Discussion of other UK political parties
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By Winegums
Membership Days Posts
#343626
Robert Webb wrote an open letter in the New Statesman to Russell Brand regarding this whole thing. I think he's bang on the money and has more or less said what I was thinking, but better. Interesting to read he's rejoined the Labour party...it'd be cool to see more famous people return to the fold. Hell, it'd be cool to see Brand become a member in recognition that doing something is better than shitty apathy.
Dear Russell,

Hi. We’ve met about twice, so I should probably reintroduce myself: I’m the other one from Peep Show. I read your thing on revolution in these pages with great interest and some concern. My first reaction was to rejoin the Labour Party. The Jiffy bag containing the plastic membership card and the Tristram Hunt action figure is, I am assured, in the post. I just wanted to tell you why I did that because I thought you might want to hear from someone who a) really likes your work, b) takes you seriously as a thoughtful person and c) thinks you’re wilfully talking through your arse about something very important.

It’s about influence and engagement. You have a theoretical 7.1 million (mostly young) followers on Twitter. They will have their own opinions about everything and I have no intention of patronising them. But what I will say is that when I was 15, if Stephen Fry had advised me to trim my eyebrows with a Flymo, I would have given it serious consideration. I don’t think it’s your job to tell young people that they should engage with the political process. But I do think that when you end a piece about politics with the injunction “I will never vote and I don’t think you should either”, then you’re actively telling a lot of people that engagement with our democracy is a bad idea. That just gives politicians the green light to neglect the concerns of young people because they’ve been relieved of the responsibility of courting their vote.

Why do pensioners (many of whom are not poor old grannies huddled round a kerosene lamp for warmth but bloated ex-hippie baby boomers who did very well out of the Thatcher/Lawson years) get so much attention from politicians? Because they vote.

Many of the young, the poor, the people you write about are in desperate need of support. The last Labour government didn’t do enough and bitterly disappointed many voters. But, at the risk of losing your attention, on the whole they helped. Opening Sure Start centres, introducing and raising the minimum wage, making museums free, guaranteeing nursery places, blah blah blah: nobody is going to write a folk song about this stuff and I’m aware of the basic absurdity of what I’m trying to achieve here, like getting Liberace to give a shit about the Working Tax Credit, but these policies among many others changed the real lives of millions of real people for the better.

This is exactly what the present coalition is in the business of tearing to pieces. They are not interested in helping unlucky people – they want to scapegoat and punish them. You specifically object to George Osborne’s challenge to the EU’s proposed cap on bankers’ bonuses. Labour simply wouldn’t be doing that right now. They are not all the same. “They’re all the same” is what reactionaries love to hear. It leaves the status quo serenely untroubled, it cedes the floor to the easy answers of Ukip and the Daily Mail. No, if you want to be a nuisance to the people whom you most detest in public life, vote. And vote Labour.

You talk of “obediently X-ing a little box”. Is that really how it feels to you? Obedience? There’s a lot that people interested in shaping their society can do in between elections – you describe yourself as an activist, among other things – but election day is when we really are the masters. We give them another chance or we tell them to get another job. If I thought I worked for David Cameron rather than the other way round, I don’t know how I’d get out of bed in the morning.

Maybe it’s this timidity in you that leads you into another mistake: the idea that revolution is un-British. Actually, in the modern era, the English invented it, when we publicly decapitated Charles I in 1649. We got our revolution out of the way long before the French and the Americans. The monarchy was restored but the sovereignty of our parliament, made up of and elected by a slowly widening constituency of the people, has never been seriously challenged since then. Aha! Until now, you say! By those pesky, corporate, global, military-industrial conglomerate bastards! Well, yes. So national parliaments and supernational organisations such as the EU need more legitimacy. That’s more votes, not fewer.

You’re a wonderful talker but on the page you sometimes let your style get ahead of what you actually think. In putting the words “aesthetically” and “disruption” in the same sentence, you come perilously close to saying that violence can be beautiful. Do keep an eye on that. Ambiguity around ambiguity is forgivable in an unpublished poet and expected of an arts student on the pull: for a professional comedian demoting himself to the role of “thinker”, with stadiums full of young people hanging on his every word, it won’t really do.

