17 November 2006

Matthew Taylor

Tony Blair's outgoing policy chief has said he fears the internet could be fuelling a "crisis" in the relationship between politicians and voters.
What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for "people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face".

In one sense, he's right: the big problems in politics are not about politicians, they are about competing and incompatible demands.

What prevents these difficult problems being even seriously addressed, however, is the venality, stupidity and mendaciousness of politicians.

It's not the public who are ignoring the real issues, it is the politicians.

If we were to get politicians who were not venal, stupid and mendacious, the real difficult problems would not go away, but at least they could be faced.


The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

"If we were to get politicians who were not venal, stupid and mendacious, the real difficult problems would not go away, but at least they could be faced. "

I disagree. I'm not sure that it is really possible to get politicians who are not forced to be venal, stupid and/or mendacious in the current media climate and with the current appalling lack of critical awareness in the electorate at large.

Short of "electing a new people", one answer is simply to cut back the amount of stuff that politicians try to do. Reduce their scope to meddle.

Then it doesn't really matter how mendacious or venal or stupid they are...

smartart said...


Watching the managerial shambles of party politics leaves me to conclude that much is wrong with government as an institution, that never comes under scrutiny; perhaps because turkeys – unjustly accused of avoiding the Christmas vote – actually lack relevant knowledge of what Christmas comprises.
I would dearly like to see a breakdown of parliamentarians by previous employment. I am aware that lawyers seem to be well represented in the higher echelons of Parliament (learned but not wise) and have a feeling teachers loom large also, but what of philosophers, psychologists – even satirists and advertisers – who often demonstrate a knowledge of the human condition, and awareness of reality, undreamed of by regular politicians?
In the hundred-odd years since Freud, psychology has made great progress in understanding how the human race (we are just one race) functions; both inside each head and between individual minds and greater groups; also “the group dynamic” of leaders and followers. But whilst therapies of various denomination are well established and, indeed, effective for individuals, couples, families and even businesses, intra- and inter- government relations continue to be dysfunctional to the point of waste, war and woe.
Most of us are dysfunctional to a degree (the psychopath manager is apparently well represented in business; spouse-beating continues) and as drive and dysfunction often go hand in hand, we might reasonably expect a fairly potty Parliament – and I venture to suggest this is, daily, manifest. Further, our political machinery applauds and promotes the driven, the single minded – the obsessive, and from this rarefied group, inexorably, we get our leaders. By extension, while the current situation prevails, this country (and I suspect a number of others) is always at risk of being mismanaged – at home and on the world stage – by an incompetent group, led by a very flawed individual with all manner of weird stuff going on in their head, some benign; some aggravating; some dangerous.
While the mass of punters is drinking cheap booze, eating cheap food, taking cheap holidays, watching “cheap” entertainment, gambling on credit (expense deferred)
heavily in debt, with the next “batch” being cynically “educated” to battery-hen status, we will bumble along “nicely”.
But there is no resilience in ignorance. When the “good times” tumble, whatever the cause, a lot of unhappy people with limited self-resource, unable to face hardship; governed by the-same-only-more-so, must surely descend into chaos.
Today a majority of British citizens hold a negative view of our leader. I believe many of them would recognise, above, a reasoned description of his route to power and be appalled. (By some miracle they might even react before it is too late!) But my words have no chance in the whirling playground of politics and media where one kid who doesn’t care to join the game gets swept aside, unheard in the de-rigueur melee.
We have mapped the cosmos and the human genome but still have no idea “where we are.” Oh well – stick that on my grave-stone.