Oct 252013

I suppose, in the end, we have to recognise Blair was right about one thing: we have to win enough votes to win an election before we aim to do anything else.  And in a world such as ours, to draft our appeal in terms of socialism, whilst guaranteeing a certain weight and moral validity, will hardly win any prizes for attracting the sensibilities of those whose votes make the difference between a lying halfway house of a Coalition government (as per the current one) on the one hand, and a proudly declamatory and transparent offering of tone and style (as per a future Labour one, perhaps) on the other.

Maybe we do need to accept that manifestos are vague pitches which most usefully encapsulate broad intentions – intentions which should be judged and perceived from such generous perspectives.  If we look to such a proclamation of promises with the beady eye of “will you, won’t you” conditionality, deception and disillusionment will inevitably be our lot.

We have to be more realistic to our political class.  We have, ourselves, to be far more generous to what they can deliver.

I know saying this will not make me popular.  Even so, I feel it now needs to be said.

We need to give our politicos space to preach a better world – even as we know they will deliver a less good.

Instead, I think it is elsewhere we need to focus our attention – our attention, not our ire.  This wave of history lapping at our feet – in particular with respect to its technological aspect – is driving our society towards a self-taught self-help socialism of determined communities, where both large and small companies and organisations various make their livings off the backs of a renewed focus on such a contextualised individualism (perhaps with every craftsperson’s right and precedent – “Artisans of the world, unite!” – to back up the way they conduct their commercial activities).  In my own case, I find myself teaching people across the globe the ins and outs of my mother tongue.  I feel myself to be, in a way, a victim of the zero-hour generation – and yet, at the same time, I think that I number amongst the very same generation’s most blessed of all.  Whilst I am still healthy, whilst I can still live my life in a reasonably independent way, this life is perfect for me: variety of timetable, customers and content make my work and life balance quite adequate.  And in my case, I have to admit, even as I accept I am suffering the curse of labour instability, that I have never been happier in this life.

I also have to recognise that without the infrastructures of the corporations, mainly American, which I have occasion to lambast most of my days, I would not be able to teach in that global context which makes my working-life so satisfactory.

So it is, then, I would like to suggest the following: if we are to continue, in our very British body politic, to have the kind of rather spurious game that pitching competing political manifestos against each other involves, maybe we should look mainly to the goal of refashioning the aforementioned tone and style through the selfsame hoary old sequence of political “promises”, this time understood by us voters in as kindly a way as we can still manage.

If Ed Miliband could just see his way to seeing our job, as a political party wishing to govern, in the light of an environmental concern (environmental, that is, in the sense of space – not in the sense of ecology), and even to seeing it as a trip, an excursion, a journey rather than a destination in itself, we could maybe, just maybe, aim to develop our electoral process to the point where instead of concentrating on the aforementioned spurious manifestos of what we should and won’t do, we could spend our time using them to honestly develop, promote and sell an appropriate tone and style for the future.

After all, leadership is so often a question of enabling others: not micromanaging their integrities, their actions and their personal contributions out of existence but giving them the freedom to lead themselves.

Precisely for the spurious political reasons and expectations I mention, Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is now being expected to provide swathes of detailed solutions to a flurry of truly serious problems afflicting the country.

In reality, the political debate we choose to hold should be quite a different one: Ed Miliband’s Labour Party should be saying that in a self-learning and self-empowering generation of virtual connectednesses – even where this generation has been, and is being, persistently confused by all kinds of commercial and state-sponsored activities (both disgracefully illegitimate as well as clearly rather more sincere) – a new kind of socialism, a socialism which already exemplifies itself although we choose not to name it thus, a socialism which looks to connect evermore intelligent participants, a socialism which curiously – quite individualistically – self-engenders … this socialism I poorly describe must be the self-taught self-help philosophy on which we decide to build a better Britain.

We should not be expecting of Labour the answers to our problems.  We should be expecting of Labour the recognition that we are the answers.

And in and through such a profound recognition, our political parties – all of them – could show us they have the courage to ultimately accept the implications of such a humongous shift in the dynamics of British political process.

Oct 122013

Evgeny Morozov wrote this recently:

To say that “the Internet” is our “sharknado” is to accept that the current configuration of practices, services, and conversations – the Internet discourse – already structures how we talk,  what we say and what we do after all the talking is done.

It’s not that the current crop of Internet intellectuals are factually wrong or blinded by some false ideology. It’s that, in seeking to explain “the Internet,” they keep reinforcing a discourse that itself is in great need of disruption. Simply put, the Internet discourse has outlived its usefulness. [...]

Meanwhile, Chris suggests:

[...] Many professionals of around my age and younger downsize, step off partnership-path careers, leave to work for charities, become part-time consultants or singing teachers and so on. In a more abundant economy, many more would do so.

And then there’s the desperation many people feel with respect to latterday – certainly latterday British – politics, as it bumbles its way brutally from racist nods at awful Berlin Walls of immigration to “free” (presumably not as in beer) schools of a manifestly limited utility to ideologically driven privatisations in health, postal services and even – in this day and age of pained experience – profitably public East Coast rail services.

If Morozov is right about Internet discourse having outlived its usefulness, and if everything we do right now is gravitating more and more to being dependent on all those infrastructures sustained by such unwisely received opinion, it’s hardly surprising that intelligent and thinking people might wonder more and more – as Chris’s professionals are clearly doing – of the value of this constant collaboration we call liberal democracy, in this 21st century now bemusing us.

Those few people now still reading this blog will understand where I am heading.  Over the past ten days or so, as I share less of what I am, and more importantly peer less into the vicariously shared lives of others I may barely know (at least face to face, at least person to person), I am slowly recovering a sense of peace.  I may not deserve this sense of peace.  There are others suffering dearly right now: the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed; the employed, too, who fear for their jobs; the employed who do not know from week to week where they will next earn a crumb of consolation; the employed who work in undignified conditions; the employed, even, in living hell.

So what right do I have to retire from a politics which inevitably affects you and me – whether I participate or not?  Perhaps because that politics, like our Internet discourse, like economies which serve themselves of people instead of – far more rightly – serving us, is at an end of times.  And we resist the temptation to acknowledge it.

For it’s not just the Internet which has been deconstructed by the surveillance state.  It’s all our liberal and free-market tendencies in our businesses; all our liberal and free-market impulses in our politics; all our liberal and free-market instincts in our writings.

And neither has this surveillance state consisted only of government spies.  In parallel, in tandem, sometimes in cahoots it would now appear, large companies have destroyed the conditions for healthy innovation: have destroyed the conditions which allow healthy economies to both evolve and – where necessary – commit timely revolution.

An end of times ain’t necessarily a time to end.  But it is a time to be honest and sincere: to be honest and sincere with not only each other but also, on a singular man-in-the-mirror basis, with ourselves.

Our Internet, our economies, our politics too … on the one hand, they’ve all become inefficient through systemic and individual greed and laziness; and on the other, through a despairing disconnect by the majorities the rest of us make up.

