Aug 102014

A story from the Guardian/Observer website today got me thinking.  It’s headlined:

Rising Ukip star on Roma in the UK, vaccines and racist gardeners

and it’s introduced:

Rotherham is a Ukip target in next year’s general election. Jane Collins tells how she hopes to unseat Labour by being ‘different’

Notice the adjectives “rising” and “different”.  A prominent article in a notable newspaper of liberal leanings for a party with no MPs, no policies – and one narrative which, whether we like it or not, would surely lead to a business cataclysm and upheaval of unpredictable proportions.  A similar thing, though on a separate part of the political spectrum, is taking place in Spain with the movement (I respectfully resist calling it a party for the moment) Podemos.  Plenty of free media attention for something creating interest, it is true – but not with the credentials a careful democracy should perhaps require.

However, let’s try and focus on these dynamics from an apolitical stance.  I’m fascinated by the fact – it’s undeniable – that practically all our media, whatever its political opinion, is drawn magnetically to change: in such an environment, it’s hardly surprising that an up-and-down approach to communication should be the rule.  Whilst the peaks and troughs of idiotic statements capture the headlines day after day (no longer simple soundbites – more often unruly video exchanges designed to move us, almost assign us, emotionally from one monolithic bloc to the other), alongside the oft-quoted “he said, she said” journalism defining what they think we should think, it’s no wonder the careful, timely and intelligent chugging away of good practice ends up in the sewers of our perceptions.

Change, its aforementioned magnetic effect and practically all our media … yes!  This is what captures the agendas of daily politicking.  But it’s not only bad for the human race that constancy gets no publicity; it’s bad for those who enter the public sphere with the idea of working via evidence and humane values.  In the end, their initial desire to “make a difference by focussing on the universal” gets consumed by all these up-and-down appeals to “listen to me and what I’ve got brand new to say” – which, in any case, is rarely ever even moderately new in an objective and historical sense.

They say that change is inevitable – so get used to it.  What they don’t like to admit is change is not monolithic – nor, indeed, as inevitable as they suggest.  Our instinct to popularise, promulgate and propagandise around change is extremely common, that is true (as is our habit of arguing that it’s always an opportunity) – but the universal needs of a society of social beings like those of us who form this humanity I describe don’t change half as much as the change merchants would have us believe.  And if this we are to change at all in the near future, we need our media – that is to say, at least a substantial minority – to recognise that the chugging away of good practice I mention above is far more useful for that future than unceasingly spurious calls to perceive as positive, and to go ahead and opportunise, all dynamics of so-called change.

Just because it moves doesn’t necessarily mean it’s progress.  And just because it’s stable (that is to say, doing its stuff silently behind the media veneers) doesn’t necessarily mean we should proceed to ignore its true worth.

And I don’t just mean within the fields of established politics, where plenty of examples tumble out on a daily basis.  I mean also the new guys who claim – this time! – to be making a “real” difference.

Right UKIP, Podemos et al?

Oct 202013

A Twitter friend of mine suggests I read an article about how the evil of big government be abolished.  I am sympathetic to elements of this thesis, as long as we define “government” as either public- or private-sector concentrations of power – concentrations which will inevitably impact on our day-to-day existences in a significant way.

So then we can agree.

It’s not just the statism of the left we must pillory here; it’s also the corporatism of the right’s sponsors in the (big) business community too.  Both are examples of managerialism on a grand scale run riot.  They lead to situations such as the ones I’ve been describing recently, where cutting-edge technologies slide into bleeding-edge: where the race to get the latest smartphones and tablets into our grasping consumerist hands leaves behind the minimum levels of reliability which technological progress once saw as a fundamental part of its claim to cultural prowess and priority.

They say – universally I would suspect – that you should never come to us with a complaint but a solution.  The problem – the “challenge” if you prefer! – is that there’s no single solution to anything (nor, in fact, has there ever been), and anyone who says otherwise is lying.  What ties together our dissatisfaction with almost everything these days – whether of a political, educational, health-related, technological or more general sociocultural bent – is that the (virtually orgasmic) instinct to reach a destination rather than enjoy a journey, to exhibit the result rather than perpetuate the process, has overcome to a dreadful extent our society’s ability to set reasonable goals.  I was struck this afternoon by the shape of my timeline on Twitter, as an example of this: on the one hand, so many writers, promoters and marketers using the technology to puff up – I don’t necessarily say incorrectly or without every right to do so – their chosen causes; and on the other, an online acquaintance of mine retweeting a simple request for union recognition and the right to transport concessions (I think it was) in a small workplace no one has heard of – no one, that is, except the workforce in question itself.  Whilst the latter is no less noble than the former, yet, even so, it – and parallel actions of a similar nature – are afforded far less visibility and acceptance in this civilisation we judge to be the one most progressing ever in what is, essentially, a relatively short and, lately, manifestly all too frail history.

