Saturday, May 09, 2009

Why Gordon Brown deserves everything he gets this week

Given my habit of saying what I think rather too quickly (do most bloggers have an abnormally short cable linking their Id to their typing fingers or their gobs?) I'd probably not make a great adviser to the Prime Minister.

But I know one thing for certain this week: That I'd be a couple of dozen times better than the shower of useless stupid incompetents that surround Gordon Brown at the moment.

No-one (probably including the PM, who is the root of the problem here) should survive this week's carnage. The handling of the 'expenses' issue has been appalling. These 'revelations' have been in the post for months.

Every minister that has had their motives questioned has had ages to prepare the ground - to get their side of the story introduced to the public on their own terms, and to limit the damage that this is doing. And the damage isn't just happening to Labour either: It's happening to the very concept of politics as we understand it.

Instead, what did they do? They've waited for the The Daily Telegraph to do it for them. The defence that the Torygraph jumped the gun with a leak is no excuse - rumours of receipt-packed DVDs have been doing the rounds for ages.

Even the most loyal Labour supporter can think of a dozen reasons to have a go at the government - every government has some ropey politics, makes mistakes, bad decisions, presents things poorly, loses fights, and so on. But to be completely bumfucked on the grounds of a corrupt political culture in a place and point-of-history at which we have almost the least corrupt political culture that the world has ever seen - really takes some doing.

Labour could - and given its origins, should - always have been seeking a dialogue with the public about what kind of representatives it wants from the start. It's not a subject that falls into the category of 'terribly-important-but-impossible-to-address-in-a-political-hothouse' and anyone with an understanding of the way that issues are scrutinised and re-modelled in the information age has known that it's an unavoidable issue these days.

Modesty forbids me for pointing to a place where it's been a near-obsession for years.

The reason that Party and the government are getting reamed so comprehensively is because we do not have, at our heart, a commitment to representative democracy. The most important element in a democracy is that we get the relationship between the voters and the electors right.

Labour has ignored this issue throughout it's time in office. A Labour government - a Labour government - has sanctioned e-Petitions, elected mayors, referendums, elected officials, the sidestepping of Parliament to talk to directly to the media. There has been a systematic surrender to pressure groups and managerial Tsars, an abject retreat in the face of demands from the permanent civil service and their modern day replacement, the Consultariat.

MPs have never appeared so irrelevant and worthless as they do today. I'm obsessed with the concept of parliamentary democracy, but even I think that MPs aren't worth much more than a clagg-nut sweeper's wages at the moment, given the fact that they've been prepared to sanction their own impotence over the past decade.

Many of it's approaches to government have - as Tony McWalter pointed out masterfully a few years ago - pulled us in the opposite direction to the one we should have been taken.

Labour has not asked the public what kind of representatives it wants. Had we done so, I'm confident that the public would have generally pointed to the type of people that dominate Parliament today rather than the ones who will almost certainly dominate it in fourteen months time.

For a brief moment, I contemplated the notion that David Cameron would at least be capable of defending democratic politics if he wanted to. Perhaps a politically competent Tory government wouldn't be as hopeless as the current inept shower.

However, on reflection, nothing I've seen from the modern Conservative Party has shown me that they have any of the traditional Conservative's laudable adherence to representative government that was still evident even as recently as when Kenneth Clarke was in the ascendancy.

It's been a bad week for everyone, apart from populists.

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