Inefficiency is obviously the mother of an end of times.  The question is whether we can recover our previous vigour, our previous sincerity, our previous honesty, our previous truths.

Yep.  I guess it is so.  A revolution of a cultural bent is needed.  Not that revolution, but one of a certain kind for sure.


Sep 022013

Whilst the government called Ed Miliband “a fucking cunt” and a “copper-bottomed shit” for saying no to a repeat of Iraq, it would appear the French – who did say no to Iraq all those years ago – have known that Syria has had chemical weapons for at least thirty years:

The announcement comes after Sunday’s French paper, Journal du Dimanche, said French intelligence agents had compiled information showing that some of the weapons had been stockpiled for nearly 30 years.

And if the French have known it, surely the NSAs and GCHQs of the world have known it just as much.

Which brings us to the matter of a request by a UK company to export precursors of chemical weapons to the Syrian government last year.  Here we have the British government’s reaction, via the Lib Dem member of the Coalition, Vince Cable.  A little disingenuous to say the least:

The licences for the two chemicals were granted on 17 and 18 January last year for “use in industrial processes” after being assessed by Department for Business officials to judge if “there was a clear risk that they might be used for internal repression or be diverted for such an end”, according to the letter sent by Mr Cable to the arms controls committee.

Mr Cable said: “The licences were granted because at the time there were no grounds for refusal.”

No grounds for refusal – except thirty years of stockpiling, Mr Cable.


So what do we have then?  A UK Coalition government, which commits austerity violence on its own population, gaily spending our taxpayer dosh on coming to decisions to export potentially dangerous chemicals to war-torn regions – war-torn regions where their government is one of the few which hasn’t signed international treaties on not using the WMDs that can be made from such chemicals … and this UK Coalition I talk of finds itself able to congratulate itself that it has complied with the law, even as it foul-mouths the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition for saying no to any resulting Western “intervention”.

Which by the way would, as a Facebook photo that just whizzed through my feed pointed out, involve members of our Armed Forces “fighting [in a way] alongside Al Qaeda in a Syrian civil war”.

This, I feel most strongly, is the result of what we might term the psychodrama of austerity unspooling.  What I’m not quite sure of is whether we were brutal and incoherent abroad first – and then learnt how to be so at home.  Or, perhaps more likely, vice versa – in a (sociopolitical) vice of totally immoral proportions.

When you learn how to treat your own people as scroungers, wasters, chavs and layabouts, how much easier it must be to think that on the foreign stage you can prance your incongruences – brightly flailing their idiocy and unkindness without anyone caring.

He (or she) who can call the Leader of the Opposition a “shit” and a “cunt” is able to see all voters, all opponents, all anti-war activists, all thinking people who are unsure of this matter … everyone who does not instinctively agree with what only starts out as yet another drone- and cruise-missile-led adventure … well, anyone who does not automatically say yes is also going to be seen as a “shit”.  No wonder austerity is so easy for them.  We are simply bits and pieces of political (sometimes literal) cannon fodder in a cruel and global conflict.

The problem here, of course, and I leave it without resolution on my part, is that whilst Iraq was the war we should’ve said no to – a war, in fact, the French did say no to – perhaps this Syria biz is quite something else.

What’s more, if the French are prepared to declassify intelligence which shows Western governments knew that Syria had stockpiled chemical weapons for nigh on thirty years, and then did absolutely nothing about it, it surely does beg the following question:

“How can our own political institutions and structures choose to make money out of such evil political trajectories – and then expect us to vote in favour of anything the former propose?”

From chemical weapons to Saddam’s unspeakable WMDs to austerity politics where the poor are savaged by the consequences of the acts of the rich, even as the rich are able to emerge unscathed, we have a politics which is broken quite as badly as it ever could be.

No wonder we feel like being shits to the profession.  They’ve been cunts to us all along.

Jul 142013

Iraq, if nothing else a misjudged war of choice in terms of its failure to democratically execute a post-war settlement, has left behind it fatalities galore.  There are the bloodied ones of course: Wikipedia gives us a list of many estimations here.  But there are other ones too.

I tweeted the following just now:

Current paucity of political leadership in our body politic is, in part, ‘cos Iraq wiped out the moral weight of too many clever people.

It bears further exploration and explanation.  So many politicians, both of Labour and of other parties, have been morally tainted by the decisions then taken.  A whole body politic, the United Kingdom body politic, putting its collective name to such decisions as it manifestly did, has had the meadow of its moral high ground scythed by the following years.

The figurative heads of brilliant brainy political wonks have been violently lopped off, as all kinds of moral gymnastics have taken to their declamatory stages.

I’m thinking in particular of people like David Miliband, a bright button of eloquent communication if there ever was one.  But there are, of course, many others.

What this has led to as a result is something quite tragic: the progressive side of this body being in power at the time, Labour’s ability – years later – to fight a rearguard action against Coalition evils has been mortally wounded by what it – in power and government at the time of Iraq – had unavoidably to take ownership for.

Yes.  It’s true that many notable Conservatives supported these decisions so many years ago now.  But they didn’t take the final decisions – they haven’t been wounded in quite the same way.  It’s almost as if we feel Labour should have known better.  Wars of choice fit badly with socialist principles, after all.  We don’t have quite the same perception for those who occupy Tory-land.

So why is this generation of politicos so rubbish?  Partly because the Labour ones cannot full-throatedly act in a principled way.  (Or at least in a way so many of its natural voters would judge to be principled.)  Yes.  They took ownership for their deeds, but continue – in the main – to fight a quite different rearguard action: that of justifying their positions when the history of implementation has clearly shown them to be wanting.

But this is not the only consequence of a conflict like Iraq destroying the ability of a generation of bright sparks to continue sparking as brightly as we need them to.  Assuming that pyramidal politics – that politics which insists on situating CEO-types fragilely atop heavy hierarchies – is the only politics we can expect, it’s clear that apart from the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, Iraq has also taken its toll – a decade later – on the people and politics of the United Kingdom.

What has the Coalition government learnt from Labour’s experience?  That in times of awful misjudgement – in this case, the econopocalypse of austerity-driven policy-making (a kind of Iraq-like impulse, if there ever was one, to redefine and redraw the landscape of a society from scratch) – what you must never ever do is take ownership.

So we have a government like Cameron’s which blames everyone and their bedroom-taxed abodes for the miseries that result from one-percent economics.  Stiglitz is right: the one percent are playing everyone else off everyone else.  And our current crop of politicians, now stuck in the mire of historical moral inefficiency, does exactly the same thing.

This generation of politicos is so rubbish not because it needed to be so.  Rather, because Labour on the one hand, hobbled by its lack of a historical high ground, and the Tories on the other, now having learned the lesson and importance of cowardice in political discourse, have lost their societal compass: they see the voters, you and me, as the corporate CEOs see their customers.  People unworthy of straight-talking; unworthy of sincerity; unworthy of open and honest communication.  To be messaged, massaged, nudged and finally cheated.