I suppose I have reached a crossroads in my life: I don’t believe everything I’d hoped might be true.  I don’t believe, any more, in the inevitable capacity of technology to solve more problems than it causes.

So where did it all go wrong?  Perhaps, exactly, where it went wrong for our financial institutions: when marketing, promotion, the managerialist instincts of “puffing up” reality if you like, overtook careful analysis, hard work, conscientious mindsets and sensitive professionalism.

With all the latter whisked out of the core of corporate capitalism in most parts of the world we look horrified over and onto, it is hardly surprising that the “solution vendors” have managed to pollute our better impulses with the short-termism of novelty.  So it is we learn to throw about 150 hard-won quid every eighteen months or so on a gadget we now expect to break down as part of the unspoken contract we have with such “progress”.

Not the progress I was brought up to believe in, that.

And you?

Mar 032013

This post is about two tweets which came my way yesterday.  Both speak of the importance of personal responsibility.  The first describes its reach in private industry (in this case, I believe in relation to a recent story on the freemium app industry):

Companies are made of people, and people have a responsibility for their actions, inc. developing (potentially) exploitative freemium games

The second, which came my way hot on the heels of the first, said much the same thing – only, this time, in the context of the NHS (the Mid-Staffordshire scandal comes immediately to mind):

The best managers help clinical staff treat according to need and make patients healthier, not enforce NHS policy whatever the consequences

Meanwhile, in an oxymoron-like diatribe of the weakest kind against everything and anything New Labour ever did, David Cameron has this to say in today’s Sunday Telegraph:

That is what everything this Government does comes back to: the future. We are looking at the horizon, not tomorrow’s headlines; doing what’s right for the long-term. Thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher said that we should be “in the business of planting trees, for our children and grandchildren, or we have no business to be in politics at all”.

I couldn’t agree more. In 30 years’ time, I want people to be able to look back at this government and see that we paid down our debts, helped create millions of jobs, sorted out welfare, made our schools world-beating and built homes for a generation.

Doing this kind of work might not earn you popularity points in by-elections, but it’s what I’m in politics for: making the country we love as great as it can be.

I haven’t heard that “planting trees” metaphor for really quite a while.  I suppose we’ll have Michael Gove telling us next that we should all write a novel before we die.

I’m also just a little puzzled – maybe out of technical ignorance – as to why he says “paid down our debts” instead of “paid off“.  Unless, of course, he means that it’s going to be the little people at the bottom of the pile who’ll always end up saving the Tories from their economic selves.

But perhaps this is all just a little too nitpicking on my part.

In truth, it’s always going to be the people who make a difference to any society.  Politicians of the kind who tend to rule us prefer to ignore this.  If they didn’t, they’d have to engage us in their processes – they’d have to get us involved and actively participating.  Far easier to blame an anonymous public-sector bureaucracy – and shift the responsibility stealthily onto equally anonymous private-sector equivalents – than to admit that the root of all our problems lies not in our systems but their application.

It’s not so much a new education system we need – it’s more a system teachers and students know how to work with.

It’s not so much a new legal system we need – it’s more a system whose costs victims and other participants don’t have to fear.

It’s not so much a new health system we need – it’s more a system which provides support as and when a person becomes a patient in need.

The Welfare State is the way to make our society less inhumane.  It’s in our grasp – but it is a choice.  We can spend considerable resource on allowing the fortunate to further concentrate their good fortune – or we can deliberately decide to give the less fortunate the consideration, charity and kindness most belief systems have tended to argue should be made forthcoming.

But what we have to accept is that, either way, it’s a choice.  If we choose to fashion a world where we must walk on the other side of the road from that homeless man who dies at the doorstep of a bungalow, we can.  We will do so, I am sure, in order that ambitious alpha men and women can – amongst the disasters they also commit – achieve what they undoubtedly do.  And this is clearly an act of socioeconomic decision-making at the highest level, committed by coherent men and women.  It is a freely-taken decision. It is an unforced decision to let some people live better at the expense of others.  It is a statistical calculation of risks that approves of achievement at the very top, even as it judges society will not rise up in arms and disintegrate as a result of the anonymous homeless dying distastefully in the streets.

