Monday, 2 March 2009

Nobody like us... but do we care?

Just read Charlie Brooker's piece for tomorrow's (today's) Guardian on politicians. I suspect my posting it here will only invite a deluge of comments wholeheartedly endorsing his view. Actually, strike 'comments', make that 'abuse'. I know my audience.

I don't agree with him on the particular issue which prompted his ire, nor do I accept his premise that politicians are only 'dimly aware' that the public exists. Most of us spend far more time communicating with members of the public than the average person, whether it be in person at events or surgeries, or by email or phone or letter. Some of us try to improve on that by using new media. In fact Jack Straw - the target of his rage - gets up on a soapbox in Blackburn town centre whenever he's in town and invites people to debate with him. Compare this with politicians of only a few decades ago, who visited their constituency only a couple of times a year. And no email either. (I get about 200 a day).

I suppose it's inevitable that politicians will be accused of not listening when they do something someone doesn't like... As I've said on here before, many a time, to the trolls - I know what you're saying, I hear you loud and clear. I just don't agree with you!

But leaving all that aside - what can be done about it? This cynicism, this disillusionment, this disgust even, with politicians? Is it really about the decisions that are being taken, or is it the way we communicate those decisions, or the way we consult or fail to consult before we take them? Obviously it's partly about the expenses (although the misperceptions on that front are immense), the sleaze, the scandals. But why, in an age where politicians are physically more in touch than ever before with the people they represent, are they perceived to be so out-of-touch? Where are we going wrong?

Over to you trolls. But be polite. About me, at least. References to 'snouts' and 'troughs' are, as you know, banned.

50 comments:

Hughes Views said...

Charlie Brooker should spend a moment reflecting on why journalists are held in even lower esteem by the public than politicians are.

Opinions about politicians are largely a result of the activities of journalists but there's nothing much that can be done. As Tony Blair and others have noted, for politicians to complain about the media is as futile as sailors (or was it farmers) complaining about the weather. I'm afraid you need a thick skin to survive in public life these days.

Bristol Dave said...

Of course I agree with his post. Charlie Brooker is a genius (Screenwipe, if you haven't seen it, is very funny) and in my humble has it bang on the money.

I'm a little bemused at the words "snout" and "trough" being banned, though I guess you're rightfully a little unwilling to discuss expenses, so I won't spend a long time on that.

I will say that expenses ARE an important topic and MPs shouldn't shy away from talking about them, or even recieving criticism about them, especially when you consider that they're paid from the public purse. (On a side note, this includes the sickening hypocrisy of Gordon Brown and, even worse, John Prescott condemning Sir Fred Goodwin for the size of his pension when both have pension pots well over a million and in my opinion presided over the failed running of the country - John Prescott had to resign in disgrace, for goodness' sake, and still kept grace-in-favour houses).

I think there is also an issue of the impression that politicians give on accountability. Charlie Brooker uses the very good example of Jack Straw vetoing the Iraq war minutes, who admitted in the process that basically the reason for this is to save the cabinet's face - the arrogance of this decision is just breathtaking. Furthermore, it has just lead me (and probably the rest of the population) to draw our own (probably correct) conclusions anyway. This is a very relevant decision to you as you voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war. May I ask why? Finally, I think it's very telling when Labour MPs use the term "in power" - "We've been in power for 11 years" - I rather think not. You're in OFFICE to SERVE the people. People in power RULE other people.

I think the biggest problem with cynicism, disillusionment and disgust I think is not the expenses (though this contributes) but the fact that you don't listen, or rather often you give the impression that you're listening, but then do what you planned to do all along. Starting from the most obvious - how many people marched through London to protest against the Iraq war? It wasn't just a load of Class War marxists, well over a million people marched, from all different backgrounds. ID cards - Jacqui Smith said she had had loads of people saying how they supported ID cards - where are these people? The excuse that they would help combat terrorism is simply bollocks and I think you know that we know that. You must know that the government pushing forward so strongly with them, and with a complete lack of the percieved benefits, does nothing to help the idea of a database state. I don't trust this government at all with my personal data (given the recent publicised data losses, and bearing in mind they are only the ones we know about). But even if anyone was stupid enough to, what about future ones? George Orwell wasn't stupid. To pick another example, the Lisbon Treaty. To deny the country a referendum is undemocratic to say the least. The reasons given to deny us a referendum, which I recall at one point were basically that we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about it, were appalling. As was David Milliband's attitude throughout the whole thing, claiming it was completely different to the constitution when everyone else knew (and was publicly saying) that it was basically the same. Why not TELL us what this would mean for the country, good and bad, and trust our intelligence? And finally these bank bailouts, which none of us had any choice over, but yet have to fund, to the tune of £1.3 trillion pounds. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have been throwing billions at a problem, without a clue what to do, and it was all a complete waste. Nothing has changed (apart from us being saddled with a monumental debt), banks still aren't lending any money. Seems like the "Do Nothing" line which was overused at the Tories wasn't so insulting after all.

Onto you Kerry - you at least have a blog and allow (even if moderated) comments, where you often respond to them, and you are to be commended for this. But with the greatest of respect, my comments here about (only a very small number) of the wrongs committed by this government won't change a thing.

Finally, Charlie Brooker is absolutely spot on about the Tories - nothing will change. I think David Cameron is a bit more competent than Gordon Brown but it'd basically be more of the same.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Van Helsing said...

