Our political class is sclerotic

It’s been pointed out time and time again. It’s not like it’s a new phenomenon. The education of our politicians is dominated by a small number of schools, universities, and courses. Having an Oxford PPE[1] puts someone in pole position. So, does attendance at Eton.

Yes, we are not the only society to exhibit such educational polarisation, but it’s deep rooted in the UK. Centuries of domination of select institutions are well documented. The UK is long in the tooth. One set of privileged people are often in the wings to replace another set of similar people.

Simple generalisations about this fact being bad are not so easy to sustain. On the list of those who were educated in this way have been some real reformers and progressive thinkers. Nevertheless, there are a significant number of dangers that come from such a narrow streaming.

Although the overarching heading of Philosophy, Politics and Economics contains a variety of options and differences, it’s been constructed as a machine in a factory for politicians. It’s a cooky cutter for a template Member of Parliament (MP). For a long, long time, local constituency party’s and a significant number of voters have taken it as read that this is the model for an MP.

An interesting question arises in the current chaotic political maelstrom. Is this phenomenon one of the roots of periodic failures and catastrophes in the UK?

Here’s several reasons why the suggestion can not be easily dismissed.

Narrow streaming is a great way to instil a “group think” in our governance. Thing is, I don’t think we (voters) need or want this to happen. The risks are self-evident. There’s a greater propensity to agreement on the wrong course of action. An example is the decision to go to war in Iraqi.

Linking “orthodoxy” and stability in the minds of the population may limit what can be done. This is a strange one in that politicians with a common background can be strongly motivated to be unconventional just for the sake of doing it. Maybe that’s what has just happened.

Diversity is not just a nice to have. Diversity brings strengths that are not available in a monoculture. It’s a good strategy to bring in new ideas. New thinking. Bring in people with a wide variety of different backgrounds and experiences.

Change is needed. The UK’s political class is sclerotic. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we just had a national heart attack.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/23/ppe-oxford-university-degree-that-rules-britain

Blah Blah Blah

To comment on British politics, Twitter maybe the perfect platform. It’s one of the ways commentary and observations can keep up with the pace of change. So febrile is the current landscape of British politics that it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen next. Naturally, there’s thousands who will volunteer their views. It’s a wonderful entertainment but probably not terribly helpful.

What makes a good politician, or at least what makes an effective politician in 2022? Let’s forget what makes a great politician because that category is only ever seen in the story books.

Setting our situation in the context: however good a person maybe they will make errors and have failures. Let’s not get hooked on the ridiculous idea that perfection is out there to be found. That’s the territory of ideology and fanatics. There’s too many of them in Twitter-land.

What makes a good politician? I think it does come down to fundamentals. There is a big word that stands out in any community. It has done throughout history. It’s that simple but sometimes illusive quality of TRUST.

It’s not enough to stand in front of a group of citizens and espouse trustworthiness. It’s not enough to say – trust me, I know what I’m doing. There must be believability built on sound evidence. That’s a record of saying things and doing things that are correct, consistent, and coherent.

Not easy to do. The frenetic speed of News is like a hungry monster wanting to be feed minute by minute. Say too much and arguments are pulled apart ruthlessly. Say too little and the vacant space is filled with speculation.

Getting beyond the blah blah blah of ephemeral commentary is not so easy. Trust and communication can’t be separated. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say must run through every message.

Am I being naively contradictory? To start, I emphasised that it’s human to get thing wrong now and then. If public communications must meet unobtainable standards what hope does any politician have in this new media world?

Well, there’s a balance to be struck. That’s where we are – way off balance. Like a wobbly wheel spinning on a worn out axal. Both the wheel and the axel need replacing.

chaos

October 2022 and the art of defending the indefensible is rife. There’s a lot of it about. In Great British Bake-Off style, it’s to take a really badly made sponge cake and coving it with colourful decorative icing and sprinkles. It’s a simple deception. It’s the practice of turning awful News on its head. Intention being to avoid accountability for that unwelcome daily News.