Meanwhile, we have the Lib Dems.  Supposedly dedicated to a better and freer way of doing things.  Vigorous defenders of our liberties as the Snoopers’ Charter was kept at bay.

And all the time both GCHQ and the NSA were spending the decade taping our every electronic emission.

Under what would appear to be deliberately engineered loopholes.

Sink holes more like.

Black holes even better.

No wonder this generation of politicos is so rubbish.  They’ve been trawling, living in, inhabiting the London backstreets of an elitist perception of the masses.

It’s the first time that’s tricky.  The first time you savagely misjudge something – criminally, one might even say.  But after that, it’s easy sailing.

Our society doesn’t believe in the redeeming qualities of real redemption, either.

If you do something bad, you are to be classed as forever bad.

So it is that this generation of politicos is so rubbish because they are weak – and have chosen to be so.  But they are also so very rubbish because we are lazy – and prefer to define them in terms of a damning black and white.

We’re not all to blame exactly.

But neither are we free of culpability.

We don’t have the politicians we deserve.  We do have the politicians we have made.  Rubbish in, rubbish out – RIRO, if you prefer – is a law of the universe we seem to be subscribing too.

Not sure why.  Not sure it’s a free choice.  (Not sure if we even knew we were making it when we made it.)

Anyhow.  RIP, the UK body politic.  And maybe, shortly, invisibly so, rather a large number of its subjects too.

Jul 022013

This is what Chris Hedges is famously supposed to have said about the times we are living in:

We now live in a nation

where doctors destroy health,

lawyers destroy justice,

universities destroy knowledge,

governments destroy freedom,

the press destroys information,

religion destroys morals,

and our banks destroy the economy.

And this is what John, less famously but equally observantly, tweeted this evening about Hedges’ famous quote:

Read from the bottom up and you have the #coalition 5year programme ||   “@jilevin: The politics of destruction. pic.twitter.com/E2FPVzdT2p”

Meanwhile, Labour List just as presciently asks us whether there is anything these bastards (the Tories, don’t you know) won’t do for a profit, as hedge funds and venture capitalists look to invade our children’s education at the “vindictive” hands of the highly educational Michael Gove.  And I say “educational” advisedly: if you didn’t know the measure of what a full-throated Tory can do to a nation’s wellbeing, a few weeks following the antics of Gove will set you properly to rights.

In the figurative sense of the word, Mr Gove is a bastard politician like no other.  I feel ashamed for using this language, for lowering myself to his level, but the real evil he is committing with his multiply shallow provocations gives me little alternative.  His latest plan, disgracefully couched by the Guardian of all newspapers as doing away with the “tyranny of six-week school holidays” (I imagine because Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education counterpart, isn’t averse to a bit of bastard politics himself), is so utterly unthought-through as to shock me to my core.  Giving all schools and headteachers the right to fix the dates of terms and breaks is not only going to play havoc with families who have children in different schools – it’ll also make it extremely difficult for part-time workforces, on which a hedge-funded and venture-capitalisted education system will learn to depend even more, to organise their time.  My wife being a case in point: under the current system, she already works as a language assistant in several schools, none of which by themselves would ever be able to offer her a full timetable.  So whither her holidays, come Gove’s Brave New World of 2015?

In fact, can things possibly get any worse?  Well, I wouldn’t put it past them to try.  As the Coalition previously announced not so many months ago, our NHS records will be handed over to private companies to carry out their life-science miracles, which, by-the-by, will serve to handsomely engorge their bottom lines.  But why, then, stop at health records?  All that yummy private data we now realise has been collected by government for yonks now, a kind of state-run just-in-case just-in-time Dropbox for the managerialist classes, surely will begin one day to weigh heavily on the finances of the Big State, Big Gove-rnment economy.

What, in the end, is to stop them from even privatising our privacy?  Sell off those dirty dark secrets to the highest bidder: now that’s a plan!

In his Labour List piece linked to above, Mark Ferguson rightly poses the question around how far these bastard politicians we describe are prepared to go in their pursuit of ultimate control over almost anything.  The real problem is, of course, that they are “line of least resistance” actors and actresses: unable essentially, in the absence of any serious talent, to impose their own agendas, they operate in an environment – with the corresponding tools of rank monetisation – which they know will allow them to stay atop the fragile and awkward pyramids they’ve all become so unseemingly attached to.

They may say we deserve our political class.

But I really don’t think this is true.

Our political class has given up on politics: all that’s left is brazen self-enrichment.

If only our politicians were politically-minded folk.

Now there’s a thought.

A politics without bastard practitioners, anyone?



Bloody ha.

Jun 262013

I’ve just read Peter Watt’s book “Inside Out”.  I read it in just two sittings.  It’s been quite a while since I last read a book in such a short period of time.  It’s not a long book; round about the same as my favourite Fitzgerald book in length.  It’s a good read because it makes you see something you thought you knew in a different way.  Probably a completely different way.

Peter Watt has been ghost-written in this tale; but no ghost-writer was ever so true to the necessary mechanics of a story as Isabel Oakeshott.  There were no laborious diaries to rely on and the buccaneering flavour of what often plumbs the abyss of personal tragedy is accentuated by such an absence of unnecessary detail.

It reads a bit like a Jeffrey Archer bestseller – and I mean this kindly: in its exhortingly page-turning style, you cannot fail to breathe the roller-coaster atmosphere that a “good versus evil” politics of the tribe inevitably engineers.

I have never met Mr Watt but I do feel, in his manifest self-awareness, in his sometimes painful appreciation of his own foibles, he earns himself the moral right to pass judgement on others who obviously did him a severe disservice.

I am late to his “Inside Out” Labour Party – the book itself was published in 2010 – but through the awful narrative which describes the arc of destruction which the need to generate party-funding on a rolling basis clearly generates, I understand better the actions of people like Tony Blair – accumulating the millions they unhappily do, once out of the financial holes they previously sensed.  What drives men and women to work to guarantee their economic independence to such an obscene degree?  Perhaps the kind of situations Watt lived for two terribly rough-and-tumble years.

And yet, to his credit, he appears to have recovered a massive attachment to a life of sense and sensibility.  It is not right to call it a tragedy, after all – in this piece of literature, the good guy redeems himself a thousandfold.  Family, as well as a certain detachment from tribal Labour, allows him to acquire an even keel, even as the ship of an amoral state collapsed around him.  That he didn’t go down the route of vengeful politicking – unless, of course, you count this book as an example of his game – is also to his credit, underlining as it does the importance of human relationships in politics.

And this last matter is what I think I will take away with me.  Politics is a helter-skelter where the best politicians do invent it as they go along.  Yet the very best of them all – the ones who really hit the heights, the ones condemned to ultimate injury and deception – are not only off-the-cuff imagineers of the kind of dreams we would all like to believe, they are also firmly attached to ideas and opinions which only history will ever be able to decide if they finally lead to ennoblement or infamy.