If, on the other hand, we opt to help such homeless people – if our goal is to create a socioeconomic environment where this kind of action is prioritised over other, more aggressively innovative, behaviours – we may create, again entirely consciously and deliberately, a society where survival is ameliorated for a far greater number of our souls here on earth, even as achievement measured objectively loses its bleeding edges.

And either way, to come back to the original set of choices, and whether politicians like it or not, if anything turns out right, it’ll come down not to systems they proudly and powerfully announce but, rather, to their humane application – or otherwise – by people who look and act and feel like you and me.

That personal responsibility.

That core humanity.

That attachment to caring at an individual level for each and every relationship.

That love, even.

That kindness, generously imparted.

Far more important for a classroom than this textbook or that is the mind that plans the lesson around a book and the hands that clutch its spine.

For the funny thing about Cameron’s oxymoron of a weak diatribe is that there was very little in it I found myself fiercely disagreeing with.  Oh, yes.  Those silly sentences on immigration.  The daftness around welfare.  But in reality, the poor man knows exactly what we need to do.  Like when he says, almost pleadingly (the bold is mine):

These are not claims or promises: they are facts. We are turning the tide on years of decline — and building a Britain for those who work hard and want to get on. And we need to go further. We need to get more houses built. We need to build new roads and railways and energy connections. Some reading this may not like that; but as I have made clear, this is not a popularity contest but a battle for Britain’s future.

The problem isn’t the words, David.  The problem is the people.

In fact, the problem – more widely expressed – is your, and your professional class’s, attitude to people in general.  The fact is that systems, for high-flying politicians, are like electromagnets of recent generation: when you have the opportunity to choose between getting people voluntarily onside or creating a foolproof system designed to cage them into a certain set of behaviours, you can guarantee any minister worth their caviar will be pulled inexorably in the direction of implementing a brand-new system over convincing ordinary people to work better with an existing one.

I really do sometimes get the feeling that Cameron and some of his cohort are locked painfully into the wrong party of UKIP-incubating MPs and hangers-on.  If only he, and perhaps they, had chosen Labour, we could right now be facing another decade of government.

Maybe I should now spoil this post for you (or, alternatively, not) by saying how very much that idea makes me shudder.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t.


They say familiarity may breed contempt.

I’m inclined, however, to believe that being a politician (of empire-building instincts, at least) makes one contemptuous of the familiar.

In this, both One Nation Labour and the more traditional Conservative impulses, which Cameron has appealed to in his text today, have aimed to reassure potential voters in a time of utter uncertainty that being British, in itself, is quite enough to be getting on with.

But in the end, they are all just words – both Cameron’s and Miliband’s, I’m afraid.

In a sense, I get the feeling that our politicians are likely to be as lost here as the rest of us.  And in this realisation (as Poirot might suggest!), I find the future most terrifying.

Where ordinary people would be the real solution, our leaders are now only able to work with systems.

The systems have taken over to such an extent that these ordinary people I mention truly have no impact whatsoever on the results – even as they end up shouldering all the blood-spattered blame.

The personal responsibility which I started this post with is impossible to properly engineer or encourage.  We spend our time terrified of the juggernaut-like mechanisms that threaten to bury our professional futures in a careering disgrace.  We hide, like frightened rabbits, from the oncoming lights which should illuminate – but which, in the end, serve only to make the shadows evermore powerful.

Yes.  It’s the people, stupid.

And our leaders are too stupid to realise it.

Jan 112013

Yesterday, on the back of an excellent post published by James Firth describing the upsides of shirking and laziness, I in turn said this:

And thinking on this fearful government campaign against the concept of shirking as James would prefer to understand it – a concept we could just as easily describe as idle thoughts, imagination and deliberately unfocussed creative and lateral thinking in general – makes me wonder if our government doesn’t have a couple of prejudices driving it:

  1. Thinking idly must be the preserve of the idle rich – because it’s one of the most sure-fire ways of getting richer.
  2. Thinking idly must be the preserve of the already powerful – because, as one sure-fire way of understanding how the world really works, it’s bound to lead the plebs to reconsider their assigned positions in society.

What I didn’t realise was that there is science behind what is happening.  Watch this video, first – it’s only ten minutes long and will change your life for sure.