Ministers so up to their necks in almighty screw-ups, travel the media studios spouting endless reasons why things have never been better and there’s no other choice but to stick with “the plan.” The word Growth gets banded around as it was glue powerful enough to hold smashed atoms togther.

Global economic headwinds, pressures amplified by conflict and devious opponents all are all depicted as the reasons why international markets are sticking two fingers up to this Conservative Government. Speculators are loving it. As unpredictable turbulence always opens opportunity for a few people to make a great deal of money.

Articles with such titles as: power cuts are not so bad, higher mortgage costs create a sense of responsibility, don’t pamper poor children and global issues cause our woes. It’s difficult to understand journalists and newspaper readers who think misery is good for you. It must be that the people who write such material are hired guns without a moral compass. They are paid to churn out counter factual editorials, warped options, and shock jock entertainments.

What’s the answer to this cavalcade of absurdly? Unsustainable situations are not solved by walking on by. There’s a strong need for a refresh. That does mean a General Election.

I know I’ve said a General Election is not on the cards for 2022. What’s new is that the more old school Conservatives, who’s order of priority is – Country, Consitituency, Party – are showing signs that they realise their Party is hurting the Country.

There is a petition to “Call an immediate general election to end the chaos of the current government[1]” and it is scheduled to be debated in Westminster. No prizes for what the outcome will be but, in a way, that’s not the point. An election is on the agenda.

NOTE: Sacking Kwasi Kwarteng is a desperate attempt to distract from the disastrous consequences of the PM’s own policies. It has been a day when the chickens have come home to roost.


[1] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/619781

Where are we?

From time to time, we do need to remind ourselves what the differences are between pollical parties and their thinking. Those differences are particularly stark now. In fact, dangerously stark.

So called “conservatives” are in defensive mode. They are lashing out having lost popular support and legitimacy across the nation. The misinformation is suggesting the opposition will form a “monstrous coalition” with other parties. Failing to recognise that the Conservative Party of 2022 is as monstrous coalition at war with itself.

In my mind there has never been a better time to argue for Proportional Representation (PR).  It’s a good way that a diversity of political thinking can be fairly represented. My words here are not an academic discourse so please don’t quote literate sources that point to flaws in my opinion.

Libertarian: It’s Anti-Government Government. In other words, reduce the size of the State to the absolute minimum. Thus, remove regulation and social support to create what is often called “UK PLC”. It’s a devil take the hind most thinking. Images of such a society are best captures in William Hogarth’s Gin Lane[1]. A small elite control and prosper but the majority languish.

Socialist: Almost the reverse of the above. Where the State is mother and father of every citizen. The “greater good” transcends individual aspirations and rights. Life is codified and regimented. A levelling takes place where tall poppies[2] are loped off ruthlessly. A small elite control and prosper but the majority languish.

Traditionally, these two have been characterised as far “right” and “left” in politics. Naturally, it’s not so simple as that because there’s lots of variations on the above themes. One common thread is that they both end up becoming authoritarian and destructive. Some would show the ends of the political spectrum as anti-authoritarian (anarchists) at one end and dictators at the other. So, there’s more than a few different ways of cutting the cake.

Where are we? It’s my belief that the vast majority to not fit in either of these two camps.

We live in a liberal democracy or have done until now. That, when it’s working well, balances individual aspiration with social responsibility. Our rights are respected at the same time as recognising our common journey as a nation. We work together to ensure that opportunity is spread far and wide. We cherish our environment. We build coalitions with common goals.

