Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Rise of The Cynical Party

Hazel Blears, in a lecture to the Hansard Society last November, blamed political bloggers for fuelling a culture of cynicism and disengagement from politics. She claimed that such blogs should 'add value' to the political culture and not be nihilistic as she accused the likes of Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale to be.

It's a very interesting statement but I think Ms. Blears misses the point. Guido Fawkes is a blogger described as right-wing who is pretty cynical about the political system, that much is true. However, I think that bloggers, myself included, blog about politics out of frustration more than anything. I would suggest that one of the main forces behind my comments is that I do not believe that politicians are 'adding value' to our system. More to the point, I think many of us believe there has been a gradual decrease in moral standards and ability in politics generally while conversely there has been a dramatic growth in the machine of politics.

At the heart of all this has been the culture of 'spin' that has arisen and the ability to lock out the public from decision making, as if our views are not worthy in the form of the debate. Too often, when very important issues are at stake, MPs try to disengage us from the facts and 'draw lines' under the affairs so that they can move to the next subject of interest. It is as if they decide we know enough, or we are prying too much, or indeed we all sniff a lie that they do not want to be known. It is this sort of thing that I personally get angry about as it is my country as well as theirs and I have a right to know certain things. I would like to see far more transparency in the world of Government and politics, because many of us get the whiff of a lack of standards and agendas.

The Rise of Spin

I cannot think of anyone more sinister than Alistair Campbell. At the height of the Labour machine, as we went to war with another sovereign state, it was as if he was running the country. No other person has the right, whether accused or not, to march into a prime time TV news program and demand to be put on air in order to drum his views down the nation's throat. But in the midst of the Andrew Gilligan 'Sexed Up' document affair, Campbell did just that. In the real world, not even the Prime Minister could do such a thing without prior warning and protocol. As a direct consequence of this, Gilligan was castigated from his journalistic world and now survives as a minor hack within the BBC, the Director General of the BBC was replaced and the BBC was booted severely for falling out of line. Meanwhile, Campbell enjoys a life of still advising, selling books and after dinner speaking as some kind of celebrity 'spinner'.

At the centre of that whole affair was the nation's demand to know why we were going to fight Iraq. We already knew Saddam Hussein was a nasty man but the World had its chance in the first Gulf War to rid us of him. He was a spent force and all he could do was terrorise his own people which he did with considerable skill and malice. But the UN and international law forbids interfering with a sovereign state that poses no outside threat. Somewhere in his brain, George Bush, had hatched a plan to conquer Iraq and the smokescreen of 9/11, revenge, the 'Axis of Evil' and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was used as the key to the argument. While Hans Blix, the weapons searcher from the UN pleaded with us all for more time as he could not find a thing, Bush gave Iraq an ultimatum despite their denials. How could you show what you haven't got, was their plea, while Bush used the middle age witchcraft logic that if you can't show it you must be lying.

Meanwhile, in order to justify to the nation of imbeciles, Campbell and his machine had conjured up a document which clearly stated that Iraq had the capability to deploy WMD in 45 minutes. This had an implication that British sovereign territory could be attacked in the form of Cyprus. Subsequently, it was found that much of the information in the document was plagiarised from a student's thesis and was quite old while some of the comments from intelligence officers and advisers like David Kelly were, at best, out of context and, at worst, misquoted. Rumours that Campbell chaired Joint security staff meetings circulated and despite the document being proved to be rubbish, the Joint Chiefs' Chief, John Scarlett, got promoted instead of sacked for incompetence.

Commenting on this is not cynical - it is demanding 'why'?

Falling Standards

They are all at it. The whole expenses row has only centred on a small group of MPs so far who cannot seem to get their heads around that fact that we are not outraged about claiming for porn films or that the expense rules are dubious. What we are appalled about is that a serving minister has the moral values to believe that while they use a bedroom in their family member's house they can furnish their own home completely down to sink plugs and DVDs on the back of the taxpayer. That groups of MPs who live less than 14 miles from Westminster can have any moral values left if they cannot commute to their work like the rest of us and sample the rubbish transport system we have at first hand. Instead they believe they should have a second home. Further, serving ministers can have the lack of conscience to continue to run two homes at taxpayers' expense while they are given a grace and favour property. MPs regularly employ family members and think we are stupid enough that only one of them is abusing the privilege.