What I like about “Inside Out” is that it tells a terrible tale of a terrible party machine from the point of view of someone who refuses to abandon it.  And he even likes to ensure we perceive the evil which spews forth is far more due to an ingrained dysfunctionality of structures than the people themselves.

I begin to wonder if Mr Watt mightn’t deserve – mightn’t even be harbouring thoughts of – a return to a more active role in this tribalism that is the British body politic.  But whilst the rest of us might gain, he himself – he and his loved ones – would certainly suffer the consequences.

I really wouldn’t wish it on him – or them – again.

I once came close to real despair in my own working-life, mainly due to the half-lies and half-truths of a highly dysfunctional man.  I can appreciate myself, therefore, from very particular experience, what dysfunctionality can achieve; what it can lead to; what it can break.

So for me, this book has connected on two very important levels: ten years ago, when I distrusted my own perceptions and felt the evil breath of helter-skelter.  And now, when distrust of what I see and sense is just about the last thing which occurs to me to feel.

In the end, when I put this short book down and reflect, I realise I truly like the man who allows himself to be portrayed in this way.

Fitzgerald’s book wrote it better, of course – but, even so, the words were never more precisely, nor appropriately, said.

For all of us, that is:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further … And one fine morning -

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

To sum up, “Inside Out” has its layers of anger, its layers of pain, its layers of betrayal – its layers of traditional tribalism.  But it also has a melancholy acceptance that some things can only be survived, not vanquished.

To not be bitter – or, at least, to know how to contain any remnants of bitterness – is a mighty achievement indeed.

Difficult enough in the disconnected lives of us serfs; almost impossible in stratospheric politics.

Fancy telling us your secret, Peter?  Bottle it, brand it – and you never know, there’s a new politics on the horizon.

Even, dare I say, a new Labour!

Jun 202013

I used to be involved quite heavily with local politics.  Now I just pay my dues, and very occasionally attend special meetings.  Most recently, this involved the first (serious) hustings I believe I’ve attended in my life.  Prior to this, I attended a quite different way of doing grassroots politics – and before the aforementioned, I was very kindly visited by hopefuls in the election process already alluded to.

Shoots of a different and more hopeful way of connecting perhaps; moments when politics looks as if it might become a question of enabling existing forces rather than leading the damned into the valley of death.


I do feel obliged at this point, however, to explain: my wife has never been in favour of anything at all I’ve done with politics.  She doesn’t like my writing; she sees envelope-stuffing and door-stepping as irrelevancies in a wider landscape.  She is intelligent, well read and has a clear understanding of the political situation in her own country, Spain.  We used to agree that Spain and Britain were different.  I used to suggest this was why I thought volunteering so much of my free time in exchange for nothing tangible in return was actually quite a sensible thing to do.

Recent scandals in the United Kingdom have made this latter argument impossible to sustain.

Where not impossible, certainly tricky.  For the moment, I have lost the ability to return her fire.

For I realise now that my wife may, in fact, be right in her judgement: political volunteering, anywhere in the world, is quite the biggest waste of time and emotional investment one could possibly contemplate.

And I realise the huge scale of the task facing Labour at the next election.  Not only will it involve convincing enough people to deposit their trust in it as a party of government again, it will also find itself in the challenging position of having to persuade people like my wife (though obviously not my wife herself – she is understandably a lost cause by now) that the kind of volunteer and altruistic political activity which wins elections is actually worth all the bother.

Where the word “politician” becomes a synonym of “graft”, so people like my wife – intelligent, busy, hard-working individuals who are at the age where they’ve already seen it all before – are bound to look to convince their nearest and dearest to choose a different way of participating in democracy.

These are the politics of a purely economic democracy, maybe we could argue: forget the ideas, concepts and theories that maintain the worlds of the wonks, and, instead, just earn a Darwinian living in this savagely inevitable environment as best you can – as best you can or, indeed, as best you might.

How to convince my wife – and tens of millions like her – that political activity is really worth it?

Don’t ask them to wait on the heavy-handed results of your words.

Change their worlds for the better – and change them now!

Jun 082013

During the recent Prospective Parliamentary Candidate selection process here in Chester, which ended yesterday with the election of Chris Matheson, I’ve been blessed with several visits from a number of candidates. This, for me, was positive.  I was, therefore, looking forward mightily to the result.

This is the confirmation I received via email not long ago:

To all members:

At our parliamentary selection last night, Chris Matheson was selected to represent us at the next general election.

The selection process has been a long and hard one, generating an enormous amount of work. This has been made easier by the help I have received from a large number of people – thank you if you were one of them! This same teamwork will enable us to fight a strong campaign behind Chris, who I am certain will be an excellent candidate. That campaign begins now.

Sadly, my favoured candidate didn’t win; I did preference three candidates though – and I believe all of them ended up in the top three.

It was, I think (correct me if you know better), the first hustings I’ve ever attended.  Just shows how much of a politics wonk I actually am.

One of the speakers (not a candidate) described the evening’s events as moving.  And they were.  Held in a saintly church, they brought together many members who had, I am sure, drifted away post-Iraq.  This was, in a way, an opportunity for healing to take place.

The music that was played counterpointed the process beautifully.  The first two pieces, deliberately or not, as follows.

“Come Together”


“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”


Presumably that Rolling Stones’ anthem reflected the sadness four of the five candidates would shortly be feeling.

Anyhow, in this saintly broad church which I hope Chester’s CLP will become under Matheson’s guidance, there is plenty of work to be done.  If Labour is to win nationally, Chester is one of the seats which must be on its hit-list.  Let’s hope, then, for the benefit of all those voters and families who are currently suffering under the violence of Tory misrule that Matheson, his team of workers and the grassroots apparatus – which Chester members and sympathisers could revert to being given half an intelligent chance – are able to wrest from the incompetents in our politics control of what should really always lie in the hands of the people.

I am, as you will see, a romantic a heart.  Perhaps the next and final song, which I heard last night in that glorious setting, at least ends up describing me the best.



Good luck to those who would enjoin this battle.  We truly, really, sincerely need them to know how to win.

And win not only one election but sustainably so – for many more.

Mar 082013

The job of a politician, fairly so too, is to tell lies.  That is to say, not tell the truth as it is but tell the truth as he or she would wish it to be.  Politicians deal more in the future than the present.  The present is an inconvenience – it is more difficult to shape and manipulate.  Much easier it is likely to be to convince a voting public that tomorrow may just be the corner we are hoping to turn than to convince them that today is not quite as miserable as it (manifestly) is experienced.

In fact, to take care of a voter’s expectations with respect to the future is probably to take care of how they feel about the present.

The past, meanwhile, is for the irritating elephantine figures amongst us who – with their considerable memories – tie down flights of fancy with a reality all too inarguable.

Better ignored, then, instead of faced up to.  Better proscribed instead of prescribed.