Britan needs to stop and take stock. The Conservative Party is pushing the whole nation in a direction it doesn’t not want to go. It’s strident libertarians are on a disastrous path. These are dangerous times.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2012/sep/12/william-hogarth-gin-lane

[2] https://wordhistories.net/2018/11/12/tall-poppy-origin/

Unsustainable

One Minister say we want more immigration. Another Minister says we want less immigration. One Minister say we want to tax less. Another Minister says we want to keep taxes. One Minister say we want shale gas. Another Minister says we do not want shale gas. One Minister say we want more building everywhere. Another Minister says we want less building everywhere. One Minister say we can put tackling climate change on hold. Another Minister says we must act on the climate. One Minister wants to privatise the NHS. Another Minister supports public health provision. And, so on and so on.

What we have is an unsustainable UK Government without a mandate. No wonder the financial markets have been spooked. The more Ministers zigzag, U-turn, and twist and turn the more damage they do. In Truss and Kwarteng’s first month of Government chaos, it is reported that around £300 billion has been wiped off value of UK assets.

The UK is facing its biggest crisis since the Second World War. The threat is the Conservative Party. Their abject inability to set-out what they stand for has left the Conservative Party vulnerable to volatile knee jerk reactions and being led by the nose by fringe interests.

Poltical parties contain people with different interests and views. When there’s no alignment and common purpose holding those people togther then the fabric of a party fails. Trying to head this off, leaderships often get louder, more irrational and clutch at straws. Prime Minister Truss received Conservative Party conference applauds to her “anti-growth coalition” slogan but this is crazy in the context of recent Government preformance.

What is observable across the globe is that right-wing populist politicians love confrontation. They enjoy shouting down opponents. They like controversies of their own making that they can then attribute to others. The Conservative Party is broken.

Our immediate concern needs to be that this Government is sleep-walking into a mass of avoidable catastrophes as we move into the winter of 2022. Sadly, now, they are practicing the cartoon pose of an ostrich with its head in the sand.

Decaying Fantasy

I never thought that I’d read a political conference speech that referenced Jethro Tull[1]. Not the long-lived British rock band. Personally, I doubt if Minister Jacob Rees Mogg has ever heard of that group.

Like a cake baker who knows they have baked a poor cupcake his conference speech is sprinkled with 100s and 1000s. The bitterness of the sniping that interleaves every other sentence is an unsteady grumpy excess.

True that references to Adam Smith might be expected given the Minister’s known inclinations. However, reference to the Navigation Acts[2] is beyond the pale. The Navigation Acts, while profitable for Britain, caused anger in the colonies and contributed to the American Revolution.

The so called “Brexit Freedoms Bill”, a fantasy island piece of legislation, that is exactly the opposite of what is needed. We need to collaborate with others to increase the size of markets and not create even more barriers to trade.

On one major point on energy, fusion reactors remain as expensive experiments. Yes, they are expensive experiments that should be continued as global collaborative research, but they are a million miles away from being operational power systems.

Even the companies that have explored the possibilities of shale gas have concluded that it doesn’t have a future in this country. Our countryside, geology and ground water should not be put at great risk by a headlong rush into such folly.

The highlight of the Conservative party conference could be attributed bullnosed stubborn buffoonish fantasising. Meaningless slogans like: “We are the only party with the determination to deliver.” Have nothing to offer. Especially when the premise has already been shown to be a con.

The speech indicates a political party void of ideas and in terminal decline.


[1] https://www.ukpol.co.uk/jacob-rees-mogg-2022-speech-to-conservative-party-conference/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navigation_Acts

Election now?

Unless turkeys vote for Christmas, there will not be a UK General Election (GE) in 2022[1]. Well, I say that assuming that there will not be a total and utter breakdown of the governing political party. In the current state of play that event is within the realms of possibility. However, with a sizable remaining majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives intend to continue regardless of their habit of swapping out party leaders.

It was pointed out to me that since the changes made to the UK Electoral Commission[2] earlier in the year, it’s much to the Conservative Party’s advantage to use their new powers to their benefit. The Electoral Commission is the “independent” organisation that oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. Ministers now have much more influence over the workings of the Commission.

There’s more than one Commission in the mix too.  The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is in the process of coming up with a new map of proposed Parliamentary constituencies. From the 8th November, members of the public will be able to view and comment on new constituency boundaries. With this boundary review underway there’s little incentive to have an early UK GE.