As you will see if you follow my instructions to the letter, unthinking work responds positively to the attractions of monetary payments.  They dangle a larger carrot in front of you – or threaten you with a larger stick for not working harder – and, verily, you end up working harder.  But when it comes to using your brain to think, more money actually makes you perform worse!  Time and time again, the data proves the latter.  An astonishing – and apparently counter-intuitive – conclusion.

Are human beings, in reality then, hard-wired socialists by nature?

It’s certainly a thought, anyhow.


Naturally enough, this got me thinking.  I worked for about seven years in a large banking corporation.  My experience in one department there led me from relatively thinking tasks at the beginning to evermore desultory and meaningless data entry six years on.  The trends were absolutely clear: the dumbing down of processes and their corresponding procedures was an instinct which was manifestly part and parcel of corporate life.  The question was: why?

I always assumed it was an urge to reduce training costs, limit the impact of staff turnover and make it impossible for any one worker to be in control of sufficient intellectual property which a move into another company might prejudice.

The dumber the processes the workforces have to carry out, the fewer of those processes – and their value-adding implications – they can take away with them out of malice or pique, for example.

But in the light of what we’ve just seen in the RSA video above, it would seem that there is an intuitive (maybe even conscious) conspiracy sustaining itself to take out of a thinking society such as ours – trained for decades, as it has been, in the constructive cocoon of compulsory education to cogitate better and more profoundly than ever before – all the relevant and value-adding opportunities to use our cognitive and self-motivating side to be precisely that.

So instead of substituting a stick-and-carrot system designed to make simple and repetitive tasks function at least minimally well with an alternative system which would fit exactly with our thoughtful and educated latterday brains, large and small companies everywhere have decided – whether deliberately or instinctively – to jettison all attempts to take advantage of our minds and, instead, return us to the drudge of manager-driven wage slavery.

In a thinking society, where almost everyone has been taught how to imagine, create and laterally devise, this is why they’re dumbing down all the processes: it’s a power thing, after all.  A desire to keep a hold of those old hierarchies.  A need they have to maintain the control that externally motivated work has over the worker bees it commands.

And what’s even more curious is that as we continue to find ourselves carrying out more and more meaningless tasks in our work time, in our leisure time we’re blogging and videoing and writing to our heart’s content.  What’s more, with mostly very little monetary reward.

Whilst we’re pushed towards evermore robotic work experiences, our need to think and cogitate cannot be suppressed.  Just as, in fact, our democracy is removed from our politicking, so our desire to search out and practise democratic process moves into online and other virtual manifestations.

However hard you try to remove freedom of thought and cognitive opportunities from human beings and their daily experiences, you are bound, I think we can all agree, to ultimately fail.

And whilst we humans are pushed towards – and back into – meaningless work, and whilst our robots become cleverer and more ingenious, no wonder our politicians feel the need to criticise the thinkers: to criticise them roundly, describe thinking as shirking – and let it be understood that those who wonder are wasting their time.

After all, imagine how difficult it might be to rule over a nation of people far cleverer than you.

A nation of people who thought stuff without the petty reward of the only thing that separated you – with your concentrated wealth – from them.

A nation of people who didn’t believe stuff in accordance with what you gave them or withheld.

A nation of people who did what was right because doing what is right is what keeps them alive.

That, in conclusion, is what we now have in the United Kingdom.

Too many clever voters who think better in their spare time than their leaders are now managing in their paid time.

Curious, isn’t it?  Curious how historical hierarchies always seem to fight to reassert themselves.

Sep 142012

This news, clearly part of a broadening government attack on workforces’ rights, is just the start, isn’t it?  Beginning to move the goalposts, so that in law unfair dismissal is no longer unfair, is only part of a wider process designed to shift the blame for economic injustice and inefficient process from the so-called wealth creators to the workers themselves.

In truth, if these wealth creators were really so very good at their jobs, they wouldn’t resort to the simplistic notions of firing workers to get out of economic holes they’d gone and dug for themselves. After all, the easiest thing when parachuting into a company with problems is to order a three-month review and fire ten percent of the people.  Far more difficult, far more value-adding, far more deserving of the high salaries these supposedly clever people are able to command, is to analyse all the processes which operate in the company and rework them little by little so everyone employed has a value-adding role.

It’s much easier, however, to shift the blame for inefficient economies onto surplus workers who are surplus through no fault of their own.  And since it’s much easier, government and business lobbyists both look for intellectual cloaks to justify their poor and shabby instincts.

We, as workers, deserve far better strategies.  They, as supposed wealth creators, have none.