Now we all understand and appreciate, I think, the moments in the political cycle when politicians enthuse.  Tony Blair was good at this; John F Kennedy for the Americans too.  When such salespeople of gloriously word-ridden ideals make our emotions fly with their clever crystallisations of moments in a country’s history, we feel – all of us – that anything might be possible.  Whether in adversity or in a time of great advances, a nation’s spirit – how millions feel about themselves and about their environments – can be productively affected by the simple declamations of political leaders.

In companies, some CEOs can do the same.

And in all these cases, in their upsides and downsides, we encounter both the power of that human spirit to overcome and reshape reality as well as a profound appreciation of the value such people add to our experiences of life.

There is, however, a much darker side to these professional communicators: communicators for some – or, as I said the other day, obfuscators for others.  What do we understand by those moments when such leaders claim to have a quite different relationship with the future – those occasions when they say they are taking hard decisions and proceeding to tell us tough truths?  What is the point of such behaviours – and how do we react?  Bad news seems to travel fast, it is true – but, more curiously, bad news seems, like a cinéma vérité surface of edgy camera angles, to engender its own weight of inarguable veracity.  We seem to believe more readily the depressions of tough political love than the emotions of sky-soaring pleasure.

The question then arises: when politicians engage in such behaviours – the tough political love, I mean – what are they really engaging in?  Knowing, as they must, that whole economies will see their precious confidence exhausted, shouldn’t we be suspicious of any political salesperson who chooses to paint a situation as negatively as they possibly can?

What are they trying to achieve?

What are their true aims?

Isn’t it – simply – a desire to fully manage the moods, and perhaps the overarching ability to fight back too, not only of an entire environment but also of an entire people?

Beware the salesperson who chooses to be that bearer of bad news.  They are only out to control you even more than those who – more normally – only choose to sell you the good.

Jan 062013

Imagine going naked onto a battlefield every day of your life.  Imagine being a civilian caught up in the collateral damage of professional warriors.  Imagine having to swallow the ideology of people who claim to know what’s best for you.

Imagine, if you will, a war where you have no place which is not that of passive observer; where the stray bullets kill your desire to live even when they miss you by a mile; where the powerful have the whole bloody armoury in their possession and all you can do is observe their trigger-happy antics.

Imagine, in fact, what it must have been like to live in a Sarajevo under siege:

The siege of Sarajevo, as it came to be popularly known, was an episode of such notoriety in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that one must go back to World War II to find a parallel in European history. Not since then had a professional army conducted a campaign of unrelenting violence against the inhabitants of a European city so as to reduce them to a state of medieval deprivation in which they were in constant fear of death. In the period covered in this Indictment, there was nowhere safe for a Sarajevan, not at home, at school, in a hospital, from deliberate attack.

— Prosecution Opening Statement, ICTY vs Stanislav Galić, 2003[14]


It’s nowhere near the same in latterday British politics, of course.  Not yet, anyhow.  Not for a while.  Or is it?

In a way, in a very figurative way that is, perhaps it really is the same.  Perhaps that’s why we hate our politicians so very much.  And, in a very great sense, we are wrong to blame them for it.

I am minded to voice the above thoughts on the back of this piece by Gloria de Piero over at Labour List at the moment.  In it, she describes the results of a poll she commissioned which revealed that a quarter of people interviewed would – in what is admittedly a rather hypothetical context – seriously consider becoming an MP:

Imagine you were in your thirties or forties, and friends of yours suggested you should stand for election to become an MP. What do you think your reaction would be?

Enthusiatic: I’d definitely consider standing – 6%

Interested: I might consider standing – 18%

Total enthusiastic/interested – 24 %

And this is the conclusion she comes to as a result (the bold is mine):

To end on a positive note – the good news for the Labour Party is that of those that voted for the Labour Party at the 2010 election, Labour voters were most likely to be enthusiastic or interested in standing for election and we were least likely to say ‘I don’t like politicians and the way politics works’ though these figures did change when Yougov asked about future voting intention with more Lib dems saying they would want to stand. But I think there’s all to play for the People’s Party in working to create a One Nation Parliament which looks and sounds like Britain.

That bit about the Lib Dems is what caught my attention.  If I’ve understood the data correctly, we’re saying here that those who must feel most frustrated at the moment – most under siege, that is, to use my opening metaphor – are those who’d most like to empower themselves through getting a direct hand on the levers (where not triggers) of power.

It’s not just the Lib Dems either.  When we say how we hate politics and politicians, what we’re really saying is that we don’t like to be swept up in a war where we are only ever collateral damage; a war where we are the victims of megaphone politics; a war where a system reserves for itself a right to behave as uncooperatively as it does, without allowing affected civilians and non-combatants to arm themselves in their own defence.

It’s that level killing-field which Thatcher and Hurd refused to sanction during the Balkan conflicts: an awfully unequal hierarchy of combat, happening all over again in Cameron’s Britain.

In essence, what I’m saying here is that when de Piero’s poll indicates that a quarter of all our voters would be interested in becoming MPs, it’s not so much because they believe in the system and want to dutifully participate but – rather – precisely because they have come to conclude that the system is inevitably a war.  And this 24 percent is now sufficiently unhappy with sitting passively on the outside looking in, whilst the practising politicians continue to toss fiscal, conceptual and intellectual hand grenades at this poor group or that, that they’re looking to fight back – interestingly enough, even on the terms which the existing system requires – by acquiring their own box of sufficiently inflammable and destructive political weapons.

When the Lib Dems, or indeed you or I, say we’d be interested in becoming an MP, what we’re really admitting to is being mightily fed up of being shot at.

What we’re really admitting to is that we’d much rather get the opportunity to do a bit of shooting back.

And really, what this poll is also beginning to reveal is that considerable support is building here in England for a figurative Second Amendment – in amongst the least likely of places, peoples and parties.

Dec 012012

Here’s an idea – an idea for a completely new electoral system.  Let me explain the background first.

I have to say that before this Coalition government emerged, I thought the idea of a coalition between a couple of left-leaning parties was just what the British body politic was crying out for.  It didn’t happen that way, of course.  New Labour finally blew it under the weight of its evermore creaking contradictions – and the Lib Dems rather more rancid right-wing tendencies came out on top as national government and power beckoned.

But I do now begin to wonder if the problem is really Cameron & Co – or something else.  They are, after all, simply quite old-school first-past-the-post politicians – politicians who find themselves biding their time for a future they expect will bring them ultimate victory.  They may, of course, also be conscious that they’ll get soundly kicked out at the next general election – but by then, through awful self-inflicted economic crisis, they’ll have stamped their positions and policies on anyone who dares to follow on.

Whether this anyone be a different party or – simply – different leaders within the same unhappy grouping.

It does, however, seem that a certain trend and tendency is being established.  Two fairly impervious postures with an osmotic membrane of a kind sidling between.  That the Lib Dems are running the risk of extinction at the moment, precisely because they have allowed the aforementioned process of osmosis to poison the public’s perception of their politics, and that their prior chameleon-like ability to pick and mix has metamorphosed into the uncertainty of violently flip-flopping behaviours, doesn’t mean that the functionality they could provide isn’t going to be needed in the future.