Is Jack Straw prepared to get in an open debate about his part in Rinkagate. Cabinet mins. regarding Iraq, or suggestions of donations from Saudis. That is to name just a few things.
If you get up on a soapbox you tend to preach to the people, you don't answer their questions.
So sorry he does not impress me.

Remember Remember said...

What can you do about it? It's bloody obvious:

Repeal hundreds of idiotic laws.





Stop the troughing (by politicians and fat cats.

Punish corruption, severly.

Turn back the march to a Marxist/ Orwellian society.

We are not scared of "terrorists", (it's medical malpractice that's one of the main killers, for example), quit using alleged "terrorism" to make laws to control us, we twigged years ago that that's your real aim.

Dismantle ACPO LTD. and their unaccountable "security" subsidiaries. The freedom of information act must apply to them, and government.

Troops should only be used for defence of GB and peacekeeping, not crusades etc.

Adopt a sucessful foreign education system (Finland?), British education "experts" are incompetent muddlers. If you want a dumb populace, at least dumb them down in an efficient time period. They can achieve their level of dumbness by 14 not 18.

Dismantle barriers to self-sufficiency and DIY green energy and energy efficiency. This is a huge area covering electrical, planning and building regs to taxes on electric and low cc vehicles.

This is scratching the tip of the Iceberg, do you begin to get the jist? This isn't about any "credit crunch, it's about years of incompetence in every field.

Katabasis said...

At risk of engaging your selective and confusing censorship Kerry I thought I'd make an attempt at communicating with you once more:

Firstly - did YOU attend the convention on modern liberty yesterday? If not, why not? You'll be pleased to know that I stood up and publicly criticised Chris Huhne and David Davis (amongst other people in the "westminster village" to their faces, to applause and cheers).

Secondly, Booker is spot on. And his comments apply far more widely - e.g. The cabinet, the MSM and so many politicians like yourself seem to have been 'dimly aware' of the Convention, never mind people's actual feelings on the matter. The convention was attended by lots of high profile people and a lot of important things were said - yet where is the damn coverage? Jade gets wall to wall attention across the MSM, The Beeb sends hundreds of staff to the Olymipics, yet the most important civil liberties event in recent times has barely received a whimper outside the Guardian.

I think you really need to start paying attention to the sentiments that are being expressed wherever the public has a voice online - the Guardian's comment is free, BBC's have your say, even (I know you'll hate it) the Daily Mail. (And to be honest, The Daily Mash is now rapidly becoming the best journalism I think I've ever seen - certainly communicates more truth in jest than the rest of the MSM combined). These aren't just "trolls" as you so drolly like to write us dissenters off - these are a representative sample of the UK population expressing their rage.

You - along with many many other members of the Westminster bubble have fatally misunderstood the public mood, which is turning increasingly ugly.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Is it really about the decisions that are being taken, or is it the way we communicate those decisions, or the way we consult or fail to consult before we take them? Obviously it's partly about the expenses (although the misperceptions on that front are immense), the sleaze, the scandals.

Yes.

You take bad decisions, you implement vague and unenforceable laws purely for their sound bite value, you tell us and never ask us, you break manifesto promises, you make laws for us but then exempt yourselves and there is sleaze and scandal.

But why, in an age where politicians are physically more in touch than ever before with the people they represent, are they perceived to be so out-of-touch?

You see, you think you're in touch, but really, you aren't. You pretend to consult us, but you only listen to the people who say what you want to hear and then you go and do whatever it was you were planning to do anyway.

You are all completely divorced from the miserable reality of our lives and you think that by merely spending more of our money on worthy-sounding, dressed-up "causes" that you can make everything better.

You're making everything worse. Stop trying to help us and get the hell out of our way. You are useless and incompetent and I really wish the government would do nothing, because everything you do is either a waste of my money or is used as a tool to spy on me, nanny me or tell me how to live my life.

cornyborny said...

I thought Brooker's piece was incisive and resonant. He's gone up in my estimation.

"This cynicism, this disillusionment, this disgust even, with politicians? Is it really about the decisions that are being taken, or is it the way we communicate those decisions, or the way we consult or fail to consult before we take them?"

Yes, yes, and yes. Many terrible, damaging decisions have been taken by this government. By all forms of government (local, national and supra-national), if truth be told. The manner in which the electorate have been progressively excluded from the realm of debate, with token, rigged "consultations" providing the sole figleaf of accountability simply compounds the frustration. People disagree sometimes - that's opinions for you - but what is different today is that those dissenting voices are not taken account of.

That you need to ask the above questions is significant in itself, and speaks of your own disconnect with the public.

P.S. Asking for commenters to observe politeness would probably meet with more success if you didn't call those same commenters "trolls" in the same sentence.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

I'm a BNP man - supporter, member, activist and party officer but - and this is truth - I'm trying to help you here.

" But leaving all that aside - what can be done about it? This cynicism, this disillusionment, this disgust even, with politicians? Is it really about the decisions that are being taken, or is it the way we communicate those decisions, or the way we consult or fail to consult before we take them? "

I assure you, it's the decisions that are being taken first and foremost. We are getting that all the time on the doorstep and in the street. This attitude ranges across ages from teenagers to pensioners, from binmen to doctors.

All we ever hear from the politicians like Voldemort is "We're not getting our message across". No no no no - you ARE getting your message across. We just don't like it.

