Saturday, 6 May 2017

Anatomy of a trainwreck

I'm not altogether surprised the so-called Lib Dem fightback has fallen flat. Presently the party is not well represented in the public eye. Tim Farron is inescapably an oily worm. The only others I can name are Sarah Olney, famed only for running out on an interview and not knowing her stuff, and then there's Nick Clegg.

When it comes to Nick Clegg, he's a pretty switched on guy, ample experience of government, a near total command of the issued compared with his parliamentary colleagues and quite presentable. The problem is, he's a liar and everybody knows it. He is the epitome of conniving centrism and not in the least bit trustworthy.

Then there's the actual Lib Dem position on Brexit which is apparently "We accept the result but we will do absolutely everything in our power to stop it". It just won't fly. Most people do not want another referendum. They want the government to get on with what they have been told to do.

Further to this, seeking to remain is no longer an option. To halt the process would probably require unanimous agreement in the EU and not without heavy concessions. Further still we would not be a trusted member were we to remain. The vote alone sent out an irreversible signal. Britain is not a country at ease with EU membership.

As to Labour, where to even start. Corbyn seem to have outdone Ukip in the incompetence stakes. Even their stab at populism in insincere and risible. Labour is simply not a serious proposition for government. There is a very real sense that Labour is ambivalent on Brexit and consequently has nothing of value to add. If it leaps either way it loses substantial support. But then as we have seen, making no choice at all costs them more. Labour has a gaping sincerity deficit and where it leads nobody sane will follow.

This effectively leaves anybody opposed to hard Brexit (and the Tories in general) without a viable vehicle of opposition. Labour have maintained a broadly pro-EU stance for political convenience in the assumption that since we were unlikely to ever leave they could continue to beat the Tories over their disunity. That fustian pact has now expired.

Worse still for the remainers, the EU is not something the left have ever really taken a keen interest in. It has always been way down on their list of priorities. Consequently we now have Labour MPs lecturing us on the importance of staying within certain EU constructs while being completely incapable of even defining them.

This in part is another good reason for leaving in that the EU has sat in the background of EU politics churning away with next to zero scrutiny. This ties in with an emerging theme on this blog that the reason our membership of the EU does not work is because of certain constitutional problems here in the UK. There is a wider malaise in UK politics and the present dysfunction in the party system is a culmination of it. What we find now is that the entire political class crumbles in the face of a challenge crisis like Brexit. We are simply not equipped to handle adult politics.

This is in part a cultural problem. Our present crop of politicians are really a reflection of ourselves. We have become easily distracted by trivia and incapable of giving serious issues proper consideration. This is in part to do with the dumbing down of media. Particularly the phenomenon of news as entertainment where the substance of policy struggles to get an airing. So much so that political parties seldom even bother producing policy. There is a tombola full of half baked ideas somewhere in the lobby of Westminster and each party in turn pulls out a suggestion. If it lasts more than a week of media "scrutiny" then it becomes the talking point for the political season.

For this we can blame the BBC. There was a time when the Six o'clock News was conservative looking person distinguished only by their innate lack of charisma, who dispassionately imparted pertinent information. At some point though, this was considered elitist. Treating people like adults is apparently a means of excluding the great unwashed who can only cope with primary colours and vacuous bimbos (of both sexes) emoting about the news.

With the dawn of BBC News 24, any kind of gravitas went out of the window as it tried to ape US television, seeking to go into direct competition with commercial stations. With it came a new style of politics. Rather than dialogue, interviews became aggressive hectoring by self-aggrandising personalties seeking to manufacture the headlines for the following morning.

It's actually worth browsing Youtube and looking at 80's politics programmes just to mark the difference. One could could observe that the BBC at the time was overly deferential to politics but were you to tune into Walden, you would at least hear a respectful conversation where ideas could be aired. This is seldom ever seen now. Politicians are invited on to Newsnight in order to be ambushed and talked over. As soon as we get anywhere close to detail politicians are interrupted because dildos like Evan Davis assume we plebs find policy details too taxing. Little wonder that Newsnight ratings have plummeted.

This entire approach by the media utterly infantilises the public and deprives them of the context they need in order to make informed choices. We then get the likes of Robert Peston and Nick Robinson condescending to us assuming we are completely incapable of verifying information when they add their own warped interpretations. It is becoming harder to distinguish between leftist bias and profound ignorance. Though one could argue they are one and the same.