Which is where we come to my idea for a new electoral system: an electoral system designed to enable coalition government by facilitating its transparent formation.  Let’s say, some way down the line, the United Kingdom (or whatever it is by then) decides to adopt electronic systems of voting.  Let’s even suggest, once adopted in that typically British toe-in-the-water way, we decide to embrace further advantages such systems could bring.  One of these advantages could run as follows: for many years, and throughout the first-past-the-post era, people have complained that voting for one party or another inevitably means compromising on certain issues.  Yes.  Labour might be OK for one voter on welfare but not hit the mark quite on Trident.  Or the Tories might convince someone on the economy (well, this is a thought experiment and we are supposed to use our imagination) but not on privacy rights.  Or the Lib Dems might get it right on grass-cutting and dog-control policy but be totally all over the place as far as drugs is concerned.  How about, then, we use an electoral system which allows us to vote for a different party in a discrete number of specially selected policy areas?  Yes!  Once the votes were all counted up across the national landscape, each party would have direct responsibility for those areas the public had judged they should be in charge of.  And a representative from the relevant party with expertise in the corresponding area would then be assigned by the party to hold the ministerial portfolio in question.

The figures of Prime Minister, Speaker and so forth could all still exist.  The PM could, even, continue to have responsibility for reshuffles and changes of government.  But in each case, he or she would have to choose from members of the parties which the people had voted for in each policy area.

This would clearly be a brand new electoral system – a system which depended heavily for its functionality on virtual-community technologies and multifarious software tools.  But it would also be a brand new electoral system entirely fit for a consensual and collaborative – that is to say, a coalition – age.  No longer would politicians have to triangulate their positions.  No longer would the electorate have to compromise when they voted.  In everything we began to do in such a body politic, honesty, sincerity and directness would become the definers of a completely new era in representative democracy.

What say you?

What upsides and downsides do you anticipate?

And how on earth, once accepted the principle by a sufficiently large constituency of citizens, could we convince enough of our first-past-the-post, anti-collaborative and anti-consensual politicians to finally and utterly let go of their carefully-tended turfs?

Nov 172012

We’ve been complaining – those of us who do – about a manifest private corporate takeover of democracy.  One of my consistently most-read posts includes Roosevelt’s definition of fascism, a definition I am happy to repeat here:

[T]he liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

And those of you who read these pages often will know how unhappy I am about this.  Not primarily because it’s allowing corporate bodies to concentrate wealth to the detriment of a wider society.  No.  That isn’t my primary concern.  My primary concern lies in the dangers for our future intelligence and ingenuity such an inefficient conglomeration of interventions in our democracy will provoke.

That is to say, corporate takeovers of democracy, as per Roosevelt’s definition, are actually more inefficient as far as results and outcomes are concerned.  An example.  I read yesterday in a Spanish online magazine that if the earth’s climate warms by more than four degrees (and to be honest, it really doesn’t matter whether this is Fahrenheit or Centigrade, now does it?), then ninety-five percent of the human species will eventually be wiped out.

Try sorting out that mess of a future with the decision-making processes of a corrupt corporate body, looking only to feather its managerial nests.

We need to be smarter and cleverer in how we organise ourselves, take decisions and operate in the future.  Not less so.  And the fascism which is beginning to reign over us here in Britain, that fascism of Roosevelt, that fascism in both deed and thought, is – above all – a far less efficient way of organising and generating our inspiration than other, rather more inclusive and supportive, systems we could use.

Perhaps, in a sense, it’s not the corporations we need to batter.  Perhaps they do, indeed, do just what we allow them to get away with.  And the truly culpable agents in all of this are those individuals, organisations and institutions which specialise in the dark arts of politicking.  In very few areas of human endeavour are you actually voted for, praised and loved as a result of your innate ability to sell a donkey.  So it is that politicians are as they are – and it seems we need them to continue to be thus – precisely because they lie to us.

It seems to fulfil a deep and profound need.

Thus to the point of today’s post: if we cannot change how politics works, if politics must operate as described above, then maybe we need to reduce politics’ reach.  Maybe we need to begin to identify areas of human organisation and ingenuity which can operate outside government control.

When I say government, I do of course include all those private corporations which use existing and supposedly democratically-elected representatives as mere and pliable extensions of their own marketing and policy-making departments.

Private corporations of which there are now really far too many.

But, as I say, let’s not blame them for doing anything we don’t, through our governments, prevent them from doing.

Let me just ask you this question: in your own role at work, whether the company is large or small, do you you operate under the control of reasonably adequate processes and procedures?  And do people follow in a reasonably faithful way such ways of thinking and doing?  And when such ways of thinking and doing are not followed as they might be, are there issues which colleagues will raise as to why they have not been followed as instructed?

Personally, my experience is that such systems are generally followed and used as a basis for logical organisation and information exchange.  In most areas of human endeavour, we do try and operate as evidence-based professionals.  This doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes or allow our emotions to sometimes take hold.  But it does mean that, generally speaking, such emotions are kept in check by being forced to think rationally and clearly, as well as taking time out to explain our viewpoints sensibly.

Politics, right now, from where I’m sitting, really doesn’t seem at all like that.  Headline politics, I mean.  The stuff right at the top.

The higher up the greasy pole they get, the more illogical they’re forced to become.

So then.  We can’t change politics – it is, in fact, an ancient skillset which no one has managed, or cared, to change through the ages.  But where we can attempt to save the planet from the stupidity of illogical thought is to reduce the impact such red-card activities can have on the organisational and decision-making systems we employ.

We need not just to reduce public-sector government (and by extension its bureaucracy) – we also need to reduce the deadening hand of inefficient exercises of power that private-sector bodies currently demand should be theirs by right.

We need to become more efficient – and we need to become more efficient soon.

That is to say, we cannot deny this need in the face of climate change, population growth and a whole host of other problems out there.

Politics and private-sector bureaucracy have shown us historically how they failed us in the past.  But the 21st century’s challenges are far more serious than those of previous centuries: we know, logically, rationally and scientifically, that something truly unpleasant is on the horizon.  The implications of continued failure are simply too awful to contemplate or condone.

Let us decide, then, as we learn and realise that politicking will never change, to increase the scope of those areas of human endeavour which do think logically, do think in an evidence-based way and do understand the importance of creating systems and environments which allow people of different opinions to share them constructively, hammer out productive agreements and create common foundations for future advances.

Nov 102012

Puffles summarises in one tweet tonight what I have been feeling for longer than I can remember:

Puffles (*notes*) the crisis of establishment institutions continues. BBC, politics, banking, newspapers, police…all in a v short time space

Now some of you already know that in 2003 I was almost sectioned for an illness which came over me as a result of the lies told around the Iraq War.  The illness came over me because of other reasons too – but principally it involved me furiously writing a blog where I tried to demonstrate that what the politicians were saying was false.

