Citizens must choose the leaders We need, not the ones They want
Much of what follows is applied to a UK context. But it would apply equally to the US, the EU’s main leaders, and any other country with real global influence in one form or another.
Unless my logic and instincts are way, way off here, the growing unpopularity of the UK Coalition will accelerate during 2012-13 alongside the meltdown of the eurozone, and inevitably rising inflation. The exponentially increasing rate of those changes could cause mayhem beyond any of our imaginings. If you doubt this, just look at the effect upon voting intentions in the light of media-hysteria about The Granny Tax.
An ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph shows Labour gaining two points, and the Tories losing two…as did the Libdems. So: Coalition -4, Opposition 2. 63% opposed the abolition of the age-related tax allowance in Osborne’s Budget.
YouGov for the Sunday Times has Labour seven points ahead of Camerlot at 42% – further evidence that the budget has produced a shift towards Labour.
And last but not least, a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday has Labour eight points clear on 39%. (This study also had UKIP on 8%).
Arguably, such feelings are transient and temporary. But either way, a fairly constant feature of the UK political landscape since the Coalition’s honeymoon has been the growing sense of either apathy or resentment towards it. And what most polls won’t tell you (but focus groups properly run sometimes can) are the precise reasons for that.
I think a huge part of the Coalition’s problem is that, after much New Dawn spin-bollocks at the start, it has reverted fairly quickly to type: unpleasant Minister caught lying to police about speeding offence, yet another PM apparently in Murdoch’s pocket, Party Treasury in cash-for-access scandal…..and so forth. (Exactly the same observation can be applied to the Obama White House and the Sarkozy Elysee).
And yet at the same time, the UK electorate shows no signs of flocking to Labour: because, I mean, er…weren’t they the clowns that helped get us into this mess? Depending upon the vagaries of the constituency model of electing MPs, one could project any of those polls and show Labour as the largest Party – but still short of an overall majority. (In the US today, Obama’s election spokesman referred to the GOP primaries as ‘a clown show’. Obvious political bias, but also horribly believable).
Not too deep down among the West’s voting publics, there remains an appetite for real change. Oddly enough, the brief sky-rocket formerly known as Nick Clegg has convinced still more people that a much more radical shake-up of the political set is required. The main feedback I get from The Slog, and during conversations with people around the country, is that lack of trust in politicians remains at an all-time low: but further, that while the established Parties might claim to have “taken that on board”, in reality they either don’t get it….or even worse, they do – but they don’t care.
Unless some serious and genuine element of trust is injected into mainstream politics (and soon) then the Antipolitics movement we see taking shape in Greece, Italy and Frankfurt stands every chance of taking over the levers of power in the UK, the US, and France.
Time, perhaps, for a debate about what the democratically elected politician can still add.
There are thick people and clever people. Thick people either don’t read anything about the important issues, or read Page One, reach a conclusion on that basis, and then yell a lot. Clever people skip Page One, bring in a dozen consultants, reach a conclusion, and then sell a lot.
The first I would archetypally place as Nazis. The second, as New Labour – or the current Coalition, or the Obama administration, or PASOK in Greece, or Sarkozy’s UMP in France.
They may both be wrong for different reasons, but they’ll still, almost always, be wrong. The reason is that they can actually both be lumped into one group, called stupid.
Stupid is no respecter of IQ. As the old saying goes, stupid is as stupid does.
When the stupids leave office after a few years – in high dudgeon, in extremis, in low public esteem, and often in disgrace – under our existing system, more people of the same hue come along. They realise a mistake has been made, but they refuse to accept this. So they cover up all the evidence showing that it’s all been a terrible mistake. They always think the cover-up will hold, because they’re stupid. It never does.
A second group of people – entirely separate from the stupid folks – are smart. They may be intellectually bright, but very often (like Alan Sugar, Francis Bacon or Winston Churchill) they’ve been anything from a misfit to a failure in school. This is because they don’t conform to ‘normal’ ways of thinking. They spend much of their lives being thought of by the Chattering Classes as dangerous, drunk, dorks, and degenerates, but usually they turn out to be right……and eventually become National Treasures.
Whereas the stupid people think they have all the answers, the smart people ask lots of questions. The stupids transmit loudly, the smarts listen quietly. For this reason above any other, they either don’t go into politics, or get sidelined if they do.
Among the smart people in the current House of Commons, I would cite Kate Hoey, Frank Field, David Davis, Iian Duncan-Smith and Graham Brady.
These folks have three things in common: they talk sense, they are straight, and all of them would resign on a matter of principle. (I have no doubt that American Sloggers would say the same of Ron Paul).
The other thing they share is having ideas and policies which (along with their open personalities) would be found attractive by a large proportion of the population.
All of them (with the exception of Kate) have seen their influence increase over the years. But none of them (with the exception of Iain) are in government. This tells you what’s wrong with our political process: it chooses the clone in preference to the creative. Cunning spin doctors, idle hacks, media moguls, controlling Parties and spineless local Party organisations have produced this endless production line of untalented X-Factor pap.
In short, what we have in the West is two uneasily shifting tectonic plates: Establishments dedicated to little more than obfuscation and survival; and electorates which, dissatisfied with their lot, are growing increasingly suspicious of Establishment motives.
But beneath those plates is a bubbling volcano called Events. At some point in the next five years, somebody smart and trustworthy must emerge. And that person has to emerge in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and China at one and the same time.
If they don’t, a dark future awaits us. That future would be one in which technocratic efficiency and media spin predominated; in which opportunistic fascists of every political colour might seize the day; in which excuses were tailor-made to become reasons to deny freedom of speech and action; and in which ISPs combined with sovereign security agencies to produce something beyond even the imaginings of George Orwell.
The internet ought to play a positively decisive role in stopping that dark future before it starts. But only an organised solidarity of individualism online stands any chance of beating the Big Battalions. Some would call ‘an organised solidarity of individualism’ an oxymoron. I would prefer to call it a Big Ask. But then, every human leap forwards has required exactly that size of ask.