It is no coincidence that this mutation of television media would give rise to New Labour. The party had become a publicity machine designed specially for navigating the new media landscape.

Now though, we are in an entirely new era where many of my generation or younger have absolutely no need of a television, no real desire to pay the telly tax and can get their information elsewhere. One would have hope that would lead to more informed citizens but as the internet has matured and the corporates have slowly strangled the life out of independent sources, opinion is carved up into silos and self-enforcing bubbles. We have entered a dialogue of the deaf.

There are now few ways to break through the noise. Twitter is a bubble where there are concentric circles but very little cross pollination. The users who conform to various orthodoxies are the ones who gain the most from it. So long as you sing the song of the tribe you can attract a sizeable following.

I had hoped that the internet would cut the media out of the loop as politicians are able to speak directly to us rather than through the distorting prism of media. For reasons I don't fully comprehend that hasn't happened. The media has successfully inserted itself as a firewall between the public and the politicians. Politicians rarely say anything of substance or consequence on Twitter precisely because of the media triviality.

The culmination of this slow evisceration of politics is that anybody with any wit or talent simply doesn't go into politics. Knowledge is not prized and is very often a disadvantage. Conformity is all that counts. This is how we end up with a house full of party hacks and talentless social climbers.

This is ultimately what is behind the Brexit vote. We have a politico-media class imbued with a sense of superiority and claim to greater knowledge who actively despise the general public and believe them to be fools. They are so repellent that people will vote for any change just so long as something does change. Not for nothing is Brexit considered a front in a wider culture war.

But this is also why Brexit must happen. There needs to be a reckoning. Our politics does not work and it needs sorting. For all the disarray on the opposition benches, the Tories are not in much better shape. Their lead is only on account of the alternatives being too horrifying even to contemplate. Soon we will discover that there actually wasn't much in it either way.

People need to wake up and realise that the manifest incompetence we see directing Brexit is the same incompetence steering everything else. We cannot continue on this trajectory. If it wasn't Brexit to bring the whole thing crashing in on itself then it would be something else eventually. Politics as we know it has been on a countdown to extinction ever since New Labour took office. All we have seen since is diminished permutations of the same thing.

You could very easily argue that the EU was the one thing preventing a total collapse of British politics and that the status quo was preferable to a reckoning. There is some truth in that. A political revolution is rather inconvenient and expensive to say the least. But to say that ignores the fact that British politics already has collapsed and our continued membership of the EU is the one things standing in the way of the long overdue reckoning. The longer we defer it the worse it will get.

Effectively Britain cannot adequately make its own way in the world without first reconnecting politics with the people. We cannot have this vacuous bunch of charlatans abdicating their responsibilities and obligations to the EU. Nor can we allow them to scapegoat it any longer. Everywhere you look the gulfs are widening. The chasm between rich and poor, the political gulf between London and the regions and the distance between the people and their rulers. With our politics as broken as it is, it cannot even begin to analyse or diagnose, let alone bring remedy to these multifarious problems.

Politics and politicians have lost all authority and gravitas. The humanising touch of the modern media has exposed their frailties and if there is one thing we cannot stand it is to see our own inadequacies beamed back at us. The illusion of competence has evaporated and along with it the social order it sustained. Consequently we can no longer lend them power to act on our behalf. We must do it directly and collectively, and remove their ability to contradict us.

Had they listened when it mattered, we would not be here to begin with. Now that we are here we must use this as an opportunity. Brexit has presented a window of opportunity to reshape politics and democracy as we know it. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle and I personally would not wish to. Just as Labour have been thrown into the dustbin of history, the criminal ineptitude of the Tories will likely see the same happen to them. From there we can start to move into a new era of politics defined by the people.

With each passing day I lose any confidence that the Tories can make even a halfway competent run at Brexit. It is obvious that we have lost the institutional knowledge in how to execute anything of its type. That is as much a consequence of outsourcing vital areas of government. Little by little we have surrendered the right to self-governance and now the cracks are more evident than ever. The crack in the dam has now become the flood. Welcome to the consequences of this ill-conceived antidemocratic project we call European Union.

Contrary to the narrative, our departure does not make us suddenly backward or illiberal. We're just admitting finally that what we are doing is not working. The election of the Tories is more out of reluctance and resignation than a positive mandate. It's a zombie party as bereft of ideas as Labour and the Lib Dems. The party is a dead man walking. All that is left is for them to seal our depressingly inevitable fate. When that's done, we rebuild. What that then looks like is entirely up to us.

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