This isn't the fault of juniors like you - it's the party leaders that are responsible - along with the academics, media, etc. You could try at least disputing with your party leadership, and voting against the whip these days. The Labour party (along with the Tories and LibDems) is seen as little more than a collection of mafias.

We see things like £325 BILLION given to the RBS (a bank), but LDV (a manufacturer) refused a mere £30 MILLION. What are we supposed to think? Fussing about Fred the Shred's pension is nothing more than displacement activity. And frankly, if you backdate - legislate to remove his contractual rights from him, then that really is the end of the Rule of Law in this country. Who will be next? No - I don't like the scumbag either, but try thinking implications. What if a future BNP government had that as a precedent to backdate legislation to take YOUR pension off YOU?

You call the BNP "violent" - but how many illegal wars have we declared? How many hundreds of thousands of people have we bombed to pieces? Ordinary non-BNP people out on the street also make these same connections. And so so much more.

Little things you and your party don't notice: I'm skilled and knowledgable about psychology - to postgrad level. So I know that the culture you grow up in plays a very large part in creating your psychology (it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's close enough for present purposes). Look at Somalia - it has been an insane lethally violent culture for more than thirty years. And here we are importing by the tens of thousands men raised in that culture. Do you suppose they discard their Somali psychology and pick up a new bright shiny British one at the port of entry? Somalia is a culture where it is a survival-enhancing characteristic to kill anyone official who challenges you - so we end up with dead policewomen on the streets of Leeds. The perps didn't think about whether or not to kill her - it was a natural automatic response - as embedded in the psychology of someone raised in that insane culture. And YOU people have allowed tens of thousands of them in - approx 1/4 million in all. Perhaps it's the Labour party that's insane? Well, that's one of the messages I get on the streets.

The Labour government is toast at the next GE. It's not just a question of how much of a majority the damned Tories will get (and curse you for making yet another Tory government inevitable) - it's a question of whether you'll even get enough seats to be the official opposition. And once you sink that low - where are you going to get the funding from to finance your enormous party debt? Rich people don't give you money because they love you - they give you money in expectation of a return. And if there is no possibility of a return because you aren't even the official opposition?

I used to be a Labour party member and activist. I will be sorry to see it going out of existence. I left when the first big manifesto pledge was reneged on - the one in 1997 about a referendum on Proportional Representation. The nearest thing I could find to the old Labour party that I cherished was the BNP - decidedly NOT a "Right Wing" party. I could never bring myself to join, or even support and vote for, a right-wing party. Go read the last BNP election manifesto - I'd be mightily surprised if you didn't agree with 75% of it. And start thinking for yourself instead of letting your party whip, the BBC, and the Guardian create your opinions for you.

Not one word abusive to you - and it was all well meant. I and others don't think you are BAD - we just think you don't know anything much.

All so sad, and all your own doing

Northern Lights said...

I don't even know where to start with this idiot.

Criticising politicians is like shooting fish in a barrel, but this is just indulging in the laziest journalism imaginable.

It shows a complete ignorance of the political process and the work that politicians do on behalf of their constituents.

I would go on, but I think this quote sums up what I think rather well:

'Some may belittle politics but we who are engaged in it know that it is where people stand tall.

'Although I know that it has many harsh contentions, it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster.

'If it is, on occasions, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.'

James Burr said...

Well, you at least are showing some self-awareness, Kerry. The answer to your post is a simple, "Yes." Is it what you do ("Yes!"), is it how you consult or fail to consult? (Yes!) Is it the expenses and freebies? (Yes!)

Just look at the war on Iraq. One of the biggest peace time demonstrations ever seen in this country and what happened? It was ignored. So we found ourselves involved in a war that we KNEW was based on lies, has damaged our international repuatation, cost billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of lives.

Or for another emotive issue, the smoking ban. No-one asked for it, no-one voted for it (it may have been in the manifesto but who would choose their general election vote on such an issue - especially when it only proposed banning it in food-serving establishments?). It seems only the likes of ASH were consulted (I certaibly wasn't!) and ASH are so representative of public opinon they only receive £14000 in donations from the public per year. It is then forced through without manifesto mandate and results in the pub closure rate increasing twentyfold and 100,000 people losing their jobs as no-one now sees the point in going to the pub. Does Government respond to this clear failure by relaxing the Ban (as is happening across the World, even in smoke-hating California?) No! They ignore the public's anger and push onward, banning public displays of tobacco and forcing us to hear Alan Johnson give interviews where not one single truth is uttered! (I heard him on the Today show and everything he said was a lie - "there was a consultation of 100,000 people" (No, there wasn't - 87000 of them were employees of "smokefree partnerships"); "the evidence from Iceland and Canada says it works" (No, the Official statistics from both nation's show smoking rates increased"); "The Ban has been a success" (really? 'Nuff said). People are having laws thrust upon them that they don't want and never asked for and are then being lied to, BLATANTLY, by politicians who want to force this stuff through.

So yes you're right - it's not being consulted. It's being told we've been consulted when we haven't. It's being lied to again and again and again. And then just to top it off, to put the icing on the cake, we get the expenses scandals, the second home fiddles, the all-expenses paid outings abroad (Copyright Speaker Martin).