What were the chances, in the course of human history, that you and I should be born into an advanced liberal democracy? That we don’t die aged 27 because we can’t eat because nobody has invented fluoride toothpaste? That we can say what we like, read what we like, love whom we want; that nobody is going to kick the door down in the middle of the night and take us or our children away to be tortured? The odds were vanishingly small. Do I wake up every day and thank God that I live in 21st-century Britain? Of course not. But from time to time I recognise it as an unfathomable privilege. On Remembrance Sunday, for a start. And again when I read an intelligent fellow citizen ready to toss away the hard-won liberties of his brothers and sisters because he’s bored.

I understand your ache for the luminous, for a connection beyond yourself. Russell, we all feel like that. Some find it in music or literature, some in the wonders of science and others in religion. But it isn’t available any more in revolution. We tried that again and again, and we know that it ends in death camps, gulags, repression and murder. In brief, and I say this with the greatest respect, please read some fucking Orwell.

Good luck finding whatever it is you’re looking for and while you do, may your God go with you.

Rob
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
#343640
Have to say I'm not particularly encouraged by some of the responses to Brand's remarks from the commentariat. Liberal left journos seem to have closed ranks and chosen to dismiss him as some sort of Beppe Grillo-type loon rather than acknowledge that perhaps there are serious problems with the way our parliamentary democracy operates and outline ways in which we can address them. That Nick Cohen article in the Observer, in particular, was just fucking awful - haughty bubble-dwelling liberals like Cohen are part of the problem as much as the political class itself. Having said that I could quite easily see Brand running for some sort public office at some point (London mayor?), so this could yet come back to bite him.

There was a really good piece on 'populism' - which seems to be a technocratic scare term to indicate distaste of the mob more than anything else - in the last issue of the New Left Review, incidentally.
As a measure of where the centre is now said to be situated, we may take the case of the ‘centrist’ Bill Clinton, whose followers were dubbed ‘Rubin Democrats’, after his Treasury Secretary, a former Vice-President of Goldman Sachs and board member of Citigroup; that is, a spokesman for the interests of big finance. That an administration very close to the most powerful bank in the world, to what Roosevelt had called ‘organized money’, should be regarded as ‘centrist’, not to say ‘third way’, is indicative of the intervening political shift. [30] The Rubin Democrats exemplify in graphic fashion some of the long-term trends that have emerged since 1989.

Firstly, social classes have become unmentionable, just like the people. At least at the level of discourse, political proposals are no longer anchored in the material interests of opposed social groups. Naturally, this ‘disinterestedness’ is an imposture: the specific interests of groups and classes are unquestionably pursued, even though they pass unnamed, in the service of the general interest—as, for example, in the goal of ‘restoring the public finances’. Cameron and Osborne are pursuing policies that would once have been defined as blatantly ‘pro-employer’, in the name of an unattainable balanced budget. In Europe, classes have disappeared from public discourse to a greater extent than in the US, where the social character of the various electoral constituencies remains clear and the phrase ‘class struggle’ continues to be uttered with few inhibitions—though usually these days by Republicans; in 2011 Paul Ryan, rising star of the GOP, accused Obama of ‘class warfare’. More candidly Warren Buffet, the world’s fourth richest man, told a New York Times reporter: ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ [31] One of the prizes for the winning side—and at the same time, one of the tools with which this victory is being won—is the claim to occupy the ‘centre’ ground.

Secondly, ‘negative power’—that is, powers of prevention, surveillance and evaluation—has vastly increased. Nadia Urbinati has cited the ‘pervasive power of the market’ as perhaps the most influential modern negative power, due to ‘its ability to claim the legitimacy to veto political decisions in the name of supposedly neutral and even natural rules’. [32] In recent years, the ‘independent’ central banks and the international financial institutions have significantly extended their exercise of negative power: the IMF, World Bank, WTO and European Central Bank evaluate and interdict national economic policies according to their own ‘expert’ priorities. The assessments of the ratings agencies, which are private entities in law, have a decisive impact on the lives of individual citizens. No Greek, Spaniard or Italian has ever elected the board of directors of Moody’s; yet whether that citizen will receive treatment for a tumour, whether her daughter will be able to go to university, may be determined by their call.