Embarrassingly, Parliament will have to debate a public petition[3] that is signed by about half a million people. So shocked are people by the ineptitude of this Conservative Government, this petition calls for an immediate UK GE.

The calling of an early UK GE is at the discretion for the sitting Prime Minister (PM), whoever that might be. So, as I’ve said the case for a turkey voting for Christmas pertains.

Certainly, winter national elections are not popular amongst political party activists. The shorter days and weather conditions often make conventional campaigning activities like doorstep canvasing difficult to do. There’re other complexities too. For an election held in December, the notice of election will be published before the deadline for publishing the revised electoral register.

There are, and there have been unprecedented crises threatening the UK. The new PM’s team looks and acts febrile and inept, but it looks like we are stuck with them for a while longer.

POST: Reports from Birmingham are that the supernova like explosion of the Conservative party is indeed a possibility.


[1] The 2019 General Election was held on Thursday, 12 December 2019. It resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons.

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/electoral-commission-elections-bill-independence-b2067888.html

[3] https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/619781

Out of Step

If ever a political party has misjudged the public mood more in the last few decades, it’s the British Conservative Party, here and now. Without going into the cavalcade of reasons why they are incompetent, the overriding fact is that they are completely out of step with the British people.

After years of turbulent instability and pressures caused by the banking crisis, the pandemic, conflict and Brexit they have a mad idea that we have a big appetite for chaotic change with blind sheeplike obedience. It’s difficult to say that in “normal times” this Government’s irresponsible behaviour would be totally unacceptable to the point of civil disobedience and mass protest. But it’s true and the later may indeed happen. Winter is coming.

Running the British economy as if it were a poorly thought-out student project is beyond contempt. The childishness of the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer is off the scale. There is’nt a scale made for this bunch of idealogical fanatics.

This week there maybe a week of back peddling, without seeming to back peddle but the damage is done. Reputational damage is easy to achieve but mighty difficult to recover from in the short-term.

The classic British example is that of Ratners in 1991/92. Now, instead of the “Ratner effect[1]” we will have to speak of the “Truss effect” in 2022. Certainly, in the rank and order of economic disasters the Truss Government must rank well above Ratner. Afterall, he only lost 330 jewellery stores, 2500 employees and over £122 million in a few seconds.

Interestingly, the fall of Troy is on the list of all time disasters brought on by human folly. Even I wouldn’t draw a comparison with the Truss effect and a tragic story from classical literature. Or would I?

In breaking my own rule, I can just see the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng as a wooden horse entering the His Majesty’s Treasury ready to burn it down. He’s jumped out of the horse and what comes next is writen. He may be serving at His Majesty’s pleasure but I’m sure that’s just formal terminology and, there’s a whole bucket load of displeasure behind the scenes. Whatever his eccentricities, it’s likely His Majesty is far more in-touch with the British people than this appalling British Government. They have sat too long. It’s time for them to go. And go soon.

POST 1: At conference, it is reported that the Conservative Party chairman is telling their MPs they will lose the party whip if they vote against the fatal mini-budget of last week. Shirts are being printed with the slogan – I’m with stupid.

POST 2: Conservatives now plan to scrap the scrapping of the 45p top rate of tax. It’s a big poltical u-turn only days after the UK PM publically defended the policy.


[1] https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/the-man-who-destroyed-his-multi-million-dollar-company-in-10-seconds/

Magic Money Tree

The genuine problem with the today’s momentous announcements in the UK Parliament is that of political expediency. I don’t mean traditional political pragmatism but like a snake: the art of shedding one skin to replace it with another. Transformations are part of political life but total repudiation of statements, policies, and positions of only a couple of weeks ago are destabilising and lead to universal mistrust. Who are these Conservatives?