So good on you Kerry for realising why politicians are so loathed. But Brooker is a very good writer and as such he sums up how many feel about how they are treated by politicians. His image of having someone piss in your face and then disgustedly flick the last few drops at you really does sum up how many people feel. Hell, I've hated politicians before (of course I have - I lived through Thatcherism!) but never have I felt as if they hold me is such complete contempt. And conversely, never have I felt the same way about them. Even elections seem pointless. Why bother? We can only vote in another bunch of politicians. Their rosettes will be a different colour but the end result will be the same.

Dick the Prick said...

So criticism is trollery? How's about the fact that nothing changes, that your insulation from the real world should, ordinarily, be met with scorn?

But it's much worse than that, the interventions made are harmful and have -ve consequences. You view the administration of our money as your personal honey pot etc etc etc.

How many politicians and hangers on are there now, with Jock, Welsh, NIrish and local - it's bloody recession proof.

How about a gesture in that famous court of public opinion - 10% pay cut for all elected clones?

The Jock budget being forced thru so that people didn't miss their jollies - don't need Mastercard for that - it's priceless!

Womble On Tour said...

Is it worth even trying when you finish with the words "references to 'snouts' and 'troughs' are banned" ? OK, I'll give it a go.

Actually, the s 'n' t thing matters, because like it or not it's very much part of the public perception. You might think that's unfair, but remember you treat us in exactly the same way; SOME people abuse, for instance, the right to demonstrate, or the right to free speech (in your view). So you impose restrictions on everyone, abuser or not, by banning free demonstation within a km of the House. In other words, you tar everyone with the same brush. Another example: your government refuses to destroy the DNA of innocent people; you know some people are guilty of crime but by keeping details of the innocent too you're tarring them with the same brush. And you want to track every phone call we make, every mail we write; not because you think we're all criminals, but because you know some of us are and...you're tarring everyone else with that brush. "Snouts and troughs" (am I banned now ?) is only the same thing happening in reverse. You'd accept that some of you number have abused the system, but you don't like being tarred with that brush. OUR consolation is that at least you now know what it feels like !

If politicians are really bothered about how they're perceived (and the evidence suggests that they do not, because there's nothing particularly new here) they could do a couple of things straight away 1) stop behaving like children at PMQs; PMQs are the public's window on our rulers - perceptions are not helped when we see you shouting and bawling at each other, stifling debate. 2) LISTEN to people. Example, if I say to you that such-and-such a thing is wrong, do not say, NEVER say "Ah, but it was / would be far worse under the Tories". To say such a thing rather than deal with the challenge I've thrown at you demonstrates a refusal to listen which drives people up the wall. 3) ADMIT to making mistakes. I don't think there's a soul in the world who thinks that this government has hendled the financial crisis perfectly, and without error. But can you find a government representative prepared to hold up their hand and say "We cocked up on xyz" ? Failure to admit fault is itself a colossal failure in government, and leads to an ever-rising contempt in the eyes of the public; ever-rising until that is, the contempt reaches a tipping point and they get rid of you.

Elby the Beserk said...

Yes, diss the oppo in your first line. More to the point, did you see the reaction to Straw's appalling casuistry in the Guardian the previous day?

Where are we going with NL, Kerry, that we now have Harman saying that the court of public opinion is higher than the court of law? Mob rule by government? Show trials? First they came for Fred Goodwin's pension, and I said nothing - then they came for mine?

None so blind as them as don't want to see, as my Gran used to say. Get saving now, anyway, my dear, as I think that even Bristol will see a Labour calamity next year. As for the rest of the south west, well we have never taken to socialism, or authoritarianism.

Bye.

Elby the Beserk said...

Question, Kerry - is someone who disagrees with New Labour automatically a troll? In that we have not seen the light, or taken the path of the chosen?

We are awful, aren't we?

Anyway, don't know how old you are, but I suspect I voted Labour for close to the number of years as you have been alive. Of course, a gentleman does not ask the age of a lady, but he might as you - does it not concern you that so many core voters now LOATH New Labour?

Or are we just trolls?

Glenn Vowles said...

It would help if you just gave straight answers to straight questions Kerry!! Why so much question avoidance, argument technique in place of substance...??

JYD said...

I think the main cynicism comes not from a lack of engagement with the public but a feeling that they (politicians) are only doing it to keep up appearances. Whilst politicians may listen to their constituents, they then appear to completely disregard their views anyway - the Iraq War, ID cards, third runway at Heathrow etc. When coupled with the interpretation that the 'other lot' are the same or somehow manage to beeven worse then people just lose faith in politicians as a whole - there's no real choice, only the illusion of choice. Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil and all that.

*shrug*

The thing is, that's just my interpretation of the situation. People are far more complicated and varied and there are no doubt hundreds of reasons why people lose faith in politicians. There's no single thing that answers the question. Is the question even big enough to contain the scope of attitudes towards the political process? Probably not.

Personally, my suspicion and distrust of politicians revolves aound party politics - to me, it looks more like you're (the collective you're) concerned with beating the opposition than serving the public. Whether that is the case or not, that's how it looks to me.

This isn't a problem that's solely confined to politicians though, political commenters, activists and the like only serve to make things worse. I've looked back over some of the past entries on this blog and got to the period before comments were moderated. There are a lot of horrible things said there by some commentors who seemed more interested in winning an argument than in presenting their views. And I find that a real political turn-off.

*shrug*

Of course, that's just me and my views.

