We didn’t want to get to where we are today
If I had to sum up the existing governmental class of the United Kingdom, I’d say that they were incompetently mendacious sociopathic bullies. Not all of them of course, but the great majority.
That’s a terribly damning conclusion to reach, but one I find hard to avoid. By Governmental class, by the way, I mean legislators (MPs/Peers) and senior Whitehall/Local government civil servants. Taking the four word summary above, I would cite rail privatisation and Connecting for Health as classic signs of incompetence, Blair’s conduct before the Iraq War as mendacious, the continuing cash-for-questions, expenses and pensions embezzlement as obvious symptoms of sociopathy, and bullying….well, we could be here all night: the Whips’ blackmailing system, the treatment of the BBC, Bercow’s performances as Speaker, Alistair Campbell’s treatment of senior constitutional figures, sytemic child abuse and so on ad nauseam. This is not, let’s face it, a conclusion lacking in empirical support.
Most people who come to this site know all this, but have little real idea what to do. Some of them have a very clear idea of what they’d like to do, but that isn’t going to happen – and wouldn’t be healthy in most cases if it did. The vast majority of our older generation despair – and with good reason: it used to be possible to declare that politics is rotten but the civil service will always stand firm. In France that is probably still true a lot of the time, but in Britain it hasn’t been true since the 1970s. Both the ‘government’ and ‘politics’ of our Septic Isle are corrupt to a degree quite unimaginable only thirty years ago.
The delineation I make nowadays is to say that there is the Governing class (which is useless) but there ought to be the acceptance of good governance as a principle – whereby the hopelessly impractical and/or outdated politics of bigotry and ideology are ignored in favour of a sensible plan with a sound objective. By ‘sensible’ I mean ‘palpably achievable’, and by ‘sound’ I mean ‘designed with the widest possible common good in mind’. Now it goes without saying that the tramline thinkers will jump all over that and say “we have to have politics to decide between alternative ideas of the common good”.
Core Guardian-reading trolls tend to lead with “And I suppose you want to be the one who decides what the common good should be?” but that’s merely the bourgeois Trot’s way of suggesting that everyone unwilling to vote Left is a Nazi. My answer for over three years now has been, “Look, I’m a citizen of a liberal democracy. I’ve lived under other systems and trust me, the best way to get some kind of Benthamite ‘happiness’ across the board is to have an educated, aware and informed electorate making the governing class accountable”. As an approach, it is riddled with inconsistencies and flaws, but until Homo sapiens can evolve positively (which I gravely doubt) then dictatorship and oligarchy will always end in tears.
Unaccountable psychos manipulating dozy citizens
However, there are two problems with most Western democracies today. First, the governing class isn’t remotely accountable; and second, the electorate is variously uneducated, pissed, distracted and uninterested. We could argue for England about which is the chicken and which the egg in that equation, but I no longer see the debate as particularly relevant. The reality is that it is what prevails…..and it is a situation which – in the current econo-fiscal global context – could very quickly and easily enable the establishment of a dictatorship. It wouldn’t be called that of course, but it would in effect represent the suspension of liberties and abandonment of democracy. Once the liberties had been suspended, we’d have a job on our hands getting them back.
We saw this illustrated classically in Greece earlier this week, when a State broadcaster was turned off overnight by special decree and without consulting Parliament. It represented an easy target to appease those who represent amoral global lending, and so it was rushed through – signed off by the President. The President of Greece can only sign such decrees when there is clear evidence of war, anarchy, anti-State takeover or other such emergency. I don’t regard the Troika getting its knickers in a twist an emergency – it’s an almost daily occurence.
But it happened. The West European MSM almost completely ignored the story, and it only popped up on UK Twitter as D. Hannan from 3B saying gosh, wouldn’t it be fun to do that with the BBC. Mr Hannan is a British MEP – a legislator. The turn-off was eventually circumvemted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which is not a governmental body. Interesting and significant, that: the pols look the other way, the People of Europe are apathetic, but the EBU gives ERT’s fired employees the means to restore their service. Its a lesson well worth learning.
The classic Western democracy is now corrupt at both political and government levels. In the US, lobbyists are allowed to bankroll Congressmen to a quite extraordinary degree. Both there and in the UK, a two-Party oligarchy works for two masters: commerce, and power at any price. The citizens’ needs are only considered following extra-legislature outbursts of rage, and the mentality remains one that has existed half a century at least – that we work for them, not the other way round.
In Britain particularly, we have a media-material obsessed electorate so shallow that, based on one televised election debate in 2010, it voted Nick Clegg the most popular politician in a survey the following day. Almost half the electorate either can’t be bothered to vote, or long ago gave up on the idea that to do so might make a difference. Over the last two years, the electorate has turned to UKip in large numbers – a Party led by an oaf and putting forward wishlist policies, but a Party nevertheless that is very ‘Right Wing’ to use the antediluvian terminology of politics. At the last General Election, we can say with near statistical certainty that 7% of those voting between 5pm and 7pm were affected in some way by alcohol or drugs. That is more than enough to swing an election result one way or the other.