Thirdly, the scope of democratic decision-making has become tightly circumscribed. Most of the government’s economic, fiscal, spending, social security and social policies now elude popular choice; instead, they are shaped and ultimately imposed by the external limits of the ‘negative powers’. In a second move, which we might call the imposition of internal limits through the expansion of the doctrine of the twin extremes, the only remaining choice is between a ‘centre-centre-right’ and a ‘centre-centre-left’—that is, between two essentially identical politics. The maximum alternation to which this kind of regime aspires is that of bi-partisan coalitions, taking turns in office. In reality, today’s governance—that ineffably bureaucratic neologism—is not simply bi-partisan but tri-partisan, the third element comprising negative external powers. Illuminating in this respect is the former governor of the German Bundesbank, Hans Tietmeyer, who in 1998 praised national governments for preferring ‘the permanent plebiscite of global markets’ to the (implicitly less qualified) ‘plebiscite of the ballot-box’. [33]
http://newleftreview.org/II/82/marco-d- ... -oligarchy" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
#343648
Abernathy wrote:In fact, Crabcakes, the returning officer shows all of the spoilt ballot papers to all the candidates at the count, and tells them in each case the precise reason why each ballot paper is being counted as spoilt (it also affords the candidates the chance to claim - often desperately - that some of these papers represent a vote for them). This includes all the accidents and cock-ups of course, but crucially also those where a clear message of rejection has been written on the paper - so the "none of the above" message does actually reach the candidates in elections. I've even seen ballot papers with a spurting cock and balls drawn on them over the years.

So I'm afraid I still cannot see any point at all in a NOTA option in elections.

Robert Webb in The Staggers has it dead on.
It may reach the candidates, but it doesn't reach the media or electorate. That's why it needs to be official and in its own category. And again, separate from the immediately pejorative term "spoiled ballot". It *isn't* a spoiled ballot, it's a statement that all of the candidates have been found wanting. That should be recorded and publicised as widely as possible.

Webb means well, but is naive in offering the same solution yet again - don't like any of the options in the current system? Well you should vote for one of them anyway. Some of them aren't as bad as others.
#343685
new puritan wrote:Have to say I'm not particularly encouraged by some of the responses to Brand's remarks from the commentariat. Liberal left journos seem to have closed ranks and chosen to dismiss him as some sort of Beppe Grillo-type loon rather than acknowledge that perhaps there are serious problems with the way our parliamentary democracy operates and outline ways in which we can address them. That Nick Cohen article in the Observer, in particular, was just fucking awful - haughty bubble-dwelling liberals like Cohen are part of the problem as much as the political class itself. Having said that I could quite easily see Brand running for some sort public office at some point (London mayor?), so this could yet come back to bite him.
What do you expect? Brand was talking out of his arse and his approach to dealing with the problems with our democracy would make the problem worse not better.
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
#343687
Littlejohn's brain wrote:What do you expect? Brand was talking out of his arse and his approach to dealing with the problems with our democracy would make the problem worse not better.
I don't expect much in the way of insight from the commentariat, you're right. But I think it's totally counter-productive to be so dismissive - anti-Westminster anger is mainstream and the way to combat that isn't just to dismiss it altogether. If anything, that sort of approach is just going to harden people's attitudes. You can't berate them back to the ballot box.
#343692
new puritan wrote:
Littlejohn's brain wrote:What do you expect? Brand was talking out of his arse and his approach to dealing with the problems with our democracy would make the problem worse not better.
I don't expect much in the way of insight from the commentariat, you're right. But I think it's totally counter-productive to be so dismissive - anti-Westminster anger is mainstream and the way to combat that isn't just to dismiss it altogether. If anything, that sort of approach is just going to harden people's attitudes. You can't berate them back to the ballot box.
But some people out there just don't want to be listened to
Hardened anti-politics types, however, are not that interested. And nowhere does their lack of interest manifest itself more in their protestation that they're "not being listened to". For example, in my previous job one of my duties was to reply to the occasional letter that bemoaned the state of the world - which usually extended no further than the city limits of Stoke-on-Trent. I remember a series of letters in which a number of criticisms were ventured of the local party's record which I responded to comprehensively and with supporting evidence. These were not point-scoring rebuttals. Nevertheless it didn't surprise me to see those replies being bandied about on local fora as proof their MP "wasn't listening".