Incidentally, as a former constituent of Jack Straw, I can confirm that he did (I've been gone a for a month now, he might have stopped for all I know) frequently have his soapbox sessions in the town centre. He also had (probably still has) a weekly column in the local paper as well, and he's always been fairly easy to get hold of. In a weird coincidence, he was on the train station meeting someone on the day I left Blackburn for Bristol and he had time to smile/wave/shake hands with people on the platform even though it looked like he was there on private time.

Not me of course, but then I am one of those anti-war people, and he's never been too keen on us. To be honest, I'm not even that keen on us, and I agree with us!

~ JYD

Sun said...

"I suppose it's inevitable that politicians will be accused of not listening when they do something someone doesn't like..."

Unfortunately Jack Straw and the government's decision to veto the release of the cabinet minutes goes far beyong something I don't like. It breaks all the rules of democracy.

I think your piece misses the point with whats wrong here - its not about communication, its not about expenses, its not about sleaze, its not about scandals - its the fact that the decision to veto in this instance is just plain wrong but yet accepted by politicians on both sides as justified.

Whats your feeling about the veto?

bevanite said...

Brooker really does seem angry doesn't he? In times like these anger is a bi-product of social difficulty caused by economic depression.
I reserve a lot of my anger for particular politicians, Mrs T and all that she represents make the blood boil. We can't forget those who have changed the course of all our lives forever with their brave decisions, Nye Bevan and his NHS, Lloyd George and his People's Budget, (even) Blair's minimum wage and I do believe Harriet Harman's personal fight for equality.
Many who complain however, faced with the question, would never stand for election and therefore try and change the political landscape they so despise. Some of the most intelligent and forward thinking journalists and commentators who criticise governments and particular politicians shudder at the thought of being directly accountable for what they say, should we be able to vote out journalists from the newspapers we read many would be long gone.
It is easy, and lazy, to criticize without offering alternative. The digust with politicians is born out of the blame culture, when things go badly we need a face to pin it on. To say, however that they are far removed from society is surely wrong...surgeries bring those with the worst problems to their door, many of these disgusted commentators do not leave the Notting Hill caf├ęs within which they frantically type out their hatred for those in power. Politicians get it wrong sometimes. They're not superhuman. We cannot attack them for being 'too human', in making mistakes while simultaneously being too far removed from 'us lot'.
deep breath...bracing myself for any responses

Kerry said...

THIS COMMENT IS FROM DAVE A - HE WANTED ME TO EDIT OUT THE LAST BIT, AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT

Hi Kerry I hope you are well. If I can’t use “snout” and “trough” what about proboscis and receptacle? Joking apart I think it is very brave of you to invite a debate on the government, especially as most people will be going for the throat. As you know instinctively I am not one of Labour’s obvious voters, but try and be objective in my criticism and grudging occasional praise. The current economic crisis I do not entirely blame on the government, and that is from someone who spent 2 months unemployed in 2008. A number of bankers including the Bank of England’s Mervyn King have been stabbing Darling and Brown in the back about their “light touch” approach to regulation. One of the reasons that the City and Docklands has become the world’s premier financial centre, over taking Wall Street and Tokyo was because of the “light touch.” Yes the UK is the banking centre of the world because the American’s regulatory body was becoming intrusive, it is just a shame that the trust appears to of been abused.

Where I believe Labour have been plain wrong is on civil rights. ID cards, 42 day detention, CCTV and the smoking ban. I do feel that Labour wants to monitor me 24 x 7 x 365 and Stella Rimington who knows surely better than most what powers the state has, agrees with most of the population. Democratically ID cards, 42 days and CCTV are more fundamental potential attacks on civil liberties, but you know how apoplectic I am about the smoking ban. I have been involved in the pro choice smoking movement for 3 years now and despite what you say you maybe listening but not hearing. Kerry I have debated this for a long time with you and have you ever said “I have just spoken to Alan Johnston and get in contact with him, he is expecting your call so you can discuss ways for very small amendments to the ban to keep all parties happy.” Not only with yourself have I hit a brick wall at the Labour Party. To finally answer your question the fact that communication and fact dissemination via the internet is so quick and utterly in depth, a vague notion picked up in a national daily or news can be researched and critiqued in literally seconds. Also the internet’s anonymity allows people to be more caustic in their language too. However I do believe Labour have made their bed and must lie in it.

cornyborny said...

A frightening new dimension to the perceived arrogance and confrontational nature of the political classes emerges with reports of the army being readied to open fire on the British public should mass protests or riots occur.

Are these reports erroneous? I sincerely hope so. Are the measures they describe unthinkable? Not any more. And that speaks volumes about the situation today.

Why should a so-called "summer of rage" even be a possibility in a wealthy democracy? Because the democratic system is broken; long-established, conventional means of communication with the powers that be have been closed off to the common person.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts concerning this, Kerry. Something more considered than Tom Harris-esque complacent dismissal would be particularly welcome.

Dick the Prick said...

This ain't partisan by the way. I think you're all just gobby hairdo's who never learnt to shut the hell up and NOT have an opinion occasionally.

bevanite said...

@Northern Lights, great quote. copied and pasted. cheers.

Northern Lights said...

A quick note to all those talking about 'snouts in the trough' etc...

Paxman has an interesting take on this in his book 'The Political Animal' where, to paraphrase, he argues that corruption in British politics receives so much coverage because it is so infrequent.