French voters last week gave Marine Le Pen’s Nationalist Party an 18% level of firm voting intentions. In eighteen months, President Hollande has gone from being the elected hero to an embarassing national joke. In Italy, the electorate came very close to sweeping Beppo Grillo into power – and then deserted his largely unformed Party within weeks. In Greece, almost 1 in 5 voters claimed earlier this week that they’d vote for Golden Dawn at the next Election - a Party peopled by thugs, that openly apes the 1930s Nazis in Germany in its policies and behaviour.
While all these results largely reflect a Brussels-am-Berlin living in cloud-cuckoo-land for fascists, they also display (to my mind anyway) electorates that are variously fickle, easily conned, woefully uninformed about both national and European affairs – and often all of those things. The media know this, and work to exploit it: the overwhelming majority of European media are still in the hands of rich egomaniacs to whom (in several cases) the Governments are beholden. This is how we got Berlusconi, and how we may yet suffer the attentions of Borisconi.
So to summarise thus far, we have politicians working for global banking and business, governmental élites which might best be described as amateur gluttons, electorates often incapable of telling sh*t from putty, and an oligarchic media set keen to ensure that ‘their’ men win. “What we need’s a revolution!” say the Young Lions. I am myself become revolutionary in my thought over the last year or more, but I eschew violence and the coup d’état for a number of reasons: violence breeds violence, authoritarian government retaliates, they have surveillance technology now to make most forms of revolt almost impossible, and such things never solve the problem. Wherever it’s happened – France, Russia (twice), Germany, Spain, and China – within a decade at most (1) liberties are reduced and (2) the new boss class looks remarkable similar to the old one.
Without doubt we need drastic, revolutionary change to the constitutional set-up of the US, UK and EU – and we need it to be fast and effective if real chaos is to be avoided. But it needs to be done in a manner that reflects a great deal of thought having been given to why it’s needed, what the objectives are, and how it can be done without making the mistakes of history.
The ‘why’ I think I’ve covered: none of the three States in the last paragraph are either accountable to, or working for, the citizen. That’s why they’re always behind the music on the issues that matter: they live on red carpets, and they don’t listen. As they aren’t going to abolish themselves, they need some gentle encouragement from others.
What would be point of doing this?
In the past, the objective – often hidden at first but soon obvious – is the replacement of one regime or ideology with another one. The fundamental basis of what I’m suggesting is to take a route that would be unique in history as I understand it: not to have any political or ideological objective at all.
I’m talking about a citizens’ revolt which would hardly use the existing political structure at all, because its aim would be permanent cultural change in the running of a society: away from tiny privileged minorities, and towards skilled governance designed to benefit the highest proportion of good citizens. It would be a society based on the ‘Radical Realism’ of which I’ve written many times before: practical, reliant on foresight, prepared to be both tough and creative, and free from corruption by any minority interest group.
It would be more than revolutionary systemic change: it would be a revolution in leadership attitudes, and above all a diametric change in the pychographic personality types that government would attract.
How could it be done?
I think there would be various stages and levels to the approach I’m putting forward, but underlying all of them are the twin principles of indirect action and the dilution of central power.
At the most basic level, the ‘revolution’ would take place in three broad stages: first, starving the Beast; and once that’s been achieved, removing all considerations of money, donation and lobbying from the political process; and finally, depoliticising certain policy areas…to be ringfenced away from State hubris and commercial gain by mutualisation.
While I would stress very firmly that the goal here is not to give governance to the technocrats, but I do accept that this would be an ever-present danger. And further, there is every chance that the Fat Controllers will see all this coming, and try at every turn to derail the process. I’m sure that, with luck and good judgement, unpleasantness and ropes being thrown over lampposts could be avoided, there are going to be staging points on this journey where those revolutionising our culture mustn’t blink.
Starving the Beast is less complicated – and far quicker to work as a pressure point – than most people accept. That’s because they haven’t studied the limited ways in which it’s been tried to date – every last one of which was successful.
Success depends on two things: mobilising citizens effectively by persuading them it will work; and studying how the current system ‘feeds’. It works like this: political Parties use a business model based on private and pressure group donation. Most of it comes from socio-economic institutions ranging from trade unions via media content/advertising quid pro quos through to corporate donors. Pressing for laws to stop it at this stage is pointless, because the legal power lies with the governing class. The requirement here is to cut off the supply of economic power, and make it impossible for Parties and Governments to remain solvent. This can be done in two ways: boycotts of corporate donors, and tax strikes. The second one, of course, is illegal.