And here is the fundamental error. Our anti-politics types cannot or refuse to differentiate between listening and agreement. In those letters I, on behalf of my employer, listened to what they had to say, thought their concerns were mistaken and unwarranted, and replied back stating the reasons for disagreement and supplying an alternative point of view. Likewise when I've stood on doorsteps listening to anti-immigration rants. I listen, then state why I disagree, and reply using the power of fact and evidence. The same is when the press goes on a populist binge on some issue or another and claims "no one's listening". Chances are they are, it's that they simply disagree.

Perhaps if they are genuine about mending politics and get their head round this simple point then anti-politics people might contribute something positive to a widespread and much-needed democratic renewal.
http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot. ... ening.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
#343698
Andy McDandy wrote:Absolutely. "You're not listening!" usually means "You're not agreeing!".

Not just in politics...
Indeed I call it the politics of ego it's all about them, them, them. their views and their ideas not other people's
By Andy McDandy
Membership Days Membership Days Posts
#343702
See also politicians losing elections claiming that they 'failed to get the message across'. No, it's more likely that they got the message across just fine, but the electorate weren't buying it.
#343709
He especially needs to realise that he's a court jester, an acceptable eccentric, and about as anti-establishment as the Timewarp.
 
By Abernathy
Membership Days Membership Days Posts
#343795
crabcakes_windermere wrote:
It may reach the candidates, but it doesn't reach the media or electorate.
Yes it does. The number of spoilt papers is part of every election result declaration, and all are reported in news media.
That's why it needs to be official and in its own category
Well it is official. But what would reporting spoilt papers with an explicit NOTA message separately actually achieve? The proportion of the electorate not voting seems to me to provide a good enough, if not actually better, measure of this already and the problem of how to increase turnout and achieve greater electoral engagement is a problem that has actually been engaging political types for decades, believe it or not. There is simply no point.
And again, separate from the immediately pejorative term "spoiled ballot". It *isn't* a spoiled ballot, it's a statement that all of the candidates have been found wanting. That should be recorded and publicised as widely as possible.
Sorry, but by definition an explcit NOTA message is a spoilt paper (which term by the way I don't view as being pejorative). The turnout in any given election, or more particularly the proportion not bothering to turn out, already provides a more than adequate measure of those who do not consider voting for any candidate on the ballot paper to be worth their (minimal) effort, and is both recorded and widely publicised. I see no point at all in categorising separately those who at best are slightly less lazy than their fellow abstainers.
Webb means well, but is naive in offering the same solution yet again - don't like any of the options in the current system? Well you should vote for one of them anyway. Some of them aren't as bad as others.
Well some of them really aren't as bad as the others (Nick Griffin anyone?). But no, he was rightly criticising Brand for offering no solution to the perceived problem whatsoever other than shrugging the shoulders and not voting. If you do not consider that any of the candidates that choose to put themselves forward for election are worthy of your vote, then arguably it is open to you to change that, either by putting yourself forward for election, or by working to try to ensure that you influence the decisions of those responsible either for deciding to stand for election, or for selecting the candidates that do stand.

The solution certainly isn't sitting on your hands, as Brand advocates. Nor is it, I'm quite certain, the acquired right to have your trip to the polling station recorded as being in some official new variant class of spoilt paper.
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
#343871
lord_kobel wrote:If he was saying "We need to overthrow the government, here's how we do it and I'll fund the weapons" he might have a point, but to say "We need to change the system, somehow. Work it out for yourselves" sn't really helping...
I don't really have too much of a problem with that to be honest. At least he admits he doesn't really have a plan of his own rather than coming out with some half-baked flannel.
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