Whereas in a lot of other countries (naming no names) political corruption is endemic, and therefore accepted and not reported, in Britain journalists make such a fuss because it is unusal.

Of course the upshot of this is that it gives the peverse impression that corruption is endemic, and editors fan this fire because it's cheap journalism and it sells newspapers.

Katabasis said...

No response to the outpouring of anger Kerry?

By the way - we're not responsible for the 400+ angry comments left on Brooker's piece, agreeing with the thrust of his argument.

Real people Kerry. Real people.

donpaskini said...

Hi Kerry,

If it is any consolation, I reckon Charlie Brooker would be far ruder about the UK Libertarian Party and suchlike if he had ever heard of them. Let alone the vile, racist rubbish of 'Sir Henry Morgan'.

Kerry said...

Just for the record, and as demonstrated by previous posts on here, I think Charlie Brooker is a talented writer, although I'm never quite able to watch Screenwipe these days without recalling this piece: http://tinyurl.com/68nlx7

I assume he's someone of pretty decent instincts, otherwise I wouldn't have posted about his article in the first place.

Old Holborn said...

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.

Frank Zappa

Hi Kerry

We've seen the brick wall, stop trying to sell ice creams and popcorn.

It's over.

DaveA said...

Don Paskini, your comments just sum up why Labour are so behind in the polls. The minute someone makes a comment critical of a group of people, racist rings in the air. Legitimate debate is stiffled by cheap name calling.

I consider myself an un-PC non racist, I like to look at the facts cooly and make my own mind up. Kerry has said in the past that my views are the limit they she is prepared to publish.

Criticising Sir Henry has got my back up. You could of said he was a bit extreme, tactless and wrong. But no, you play the race card.

Now I have to say as someone who lives in inner city London and has quite a bit of contact people with Somalians there is a grain of truth in what he says. With the exceptions of the Somalian guy who owns my local internet cafe and I use his printer and photocopier. Also the absolutely charming waitress who served me in a cafe the another night, she was a really nice person.

Also I consider myself working class and a chav. I am always ashamed of my pier group with their beer bellies, Union Jack tattoos who yobbo their way around abroad, thick as pigsh1t. Criticism can be both ways, especially when reviewing my own.

Katabasis said...

So all of these people invest their time and energy in responding to you Kerry, and you can't even grace us with a decent reply?

....And you're honestly in doubt as to why politicians are viewed as being out of touch and self-absorbed?....

Phil Wilson said...

For what it's worth, I've been seeing Brooker's opinion crop up in conversation with my friends over the last few weeks, and hardly any of them are normally interested in politics.

Obviously, my main interest here is you, but I'm certain that the following could be applied to hundreds of other Labour MPs:

As a constituent I call tell you that my cynicism is based on the fact that you claim to be a member of a left (or centre-left) party, who blogs and twitters about various issues in a particular light, and then seems to vote contrary to the opinions you've voiced, but in-step with the party. This gives the impression that individual MPs are reasonably pointless, and that what two or three cabinet members say (plus whips and other enforcers), goes.

That is to say, even if you *are* listening, which is impossible for us to judge, it's not making any difference.

Like I say, this could apply to many other Labour MPs, and that seems to be the problem.

It looks like my vote in the next GE will help get the Tories in, even if it's not for them :(

@Katabasis - I'm a Bristol resident interested in all the relevant topics but didn't hear about the Modern Liberty do at Trinity until the end of Saturday.

For what it's worth, I think Bristol Dave's comment is the best here (oh, and this is my real name, and you've had correspondence from me in the past, so you have all my biases on file!).

Kerry said...

"You claim to be a member of a left (or centre-left) party, who blogs and twitters about various issues in a particular light, and then seems to vote contrary to the opinions you've voiced, but in-step with the party."

Examples? If you mean on civil liberties issues, I've never made any pretence of agreeing with the libertarians. Because I don't.

Bristol Dave said...

Examples? If you mean on civil liberties issues, I've never made any pretence of agreeing with the libertarians. Because I don't.

Examples?

OK.

You imply that vast improvements have been made in accountability by the New Labour government and that you don't understand why people think you're out of touch, thereby implying you think that you know the public mood/feeling, but yet you:

* Voted against a transparent Parliament
* Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards
* Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws
* Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war

Which, to me, suggests a startling ignorance to general public mood, (supported by articles in the MSM etc) but a clear idea of how the party whips want you to vote.

Terry said...

As a Great Grandmother who does not normally post on 'blogs' I have to comment on one remark that the politicians 'listen' to the people. In all my years as a Labour supporter, I thought that this was the case. However, now I see that we are entering a time where the present Government is so out of touch with the millions of people in this country that will vote next year.
We are bullied and spied on, we have lost our rights as human beings and are told what to do and when to do it. Did this government listen to the 12 million smokers that were forced outside social venues ? My generation does not take kindly to being lied to. Mine, and millions of others will show our disgust in the next election.

Northern Lights said...

Bevanite will be delighted to know where that quote came from ;)

Northern Lights said...

DaveA - so the BNP aren't racist then?

I know libertarians bang on about the 'righteous' (lets leave aside how ridiculous this is for now) using the 'R' word to stifle debate, but should we not use this term, even when it is accurate?

bevanite said...