Most corporate donors are publicly quoted, and almost all of them have shareholders. Over half are over-dependent on two to three brands and sectors for their income. Most of these in turn are heavily leveraged in borrowing terms, and extremely sensitive to any person or group sabotaging their ability to sell. The route for the citizen is to no longer buy the brands of political donors, or companies that lobby extensively and aggressively. They will change their donation policies very quickly in the light of such action.
Institutions supporting the Left represent a different and more intractable problem. This is one exceptional case where a programme to encourage the withholding of subscriptions would be important – ie, a quasi-political persuasion campaign would be necessary. But on most dimensions, the Labour Party of late has an appalling track-record of being on the citizen’s side: I suspect many members out there would see the light on this issue before too long if they were convinced that the ‘movement’ behind it was not anti-working man.
There is, nevertheless, another route into Beast starvation whatever the colour of the Party. We all use banks and they would all go bust (especially now) very quickly if focused cash and deposit withdrawals got off the ground. Banks desperately need taxpayers’ money. I think the right one could be persuaded very quickly to pull the plug on loans held from political Parties.
Refusal to pay tax is an area I can’t touch as a writer in a public medium, because the encouragement of it is against the Law. I can only observe that when it comes to taxation, there are 55 million of us, and about 3,500 of them. I can discuss the issue freely in email, but not on a public blogsite.
These moves, if organised with fervour and vigour, would obviously engender an almost immediate political crisis; to be more precise, they would produce a UK Sovereign crisis within at the most weeks, because Britain’s lenders would become nervous about the possibility of default – especially given the as yet unproven ability of the Coalition to cut debt and increase GDP. This is blindingly obviously where it would get sticky: anyone involved in the Beast-starvation strategy would be a target from at best media smears and – at worst – attempts to pass draconian laws against them.
Victory in that situation would, however, lead very quickly to all the major Parties losing control of their MPs, and the rapid formation of alternative groupings once the inevitable decision to hold an election had been taken. This is the other point at which a political move would be crucial to the revolution’s success: the heavy canvassing of those electors who rarely if ever vote, on the grounds that the activists have already demonstrated that the Beast can be killed by concerted extinguishing of its breath.
The aim at this point would be to have newly-elected MPs pass laws immediately to render all commercial, money based lobbying and Party donations illegal….replacing that funding model with one based on State funding via taxpayer contribution. Three points here: (1) everyone objects to this idea, but if you’re killing a Beast, big guns are expensive – and the only thing that works; (2) the right system would give the electors real powers of choice about who got the money….and increase the power of the citizen still more; and (3) as the result of these events would be a different type of legislator being attracted and elected, then for the citizen it would again represent an investment in more power and a fairer culture.
Anyway, as we shall see, this stage would be nothing more than an interregnum.
Ringfencing key ‘social weal’ policies should not be seen as a return to slightly rebranded State ownership of utilities. On the contrary, my idea would produce nothing less than the complete removal of vital functions and administration from both the State and politicians. The institutional form would be the Mutual Society – immune from takeover in perpetuity but disallowed from making a loss. The existing Civil Service would be entirely abolished, and a large percentage of pensions reduced to the level of those emoluments that had been properly and legally approved by Parliament.
At this stage, I’d envisage two Mutuals – one a Civil Service replacement advising on and executing political policy, but completely independent of politics – and the other a small holding mutual for properly functioning societies conducting vital provision and strategy. These would be the subject of hot debate, but the important ones for me would be energy supply, public health, farming & fishing, legal practice, and Treasury. Needless to say, these creations would not be people by civil servants, but by those attracted to the idea of working in the commercially mutual sector – the fastest growing sector globally at the moment, by the way.
Is this just pie in the sky?
I’m partly addressing what I know will be the vast majority reaction to this essay: “it won’t work, you’re a naif, it’s impractical, they’d never give up their power” and all the other grumbles of the armchair moaning-Minnie brigade who are happy to rant about what’s wrong, but far more likely to go to the garden shed or the pub when something actually needs to be organised and tried.
I have written this before, but it bears repeating: cynicism is today’s naivety – because it plays into the hands of the troughers busy running the economic, conservationist and socio-fiscal world into the ground in the pursuit of the only things they care about: power and money. I will go further than usual today, however: apathy is no longer an option. Apathy from here onwards is the 100% cast-iron guarantee that we will all be Prisoners of the Mad within at most ten years.
There are going to be the following problems with what I’m putting forward today: unconsidered factors, underestimated violence, overestimated citizen resolve, practical finance channels, EU ties, security services sabotage and so forth – frankly, a whole host of things. But despite all the problems, dangers and revolutionary risks involved in it, the place I’m suggesting we should aim for is not a Utopia, but rather, as Charles Darnley might have said, “a far, far better place than we have ever been before”.
Related: The body-politic snatchers are already among us