Saturday, November 22, 2008

Harriet's question (and the 'where do we put the silver spoons?' answer).

Purvis, Cameron or Windsor? Who would you want in your corner?

Apparently, people get the option of changing their name when they become King. I liked Sandi Tosvig's take on it (on the wireless, earlier today): Ethelred the I've-been-ready-for-bloody-ages.

In the meantime, on the question of Prince Charles' fitness to be taken seriously on matters of public policy, here's Anthony with another very good post:

"Yes, who needs politicians with their silly “democratic mandates” and their facile “years of experience hearing and channelling the views of voters”? If you really want to know how things are, you need to ask a man who was brought up surrounded by servants in a world of nearly unimaginable luxury.

It’s a strange fallacy, the idea that a hereditary monarch is going to be better at understanding the people than their elected politicians."
Most of the best stuff that I read these days is a restatement of the bleedin' obvious. However, it does raise another element of my recurring 'what sort of people do we want to represent us?' question. Harriet Harman's question about the complexion of Parliament should result in some interesting answers. Like all of the best questions, it's one that I think that few of us have a settled view upon.

As far as I can see, asking this question is one of the highest callings of any socialist government, and I'm surprised that my colleagues on the left haven't been holding bring-and-buys in order to raise money for Ms Harman's Xmas box in response to this move. Next time I see her, I'll be buying the first couple of pints.

In answer to the question, we all know people who are well-regarded by their peers. People who are widely trusted, competent, considerate, perceptive, dutiful, attentive, clever-enough, determined, reasonably incorruptible ..... go on - tell me if I've missed any virtues.

And as long as I had proof that their views on most policy issues were fairly lightly held, I think I'd be more prepared to vote for such a person than I would be to vote for someone who agreed with me on most things. Were this approach deployed more widely, I wonder if it could solve the BNP problem? And this in turn raises an important question: Are there social classes that would be disadvantaged by an electoral system that was able to select people such as this? Could a posh person qualify?

Reading this old post at S&M - and the comments underneath - we can find some of the answer. And while it's always satisfying to find arguments that show the unfitness of the current Tory leadership for power, I'm less certain that the notion of a non-social class-based 'political caste' is always a bad thing. Governance, surely, like other trades, can be imbibed over a long period and we don't have a problem with the fact that a lot of teachers' children go on to teach themselves, do we?

One of my favourite politicians at the moment is Belfast's Dawn Purvis MLA - a working class woman who really stands out above the noise and has taken a strong intelligent independent line on a number of things - not least the recent policing crisis. Here's a sample:
"Ms Purvis said, with irony, that the DUP and Sinn Fein had worked really hard - "hard to make unionist and republican dissidents relevant"; playing into the hands of the Real IRA on one side, and the Traditional Unionist Voice, on the other."
But imagine we were do draw a graph that showed the spread of social classes either by income or some other indicator: Would we want Parliament's profile to be similar?


Johnny Guitar said...

I’m a bit of Dawn fan myself, Paulie. She’s a good hard working grassroots type of politician, which is unusual for unionists given that their representatives have normally been drawn from the 'respectable classes'. Purvis was also one of the only MLAs to have the guts to support the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland (the revolutionary leftists of Sinn Fein sent off a joint letter with the Free Presbyterian DUP fundamentalists protesting against any such plans). Tis truly bizarre that a member of a party aligned with the UVF is probably the most left wing figure up at Stormont. Sadly the Progressive Unionist Party is finished as a viable political project. I wonder would their members be interested in winding the party up and joining Labour - that is if Labour ever get their finger out and treat us workers over here seriously!

Paulie said...

I'm hoping you subscribed to receive comments Johnny because your question here has woken up today.