@Northern Lights, schoolboy error on my part - that point goes to you. well done. Wasn't it from the last appearance at PMQs? Maybe he had an epiphany.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Is it really about the decisions that are being taken, or is it the way we communicate those decisions, or the way we consult or fail to consult before we take them?

Kerry, Labour don't consult with the electorate, you consult with those who agree with you. And a lot of the time you pay them to do so.

It's good that you have spotted the problem. Now, how about stopping it, eh?

It only encourages 'les autres'.

And Scottish Labour have the gall to object to a 'consultation' that garnered only 260 responses.

Nobody likes you, because you don't care. We have been entirely cut out of democracy.

Kerry said...

Bristol Dave, I've discussed those issues - and the misleading nature of theyworkforyou labels - on here several times before, and I would challenge you to demonstrate that I've ever said one thing on those issues and then voted the other way because I was told to do so. I would also challenge your assertion that the public (by which you seem to mean the chattering classes) were so opposed to these measures.

Dick P - yes you are paranoid and yes they are out to get you.

Bristol Dave said...

Bristol Dave, I've discussed those issues - and the misleading nature of theyworkforyou labels - on here several times before

Misleading? I'm sorry, I don't buy that. Let's take one issue, ID cards. TheyWorkForYou lists 13 votes relating to the introduction of ID cards, and you voted in favour of the proposals at all 13 votes. Therefore it is in no way misleading, and in fact very accurate, to state that you voted "strongly in favour of them".

and I would challenge you to demonstrate that I've ever said one thing on those issues and then voted the other way because I was told to do so.

Not directly - read my post again. You claim to be in touch with the public (and I note with interest dismiss my opinion shared by many in the MSM let alone anywehre else as being held by "the chattering classes", which presumably is how New Labour dismiss any valid opinion they don't agree with) but yet vote AGAINST an investigation into the Iraq war.

Pray tell Kerry, how on earth this can be representative of the public's view of the Iraq war?

A survey in 2007 showed More than half of the British population would not trust the government again if it said war was needed to protect national security. I'd wager that proportion has grown over the last couple of years.

The only reason the government wouldn't want an investigation, and the same SOLE reason that Jack Straw veto'd the release of the minutes of the meetings leading up to it, was to save the government's face. This reason alone, to deny the public the truth on a war that has cost us billions of pounds and countless lives is absolutely, irrefutably disgraceful. Your entire party should be ashamed, and I'm sorry to say it Kerry but you should be ashamed for your unwavering support of the government on this particular issue.

On the example of ID cards, many polls have shown increasing opposition to them. The best you can hope for is indifference, rather than support, and most of that is down to people being ill-educated on the problems with the scheme.

So this is how it's done, is it? The government "consult" on measures they want to introduce - by carefully choosing to only "consult with" people who will agree with them - and then dismiss any opposition as "the chattering classes" and therefore invalid?

Democracy in action. The polls and stats are there in black and white but still you choose to ignore them.

Civil liberties is now a big issue for a large proportion of the public. It's not just us "libertarians". Look at how many articles the Guardian has done on it, for goodness sake. ID cards are not wanted by the public, mainly because you've done such a piss-poor job in selling the idea to us. People know they won't do a thing to help fighting terrorism, they know it will cost an unimaginable amount of money, they know you'll just get EDS to implement it and it will arrive in much the same way as any other government IT project - late, over-budget, and unfit for purpose, people know that you're lying when you say it's for our own good. Trust the public's intelligence with the respect it deserves, and maybe you might get some respect back.

Kerry said...

You're conflating the Iraq war with a view on the wisdom of having an inquiry into the war while our troops are still there. I didn't support the war, but took a different view on opposition motions calling for an inquiry, for reasons I've explained before.

ID cards - again, my position on this has been entirely consistent. I don't think they're a threat to civil liberties, I think they could be useful - Norway, which I think most people would regard as a pretty liberal country, have them and people there have told me they don't see what all the fuss is about in the UK. I have concerns about the cost and deliverability of the programme, which I've expressed. That would be the deciding factor for me, and in the current economic situation I think there's an argument that the project should be put on hold. (Perhaps I should have said liberals/ libertarians, although I regard the likes of Henry Porter and Shami C as left-wing libertarians).

The theyworkforyou tag I most object to is the voting against a transparent parliament, which is a complete distortion of what we were voting on. And the Iraq inquiry, as you have proved by your response, obviously misleads people too.

You can't keep accusing someone of not being in touch with the public just because they don't agree with the section of the public that thinks the way you do. Democracy doesn't mean he who shouts the loudest or blogs the longest gets his way.

Bristol Dave said...

First, I'd like to thank you for continuing to publish and respond to my comments. It is nice to have a debate with somebody who is actually willing to answer my points.

On the TheyWorkForYou site, I would concede that the statement on your vote on transparent parliament isn't fair, as you were absent from 7 out of the 8 votes, and it seems from your voting history that if you have an opinion on something, you'll vote on it, so you weren't absent as it's easier than voting against.

On the issue of Iraq, I don't think it's really relevant whether the troops are still out there. I am deeply against the war in Iraq, but nevertheless I support the troops in that they are just doing their job, and it seems they're doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. I feel by voting not to have an inquiry whilst the troops are still out there the government are just hoping the embarassment of possibly the worst foreign policy decision ever made will just go away.