For in reality, in any case, these wealth creators seem of late mainly to be putting their wealth into non-manufacturing and low-employment sectors – where the financial returns for their own private money piles are going to be much higher.  As an example, I remember reading a short while ago about how major car companies now make more money out of financial services and investments than they do out of making cars.  I wonder how much employment such decisions now generate.  I wonder how many workers, as a result, aren’t even contracted in the first place.

The worst of it all, of course, is that in an economy where consumer confidence is low – and demand is just about as shaky as it could get – we’re getting business leaders looking to make their shrinking markets less unprofitable by cheapening the cost of hiring and firing labour.  So where is the entrepreneurial ambition in that?  What’s more, where is the economic common sense?  You’re hardly going to get demand up on its feet if you make workforces, consumers and families in general feel even less confident about their futures.  And yet cheapening the cost of hiring and firing labour is exactly what that will achieve.

One final thought.  The Labour Party is investing much of its energy in the idea of predistribution.  One element of this concept, if I have rightly understood it, is that we should believe in and aim for high-quality and high-skill economies.  My experience of working in a large banking corporation would, however, indicate this is not the way forwards that at the very least big business is looking for.  In giant organisations, they always look to dumb down competencies, for several reasons:

  1. Reduce the impact of staff turnover.
  2. Reduce the cost of retraining.
  3. Reduce the cost of salaries.
  4. Reduce the danger of intellectual property loss.

These are all key elements in the decision to choose the dumbing-down of processes over the training-up of staff.  In reality, high-quality and high-skill economies can only operate in those societies where there are extremely high levels of trust and stability between workers and management.  This is definitely not the case in Coalition Britain.

And if Ed Miliband’s right-wingers continue to encourage him to sit on his hands, as they probably will do, it’s hardly going to improve under any future Labour government.

Feb 212012

I remember, a long time ago, someone telling me (or maybe I read it) that the difference between the French and the English lay in their approaches to implementing systems of control.  As my memory fades a little bit now, I don’t know if the industry in question was the railways or nuclear power – but essentially the argument went as follows: whilst the English believed in devising foolproof processes and procedures, the French believed in upskilling foolproof people.

I exaggerate and simplify terribly of course.  But you get the general idea.

And as neither could ever be 100 percent foolproof, the choice was entirely a free one: the French believed almost ideologically in people, the English almost ideologically in mechanisms.

These days, of course, we’re all probably much of a muchness.  The English way – perhaps I should say the Anglo-Saxon way – has taken over from so much traditional face-to-face and person-to-person engagement.  From call centre-serviced bank branches to virtualised ordering and tracking procedures, from scripted job interviews to online careers advice … well, very little of what we do these days requires us to think too much for ourselves any more.  As our processes become evermore dumbed down in order that the least trained (ie the cheapest) amongst us can cope with the tasks to hand, so the ability to think beyond the immediate environment is being lost.

Not only is it being lost, we don’t even care to prize it when it exists.

It’s not all bad I admit.  Much easier to track an international parcel via clicking on a link than phoning up a foreign country and misunderstanding the language coming from the other end of the call.

But something, even so, is being lost.  Some ability to think for oneself before acting.

This story today, for example:

US and Nato forces have rushed to apologise for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of furious Afghans gathered to protest outside Bagram military airbase.

How did it happen?  It would appear that confiscated copies of the Qur’an had managed to get mixed up with a regular consignment of paperwork to be incinerated.  The key sentence in the Guardian report – at least for me – is this one:

It is routine practice to burn waste documents on military bases in Afghanistan, and police chief Bekzad said the copies of the Qur’an were discarded together with many other papers.

“Routine” – along with its parents “process” and “procedure” – are, of course, the causes of the vast majority of human errors.

Only personal professionalism, wisdom and a sense of responsibility can ever fully keep such errors to a minimum.

And whilst our current reliance on processes and procedures removes most of our opportunities to practise the latter virtues, things like book burnings on Afghan military bases will continue to happen.

For although the reality was that it took Afghan workers – who presumably understood the meaning of the content which was being burnt – to realise the gross and clearly unintentional mistake that was being committed, by inference it was hardly the first time that books themselves had been destroyed in such operations.

Otherwise the error would have been detected way before it took local people to react.  That is to say, not the error of burning a particular book but the error of burning any book.

You don’t need to understand the language of the Qur’an to know some of the rank and disagreeable history behind the burning of books.

But if ignoring that history is what you aim to do, you surely need to believe more in the ideology of processes and procedures than in knowing the difference between right and wrong.