It is this kind of lack of moral fibre that floats right to the very top in politics that makes us cynical of them all. The stupidity of the PM is to then suggest second home allowances should be abolished because that is a good 'spin' comment links the two issues together. That's dumb because the allowance is there for those MPs who actually live too far to commute can do their jobs.

Then we have serving ministers who have dubious ethics and values. I'm not just talking of loans for peerages by pious PMs and their flunkies, I am talking about career survivors who while showing their ethics were poor get sent to Brussels on fat salaries and expense accounts to consort with rich Russians who want favours and sure enough they seem to get just what they want. The chain of events looks rotten enough but when diary pages go 'missing' it is obvious there is more than a rat smelling. Yet we ennoble such people to give them jobs they should get elected for and they become the most powerful people in the country.

The Rise of The Political Career

We now have Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish sub-governments in their flash new buildings and armed with lots of new politicians who wield about as much collective power as a hand torch. We have created new talking shops, sinks for expense money, lunatic policy making, secure and lucrative pensions and added zero value to governing this nation. What we have created is a political system that is now a career for people. You can start where you like - in Unions, local authorities, councils, assemblies or Westminster and the hanger on industries that surround it all like think tanks and advisories. You can get out of University and just get a political job like going through the 'Milk Round' and become a minister as part of the well tracked career path. Or indeed you can just be supposedly apolitical and get a job in the vast Civil Service that surrounds all this machine - highly paid, lucrative pension and great expenses, knighthoods and Non-Executive Directorships are all part of the bargains. Second jobs and directorships are a must for all MPs and conflicts of interest are perfectly acceptable no matter in which House you sit.

The problem that Blears has is that she cannot see this as she is part of it. As the political machine has risen, the opportunity for more and more dubious people to get involved and make money out of it has increased exponentially while the standards have fallen. Lying and spin are blended and acceptable, it seems perfectly acceptable to have a war with a nation based on acknowledged lies like no WMDs and no link to 9/11 as stated by George Bush himself. The resultant debacles are indicative that no one knew what was meant to happen or why - Iraq is a shambles and open season for any young kid who wants a glamorous career as an international terrorist to hone their skills and knock off a few American or Bristish soldiers as practice. Piously people like Blair now say that 'They chose to be terrorists' but again it is the witchcraft logic at work that comes from that daft logic that all religious zealots have - you give them the reason to hate you and they will hate you. If we invade a country and people think that is wrong, do not be surprised that they come and express that hate - particularly if the reason that you invaded was a sham itself. The moral debate surrounding this is flawed because people like Blair use the outcome to give credence to the original action.

It seems like the worse you do your job, the more rewarded you get. Politics seems to be the home for dunces.

It is too obvious to people like Fawkes, Dale and others that this country is fast tracking to nowhere. After 12 years of sham governing, the country stands on the verge of bankruptcy, over 2 million unemployed, a long term tax bill to burden the next generation and beyond, an NHS system that is no better, an education system geared around targets that asks as young as 7 year olds to pass a set of exams taken in a single day just to score a point in the system. And we are asked to believe that these people know what they are doing when if their snouts are not in the trough they are firmly up their own backsides.

It is easy for anyone to get cynical when this Government hounded the last out for lack of morals and 'sleaze' when, despite the assurances of its leader, it became steeped in sleaze, cronyism and scandal itself based on a bedrock of lying so much it became the 'truth'. It is easy to get cynical when the whole process of Government debate is to be cynical about every statement each party member says so when a Government official is criticised they simply refer to last Government under the opposition rather than address the issue.

And Hazel Blears is part of that whole system - and she is indeed one of its own elite members of the cynical process itself. As Guido Fawkes said, his purpose is not to 'add value'. I would say it is everyone's duty in this nation to question what is going on and seek justification for actions. In case Blears has not noticed, we are stumping up the cash for the incompetence endemic in our system for the last 12 years and we would like people to explain themselves as we are pretty certain that things will get repeated if we don't.

I believe, talking to others, that we are no more cynical of this Government than the last but what we do see is that Britain has gone backwards at some rate, we are fighting two wars we cannot win, we are in a state of high terror alerts because many hate our way of life and we are propping up a greedy, corrupt banking system so that the same people who ruined it can ride the wave again.

We are not cynical - we are aghast.

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