I failed, and fell quite seriously ill as a result.

I was interviewed by a highly unsympathetic psychiatrist at three o’clock in the morning for about two hours – and condemned myself to a month in hospital through the very words I spouted in those two hours.  I was undoubtedly ill, I can’t deny it; had, indeed, done some very strange thing in the weeks leading up to that moment – but my recovery was so much quicker than my social worker said it would be (she told me I could expect to be able to do no more than two hours a week voluntary activities for months once I got out when in fact I started work almost immediately for a fast-food company on a twenty-hour shift) that although it took a while for me to get my wits together, it did finally become sufficiently self-evident that my savage distrust as exhibited by the diagnosis in question was not entirely due to illness: in massive hindsight there is for me a grand sense that the reality was closer to my perceptions and the illness was a consequence not of seeing falsely but – rather – of seeing all too clearly.

I mention all of this today because what is happening in our society, as Puffles summarises so presciently and accurately, may lead far more of us down similar roads of mighty distrust.  I suspect that it no longer really matters whether Mr Murdoch is doing cartwheels over the latest revelations at the BBC (more here), whilst his own irresponsible leadership disappears over the media event horizon; nor should anyone worry whether Hillsborough and Orgreave will finally get the justice they deserve; nor, even, should we care if Masonic paedophile rings riddle the country or not.  No.  In truth, the wider damage has already been done.  Those of us of a paranoid bent are becoming the commonplace, not the exception.  Those of us who see shadows everywhere are seeing we are right to see them anywhere.

In truth, the reality is that the mighty distrust which in other times was judged ill-founded has become a normalised and common reaction to everyone and everything we perceive.


This evening my son was walking home from playing football.  He popped into the local Spar to buy himself some Ben & Jerry’s.  Whilst he was there, a blonde woman of around fifty looked him over in a way which called his attention.  He then left the shop and continued his way home.  At the top end of Caughall Road, near where we live, the lady in question, sitting alongside a man who my son didn’t properly see, stopped her car across the road and offered him a lift.  My son didn’t know her; had never seen her in his life prior to the Spar; couldn’t understand why she should even know where he lived.

A case of potential paedophilia?  My son is seventeen, so I don’t think so.  But I phoned 101, all the same, with the details.  The police also found it quite disconcerting.  They didn’t take my details as there was little detail to report, beyond that the car was green and was driven by a blonde woman in her fifties, but did remark that whilst they would have recognised the pattern if my son had been a child, a couple attempting to pick up a seventeen year old was certainly rather strange.

My family called me paranoid for phoning the police.

Was I?

Surely, in the light of all that’s going down, they should see me as foolishly trusting.

To go to the police in precisely that part of the world where accusations of alleged and historical investigatory reticence have recently surfaced is – you could argue – a sign of madness in itself.

Anyhow.  The broader conclusion we might come to could not really be worse.

In the light of all the terribly uninvestigated things that it would now appear have been taking place over the past forty years, one thing ties all these establishment institutions together: all of them – from politicians, the BBC, News International, the police, banking and the Church to business leaders and organisations various – have committed the same mistake.  Lines of command, where authority breeds an unquestioning allegiance, have proved to have been responsible for rotting our institutions from within – to such an extent, in fact, that the whole bloodied pack of cards is tumbling apart in evil procedural slow-mo … even as they attempt so ineffectively to devise a better truth.

The haemorrhage of good was never so terrible as of late.

In the absence of a true war, we seem to have stumbled across an awful instinct to reproduce the conditions that lead up to civil war.  Only the English, as we know all too well, have such a stiff upper lip that they can but ignore these conditions; they can but ignore the implications.

This is, nevertheless, a war of civil characteristics: a war where people begin to side with their tribes; a war where tribes begin to form like puddles in the park; a park which ends up dramatically flooded by a superstorm; a superstorm which terminates communities as it rapes their sense of trust.

The damage is done – as I said above.

Right and wrong don’t really matter any more.

All that matters is fear.

And a growing – encroaching – violently destructive sense of horrific disbelief in almost all the things we once held dear.

Nov 092012

This, from Jon Stewart, post-US elections, is very funny – and makes me sad.  Its total enjoyment of the chagrin of evil others really does not bode well for the future of consensus politics.  This is, in fact, politics made war – and, perhaps, as a species, it is all we are capable of.

Contrast it with reactions such as these – “No time for collaboration” – and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, Mr David Cameron has mentioned the words “paedophilia”, “witch-hunts” and “gays” in the same conversation.

This has, of course, provoked reactions of all sorts.

I am, myself, actually inclined to believe Mr Cameron did act out of the very best of intentions.  I do feel, however, that – like so many of the rest of us human beings out here – he unconsciously revealed his deepest prejudices.  Just as as the American left as represented by Jon Stewart so visibly despises the hardline American right for all their lies, obfuscation and manipulatory politics, so Mr Cameron probably despises the British left for all their nit-picking and prejudice-catching instincts.  Yes.  He was probably accurate when he said that gays would come worst off in any such witch-hunt.  How could it be any other way?  We’ve already seen how the disabled, sick and poor are equally at risk of suffering the full weight and heavy-handed politics of the worst government we’ve had in the last forty years.

Gays are no different.  A visible and organised group of people who rightly defend their rights to make a life at what used to be the margin of traditional establishment assumptions about what was right and wrong in human discourse.

Mr Cameron prejudiced?  Absolutely.  After all, aren’t we all?  Did he mean to connect paedophilia, witch-hunts and gays in the same sentence?  Yes and no.  He didn’t mean it to come out as he said it – but under that PR mane of suave communication, and perhaps very very deep down, it’s what he surely believes.

Perhaps despite himself.

For example, I’m sure he and his wife wouldn’t choose for their children a nursery school run and staffed entirely by gays.

Now would you?  And if you wouldn’t, why not?


In all this, we’re losing something very precious.  The glorious English right to eccentricity is disappearing over our cultural horizons.  Jimmy Savile and his ilk have done far more to destroy the essence of English freedoms than any New Labour-driven obsession with using the state to prevent child and teenage abuse and deprivation.

The impact that all the above will have on our society will shake its reality to its profoundest foundations.

All because those in power had far too much power.

All because our newspapers decided that money and influence were more important than truth.

All because every one of us is prejudiced beyond belief.

All because – in the end – no one ever knows how to properly avoid compromising their principles.

And in this, this terrible sequence of matters, we’re definitely all in it together.

Nov 022012

If you’re living in Britain at the moment, it can’t have escaped your notice that paedophilia is the flavour of this generation’s angst.  Or should I say, a previous generation’s angst.

I’ve already posted on one high profile case (as well as the media’s lily-livered reaction to it): the DJ and entertainer, Jimmy Savile.  Tonight, it would appear that the BBC current affairs programme “Newsnight” will – if it doesn’t find itself looking down the barrel of a super-injunction – reveal that a senior politician from the Thatcher era was allegedly involved in similar activities.  What’s more, it would seem that this person is still alive.