On ID cards, I am against them as I don't think they'll really offer any kind of benefit but I also feel that you can't use other country's examples as support for an ID card scheme here. Firstly, their governments might have frankly better track records when it comes to implementation of IT projects or security of personal data.

Also their scheme might be vastly different to ours.

If ours was just (for example) like a driving license that stored your name, address and date of birth then there may well be a lot more public support for them - or at least, there would have been if people actually trusted the government with their data.

But the planned ID cards are to hold 50 different items of information about the individual, with all SORTS of people having access to the data, including bizarre additions like the Food Standards Agency.

The response to this is always "If you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" but I would contend that it is simply none of their f**king business where I've lived in the past or if I've changed my name. It's the principle, rather than me being "scared" or "paranoid".

I bet we'd see a massive increase in identity theft if we were forced to neatly package up all information required to steal an identity into one handy card or database - especially given the stories on data security.

Finally, you have to wonder, if our ID card scheme doesn't differ that much from other countries, why there is so much opposition to them here? Could it be due to the rather "totalitarian" feel the government seems to deal with everything, and the erosion of civil liberties in general?

Dick Puddlecote said...

"Dick P - yes you are paranoid and yes they are out to get you."

Apologies, but I seriously cannot understand that response. How is it being paranoid to see 'consultation' after 'consultation' manipulated to achieve the required result, by cutting out those who are most affected by the opposing view to the government's?

The SNP received 530 replies to their 'consultation' on minimum alcohol pricing, less than half of those from the public. The reasoning given for pushing through what Shona Robison described as "unashamedly radical" proposals, was solely based on the views of 'medical groups'. Not the public. Medical groups in a country where the NHS is funded by government, tend to be overwhelmingly ... err ... funded by government.

So why should the public care about politicians and government when you don't bother listening to us?

It's not paranoid, it's what is going on and why we are disconnecting with MPs. You asked for reasons for the emnity towards politicians; I gave my opinion; You label me as paranoid.

Doesn't that just prove my point?

It's what I believe and it's what most people I know believe. But because you don't, we are all wrong and should just shut up?

Good grief.

Remember Remember said...

You've got ACPO Ltd. untouchables running policing policy.

You've got cameras everywhere, even in pubs.

You've got our medical record being put onto a central computer system.

You've got ID citizen cards about to happen.

1984 is imminent.

All you need now is a pretext, like riots, to complete the takeover.

1984 is is imminent.

Claudette said...

Bravo..Sir Henry Morgan well said!

Kerry said...

White riot - I wanna riot
White riot - a riot of my own

Sten guns in Knightsbridge - I'm sure MI5 are on the case already.

Northern Lights said...

Quick note to the BNP chap:

You are wrong, just plain wrong.

You are either a poor, misguided fool with a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between socialism and the subtle but poisinous malice of the BNP or, well, the alternative is obvious.

Phil Wilson said...

Hm, I didn't expect to have to provide an essay so many thanks to Bristol Dave for taking this up!

For what it's worth, you seem to tacitly accept the public mantle of "everything that's wrong with the government today" in part thanks to the "Never rebels against their party in this parliament.". Looking down the list it would amaze me if there was genuinely not one bill where you had to be "convinced" to vote with the party. If there wasn't, then fair enough and I will feel less guilty about voting for someone else at the next General Election. Hurray for democracy! Boo for terrible parties to vote for :(

Perhaps on issues where the MP is absent there should be a third option such as "doesn't care" ?

"You can't keep accusing someone of not being in touch with the public just because they don't agree with the section of the public that thinks the way you do."

Well, actually you can if you're in the majority! I'm reasonably certain we could produce several extant polls that show the public disagreeing with a number of government policies (and Bristol Dave has done this for a couple of topics, although we all know how polls work). This would put the government "out of touch", and by the transitive association of your 100% support of government policies (or being generous and without checking the figures 90% support and 10% absent/doesn't care) would seem to make you also "out of touch". Perhaps we will only really find out what public opinion is at the next election?

I don't disagree that you talk to a lot of people and raise their issues in the house - this is good. But unless that stuff shows up in a Bill at some point, what does it matter to the wider electorate? (This is only partly rhetorical, I genuinely don't understand an MPs role here)

As an aside, if, for example, you're *opposed* to Libertarianism (instead of just disagreeing on several issues), the Nolan chart (which I'd not seen before today) makes you a Totalitarian. Does that sound fair?

(This is a bit of a disjointed, rambly comment, sorry about that, it's late.)

Kerry said...

There's a difference between libertarianism and broadly liberal views. My interpretation of libertarianism is that you believe individual freedoms should always, always outweigh concern for the collective good. In fact, you have no concept of the collective or community at all. I think it's a very selfish stance.

Kerry said...

PS I'd not come across the Nolan chart before - but I think it is based on an old fashioned notion of left and right wing, e.g. that Conservatives are socially conservative (there are a lot of libertarians amongst them now) and that Labour are socially liberal (we are, but not at the expense of what's best for the community as a whole).

As for your query re an MP's role - it's not just about legislation. A lot of it is about lobbying behind the scenes or in public, talking to Ministers, corresponding with relevant agencies, getting decisions overturned and forcing people to have a rethink. Voting is a small part of it. It's more about the machinery of government, and the way policy is implemented (or not implemented) which has an impact on people's lives.

Kerry said...

PS again - can't see at all why totalitarian should equate with populist!