May 192011

Yup.  That’s how I feel today.  I’m scratching my head and wondering exactly what the real aim of the Tory side of the Coalition is.

And I am fiercely dragged back to the time of Iraq when we didn’t know if it was WMDs, oil, democracy or Bush’s presidency which truly was at stake in that terrible lead-up to outright conflict.  So what are they looking to detonate here then?  Woodlands?  The NHS?  The Labour Party itself?

Or is it more a very British way of doing stuff?

Slowly I am beginning to wonder if the latter isn’t the case.  As politicking begins to enter a mire of managed soundbites on the one hand and legal recriminations on the other, it doesn’t half seem as if we’re importing lock, stock and barrel the impasse of anti-consensual politics which – at least from the outside looking in – is what American democracy appears to exemplify.

What if it wasn’t really any of these things I mention which the Tory side of the Coalition government (that is to say, David Cameron and his closest cronies themselves) were interested in pulling apart?  What if, instead, it was process they were actually looking to destroy?

Oh, the irony of it all!  To employ the figure of coalition government – about as anti-Thatcherite in its assumption of the importance of fudge as you could possibly get – in order that the British way of getting things done (often, the essence of fudge) could be dismantled in a period of five short years.

Yes.  Irony is the word.  Whilst the radicals, in the figure of the Tory side of the Coalition, dominate the stage once more in their violent desire to uproot all those cosy ways of solving problems we have been so eccentrically familiar with, we find our only alternative to sitting back and waiting for the many axes to awfully fall is to make use of the headlining tactics of our lawyerly friends so beloved of our American cousins.  We ourselves are participating in the process of turning our constituency-connected MPs into little more than empty mouthpieces, fearful of putting their feet in their mouths.  As Chris points out:

But this is not the debate we’re having. Instead, we’re seeing three ugly aspects of our political culture.
One is a tendency to view all political utterances through the prism of whether or not they are “gaffes” – the effect of which will be to discourage plain speaking, or indeed speaking at all.
A second is an atavistic tribalism, which leads both Ed Miliband and The Sun to demand Clarke’s resignation, both on the grounds that he is not “one of us.”
And this leads to a third aspect – the tendency for politics to be reported in terms of who’s up/down/in/out – terms which are to a large extent uninteresting tittle-tattle.
Meanwhile, the real substance of proper politics is forgotten.

This, then, is the wholesale importation of a political culture which has turned into entertainment the otherwise serious business of improving the lot of men and women.  David Cameron’s goal wasn’t the woodlands – because he seemed to give in quite amicably when he saw the opposition was there.  It’s not even the NHS – except inasmuch as the NHS represents quite symbolically all that good socialism is capable of achieving.  (And in Cameron’s world, remnants of this ilk are hardly the most convenient things to have hanging around –  reminders as they are of the truly possible alternatives to the Darwinism of the extreme right.)

No.  Just as Bush used Iraq to keep his constituencies well onside, and WMDs, oil, democracy and most of the rest of the mix were simply things to keep us distracted in the meantime, so Cameron is using the tangibles which raise our progressive hackles (disability benefit, the NHS, the police, the education service, the woodlands, the Murdochs, playground fees and so on) in order to distract us from the far more pernicious objective that underlies what’s really going on: that is to say, the broader aim of destroying forever the bonds and mediums of exchange which have served to tie together even the most contrary of opposition representatives.

It is the virulent atavism, to use Chris’s phrase, which terrifies me most in all of this.  Cameron and his closest cronies are looking to foment a kind of civil war – just as Bush and his closest cronies looked to do so in post-“shock and awe” Iraq.  They are looking to generate that dynamic which says: you are either with us or against us, but never will you be able to choose to station yourself in the middle.  Most Labourites, if asked, would express pure hatred for everything the Lib Dems represented prior to the forming of the Coalition government in May 2010.  (It is not uncommon to hear them described in Labour circles as Fib Dems.)  And yet, in the light of what has happened since, it seems to me that if Cameron is to the Coalition what Bush was to Iraq, then the Lib Dems are to Cameron what Blair was to Bush.

Bush used Blair.  Whilst Blair believed in right and wrong, Bush believed in saving his own skin.  From the perspective of most involved, at least at grassroots level, the same could be said to be true of Cameron and the Lib Dems.

And as Iraq served to enrich the ruthless amongst us, so Cameron’s Britain will eventually destroy all those beautiful British processes which historically allowed the humble to surface, communicate and survive.