The Twitterverse is going pretty barmy with the rumours at the moment, as the Twitterverse tends to do in such matters.  But I do wonder if we shouldn’t take a wider look at what’s happening here.  Over the past few days, I’ve read about 650 instances of abuse in 40 boys’ homes located in North Wales; astonishing allegations of a paedophile ring close to the heart of a previous government; celebrities various arrested and bailed by the London police; and a general and growing sensation of something very ugly.

Paedophilia is most definitely ugly: an attack by the strong and imposing on the most defenceless of all our citizens.  This sudden raft of revelations is clearly a cry for justice: that Jimmy Savile appears to have been so “prolific” is, for example, an undeniable way for an emotionally awful boil of such characteristics to be utterly lanced once and for all.

But bringing to light paedophilia as a crime of previous and supposedly responsible generations also fits another curiously appropriate purpose: that of attributing terrible acts to such generations which, however agile and cunning their political arts under normal circumstances, cannot ultimately escape a finally ignominious fate and vigorous condemnation from their very own offspring – both figurative and literal.

It’s almost a challenge from beyond the grave: these politicians, celebrities and makers and shakers of all characteristics might have managed to conserve their reputations as far as history was concerned – but try and beat this rap if you can.

So if I am right in the psychology of this, even a little, even a mite, where Thatcher and her reputation for Iron Lady could not be properly besmirched by political discourse – essentially because those who supported her saw value in precisely those elements which her opposition so violently criticised her for – they most certainly can be damaged, and perhaps in the near future fatally for Cameron & Co, by such profoundly unsettling allegations about the establishment’s behaviours in the distant but still imposing edifices of the past.

In summary, revealing crimes of paedophilia is a perfect way (whether subconsciously or not) to forcefully hit back once and for all not only at the perceived sexual abuses of a prior generation but also their far more prosaically sociopolitical ones: a perfect way to hit back for those of us who are hurting because of what our parents’ generation has done to this world – a world we are now to do little more than survive in; a perfect way to hit back for those of us who feel society has become a heartless machine – a machine whose humanity is now so very visible by its manifest absence.


Update to this post: today, November 3rd, Tom Watson has published a terrifying series of observations, on the basis of information only a politician of his integrity is ever in the position of having honest access to.  As he rightly concludes:

I wish I could fight the case of everybody who has been abused by a paedophile who has so far got away with it, but I can’t. That is a job for the police. Up and down the country private grief is being stirred by these stories. I cannot help in each individual case, but the police and support services can, must and will. If you were abused a long time ago and want justice now, go to the police. It is not too late.

What I am going to do personally is to speak out on this extreme case of organised abuse in the highest places. At the core of all child abuse is the abuse of power. The fundamental power of the adult over the child. Wherever this occurs it is an abomination. But these extreme cases are abuse of power by some of the most powerful people. Abuse of trust by some of the most trusted. It is a sickening story, but one which – like the truth about Jimmy Savile – is now going to be told.

I strongly advise you to read his article in full.  As with the hacking scandal, this strikes at the very soul of a very British way of doing things.  Whilst communities were destroyed in the name of distant and abstruse economic policy, these politicians were untouchable.  But even an establishment as powerful and navel-gazing as the British clearly has been – well, it cannot resist forever the tidal wave of ordinary people’s disgust.

Whilst political argument and discourse acted as a barrier to closer examination, there was nothing we could do.

But there always comes a time when good people like Mr Watson get to have their say.

A moment and opportunity to truly re-examine our profoundest and most hurtful memories.

All power to him, then.  All power to the people.

Oct 062012

Jay Rosen has just tweeted the following blindingly obvious truth – blindingly obvious in that way of certain scientific experiments.  The ones which for centuries lie undiscovered and unproven – only for everyone one week to suddenly stumble across their whys and wherefores.  Rosen’s experiment?  As follows:

It just never occurs to old school reporters that the world could evolve away from them. I don’t mean technology but “post-truth” politics.

Bloody hell.  He’s right.  I remember once reading some declarations by the BBC‘s politics guru Nick Robinson.  When asked why he limited himself to interpreting what politicians said and did, he argued something along these lines: politicians were the makers and shakers in our democracies and therefore deserved all the attention the media – and by extension Robinson himself – gave them.

Thus we get that “he said, she said” school of political reporting.  And thus we sustain the hierarchies that have brought us to the disastrous situation we find ourselves in.

I expressed, in my last post, my unhappiness and disagreement with the general satisfaction – and lack of political ambition – which our elites express of late in relation to our “least worst” democratic institutions, as they currently stand.  I suspect just as Rosen implicitly describes those old school reporters as simply unable to understand that the game our politicians are now playing is that of telling barefaced lies, so we could couch my comments in the post I refer to within an analogous situation.  A political science which describes the needs of society in terms of a set of behaviours generally carried out in good faith is ill-equipped to deal with a generation of out-and-out liars.

An example from my own past: whilst I was working for a large banking corporation, I belonged to a trades union which managed to achieve some pretty damn good things.  Amongst many others, one was a company objective to raise union membership across the group to seventy percent.  To facilitate this, every new employee was given a joining pack with union application forms.

The relationship was anything but that of a sweetheart union.  Business was properly and rightly engineered – behind the scenes, that is, as well as in full view of the membership – with great integrity and coherence on the part of the union itself.

Through the vicissitudes of 2008, however, a takeover became necessary.  The company which emerged from the process in question was anything but pro-union.  Many of the mindsets which had grown up over the years on both sides under the previous regime were lost overnight; not by the union, you understand, but by management.

Sadly, for a while at least, at least in my humble opinion, the union continued to believe that the old ways of collaboration, cooperation and trust were appropriate to a radically different age.  There was still that hope – at least as perceived from outside – that the new management could be made to see the sense of constructive industrial relations.  This didn’t happen – and, as a result, my dear trades union was forced to observe a rolling programme of massive redundancies; in a sense, even, administer it.

It seems to me that such huge shifts in perceptions confuse anyone who must participate in the processes that engender them.  Just as the affected may be trades unions and their members or political scientists and their adherents, so they can just as easily be political parties and their voters.

Or, indeed, as Rosen suggests, old school reporters and their readers.

Sometimes – it’s not a crime, mind – the world and its changes overtake us.  This usually happens when we are unwilling to give up on deep, honourably-held and dearly-acquired beliefs.  This does not happen out of ignorance – quite the opposite.  Wisdom and knowledge allow us to hold out for much longer than perhaps sheer observation would indicate we should – in the hope that awful scenarios from the past are not repeated.  But whilst we give our makers and shakers the benefit of the doubt, and they became cheaters and shakers instead, we lose all opportunity to stem the tide of bad faith that begins to overcome – in front of our very noses – even our most dearly-held institutions and structures.