise the needs of real voters across the country.

That is to say, a political party where voters equal activists and activists equal voters.

That is my hope and dream.

Whilst I live in a real world, I will still hold dear to this hope and dream.  And then, where necessary, vote for my least disappointing candidate.

Aug 232010

Bevanite Ellie tweets thus of Ed Balls, perhaps the most pugnacious of all the candidates for the Labour leadership:

BevaniteEllie“We need a leader who is willing to get out on the doorstep-that way we won’t lose touch,like we did, again”- @edballsmp

The truth however is that in our – sadly – heavily hierarchical conceptualisation of power the vast majority of politicians, whilst out of such power, tend to get these touchy-feely things generally right, and there is very rarely too much cause for concern.  The problems arise when they become important enough to need the cushion of police protection, gated streets and the secret services of this or that country to defend their personal integrity.

What’s at fault is not a lack of desire on the part of latterday politicos to get down amongst the grassroots.  What’s at fault is that damned restricting idea of the hierarchy of power we have which requires us to create a pyramid of interests that ends up compressing our ability to communicate and interact in an open and positive manner.

The politicos are not to blame.  It is our inability to contemplate any other way of controlling and channelling the flux of economy, social thought and cultural intercourse that is not a top-down imposition.

For that is the most curious thing of all: this imposition, seen by those at the top as virtuous, necessary and something to be seriously coveted, imposes itself just as much on their liberties as those of us who find ourselves at the bottom of the pile.

We have all lost our liberty in this modern state of affairs.

That is why we need to change the system, not the people.

Only then will the people revert to their blessed type.

Apr 212010

The Lib Dems may indeed now be within striking distance of power.  It doesn’t make me in the least happy – but I am interested in investigating the wider reasons.  Perhaps this is all the result of a sociological perfect storm – a coming together of a number of different factors that have been out there just waiting to ambush us.

For example:

  1. we’re a highly educated populace, suddenly empowered in so many ways: 
    1. we’ve all been taught by astonishingly cheap corporate technologies and a wider belief in a consumer materialism to demand instant and unequivocal gratification
    2. we’ve all been taught by an overarching and comprehensive system of government targets to expect a neverending production-line like sequencing of improvements in our public sector services
    3. free – or essentially free – communication infrastructures like the Internet have not only brought PCs to most households but have stretched what they can usefully mean in relation to each other: no longer do we see these machines as devices to battle with in the painful privacy of our own homes but – rather – as communicating windows onto a world we can travel round at the click of a button
    4. meanwhile, the comely mobile phone – in a creeping and curious way (offspring as it originally was of Alexander Bell’s century-old invention) – has encouraged almost everyone in the country, whether technophobe or not, to acquire a palm-held computer and use it for a fraction of what they cost only a decade ago
  2. we’re a highly educated populace with long memories:
    1. some of us seriously suffered under a government led by Margaret Thatcher
    2. others felt most aggrieved by Blair’s achievements
    3. all of us felt – in some way or another – that politics was a closed book run by those in the know, very much on behalf of those who generally only chose to participate every four or five years
  3. meanwhile, social media, exploding as they have over the past two years into the daily communication habits of millions of Britons, tell a very different story – no one does anything on behalf of a social media fiend, and where they do try, they may do so at their most serious and public peril

All these factors lead us to one simple conclusion: and yes, Ed, indeed it is true -we have lived in a country where politically speaking coalition, cooperation and living with one’s slightly off-beam neighbours (what ordinary people have to do every day of their working-weeks, incidentally) are unusual activities and essentially frowned upon.  But social media is all about cooperation and getting to know the off-beam – that is to say, about treasuring and sharing difference: sharing that eccentricity through the magic of electricity.

Coalition politics may, in fact, be the paradigm of the social media era.  We might find out that hung parliaments may be to governance what Facebook, Twitter and blogging are to communication.  A little ragged, a little imperfect, a little eccentric, a little crude – a little overwhelming and occasionally rude at first, in fact: but, in the end, a game with ground rules just like any other.

The key to all of this is to recognise that game.

The key to all of this is to recognise that the game which really changed during last week’s TV debate between the three leaders of our main political parties is not the one the parties play with each other.  No.  The game which really changed last week is the one that all politicians play with their voters.

And what it now means is that the voters, softened up by years of empowerment in other areas of their lives, now demand the same from their relationship with their political representatives.

What it now means is that the voters are now on top.

That’s the perfect storm we’re currently enjoying.

Or not, as the case may be.