What I mean by this thought is the unsettling claim that some people have made that this is the first days of a true Conservative[1] government[2]. As if the entity that was elected at a General Election in 2019 was merely a dark cloak of convenience. As if the British Conservative Party General Election manifestos of 2019[3] was a prospectus that no one should ever have expected anyone to take seriously. As if the last decade of Conservative rule was merely a colourful sham.

Not so long ago, time and time again we were warned of that Magic Money Tree[4] was a dangerous myth. That the sirens of the opposition parties would entice the great British state onto the rocks. Financial doom would surely result if the public voted for social democrats, liberals, greens or socialist. The perils were exclusively caricaturised as attributed to “lefty” high spenders.

Magical thinking is now mainstream Conservative thinking. This smack of complete and utter hopelessness. The claim is that the new “Growth Plan” puts more money back into the pockets of businesses and families. It makes some attempt at putting some money back into the pockets of businesses but sets the cost against the ordinary taxpayer. Paying for borrowing will be an ever increasing burden.  New British Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a gold rush gambler without the know-how, track record or skill of ever being a winning gambler.

The cynical political gamble is that increasing burden will not become disastrous until after the next General Election. The leader may have changed, but the same old desperation to cling to power, whatever the cost to the country continues in the Conservatives.

POST: Pound Sterling dives after British Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng presented his budget to Parliament’s House of Commons on Friday.


[1] https://twitter.com/LordAshcroft/status/1573247615629758464?s=20&t=YGIIoj2ODXvpnLdMQHFE1Q

[2] https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/made-pile-lord-ashcroft-businessman-politician/article/940641

[3] https://www.conservatives.com/our-plan/conservative-party-manifesto-2019

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44524605

The queue

Likely a favourite subject of study for social scientists. The queue. That self-organising line of people that waits in an orderly manner. A way of passing the time of day so that everyone can do whatever needs to be done. To wait in turn.

Even that description isn’t accurate. Who amongst us hasn’t been in a disorderly queue. Often angry and frustrated people in an airport building, suffering lack of information. One desk open and hundreds of tired travellers lined up to take a voucher or ask desperate questions about connections. Staff like windup automatons handing out dollops of advice when all they want to do is go home. Overwhelmingly most of my queuing experiences have been at international airports. Well, that and supermarkets but it’s not the routine supermarket situations that carve their way into memories. There are moments at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport that I can never erase.

Being ever inventive, airports provide routine orderly queuing opportunities at security. These are strictly controlled up to a point. Asking for forgiveness and breaking the strict queuing coded there’s always the one or two people who are desperate not to miss their flight. “Please can I pass. I’m late for my flight”. Hearing this we generally stand aside thinking; that could be me one day.

This is where social scientists get their buzz. The etiquette of queues is so variable. Not only is the composition of the line a factor but the climate, time of day and final goal. Not to mention culture.

Now, in London the queue to see the Queen’s lying-in-state[1] is becoming more than just a queue. It’s a phenomenon where people are going to view the queue as much as stand in it. It’s a testament to the commitment of those standing in-line. As night-time temperatures start to fall it doesn’t seem to have acted as a deterrent. The drive to be part of history and pay their respects has overtaken a lot.

What is heartening is to hear the reports of the friendliness, humour, and comradery that’s evident. There’s a great spirt of making it up as they go along. Yet, maintaining a sense of purpose and order. These are admirable characteristics. Although, I don’t wish to join these good people, my appreciation for their efforts is here. By doing what they are doing they make us all a little bit better.

POST 1: Matt caputures it with his pen -https://www.facebook.com/mattcartoonist/posts/pfbid02v74vRWa7SwBqrFcuV9LmU9N2dirp39MxgjohSLVMZ2Dr2oNWp3sNrYT8z4YUc4Bvl

POST 2: I wasn’t thinking of an extra-dimensional being of unknown origin (“Q”) or a Spanish word but as my wife said – how can you spend all week reading articles about the London queue and still spell the word wrongly? To that, I have no answer.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-62872323