Hallo World – (what?) how can I be sure there is anybody out there – I have been fed all sorts of rumours about this wonderful new web idea but when you are used to communicating via pigeon and semaphore the electronic ether is somewhat strange. We will simply have to test the waters and see.
Today I am reminded of something I wrote a while ago – being reminded of it by the pathetic posturing of the UK’s politicians re their utter arrogance towards being found out as a bunch of nest-feathering, trough-dipping ingrates. Give us your vote and do as you are told is their motto – they believe themselves to be better than you or me and never actually listen to anyone who disagrees with them. Sure they will act like they listen but they ignore everything (and evryone) they don’t like and when interviewed they answer questions they have never been asked. So, this from the (so far) unpublished The Lowdown on Politicians
In the modern world we are all used to politicians. They are the people we see on our television screens telling us what we think. They are the well-dressed, sun-tanned and obviously sincere people who promise us all sorts of things – that they will lower taxes, slash budgets, increase services, jump tall buildings at a bound, find a cure for cancer, eradicate poverty and disease all while upholding the virtues of commitment, honesty, and accountability. Then they get elected.
Before a politician can get elected they have to develop certain skills. Smiling for one, especially when lying in their teeth. As soon as a human being decides to become a politician strange things begin to occur. Teeth get capped, expensive clothing suddenly appears, hairstyles are improved and a look of studious interest is acquired. For the dedicated politician this sometimes happens before they join a political party – in those countries where the fantasy is of two party politics providing real democratic alternatives – which one hardly seems to matter.
Which party really seems to rarely matter much to the dedicated politician, in fact many of the most talked about (particularly by other politicians who also want to be talked about) have shown their political skills by having been members of different parties at different times. The uninititiated sometimes think that this might be a matter of changing realities or developing ideology but history shows it is usually the chance of a better job. The old party cry treason and iniquity while the new party extol the clarity of thought and new-found sense of reality the politician has shown.
In 1960s Britain a young lady, whose morals were of a significantly higher cast than those of the politicians with whom she consorted to earn an honest crust, one Mandy Rice-Davis, told the truth of such witterings ,”Well they would say that wouldn’t they?”. She may have been a member of what is known as the oldest profession, but it is one where honesty is a necessity, unlike politics.
The answer. More people should stand for election to the UK Parliament and we should all turn our backs on political parties – their members represent their party not us. Up here in Scotland things area bit better and I have to admit some of the things done by the current administration are worthy of applause but I remain suspicious of all political parties – and is it any wonder.
Thursday 21st May
So the story rolls on – the professional politicians scrabble about looking for some sort of solution that will protect their pampered lifestyles and preserve their power. Whatever they decide to do wll be the least they think they can get away with.The widepsread reaction of people wanting to do something about selecting decent, moral, hard-working people as their political representatives is a very positive sign. Here is an idea from a while back that may help.
Democratic Representation in the Scottish Parliament.
A Discussion Document for Democracy for Scotland Autumn 1998
One of the biggest problems facing the new Scotland is the inheritance of party interest seen so regularly in the dictatorial centre-led actions of the Labour Party since coming to power. Issues such as the cutting in benefit for single mothers and even the selection of candidates for the new Parliament have shown the top down style of British governance.
The rule of party is not the same as the rule of democracy and if the new Parliament does not address this problem soon we will find ourselves in the same old situating where government continues to effectively acts as buffer for the rich and powerful through the exercise of party discipline. If this seems overstated think of who this government has appointed as its advisers -–at a time when supermarkets are being exposed for rampant profiteering this Labour government seeks the advice of supermarket chain chief executives to develop policy!
There are many ways that party interest inhibits true representative democracy in the British state;
the parties tell the electorate who they can vote for;
the individuals chosen often have no real interest in the constituency they are chosen to stand for;
the individuals re not even required by law to live in their constituency once elected though many do have an address there;
once elected such individuals owe their position, career development and hope of advancement to the party machine and nor to the electorate who voted them in;
the interests of the electorate are always secondary to the interests and needs of the party, particularly in the case of inter-party disputes;
the need for consensus and unity in dealing with specific issues the electorate would like to see addressed, are subordinated to the dictates of the party line enforced by the party whip;
the divisive and fundamentally childish system of adversarial politics ensures the continuing domination of party interest;
this system actively fosters division when unity is required;
individuals who serve in more than one parliament are in danger of relying increasingly on personal connections with other representatives and the party whips which lead to situations of accepted mutual obligation which have nothing to do with representing the interests of the electorate they supposedly represent. The old cliché
that power corrupts is none the less relevant just because it is a cliché.
A Way Forward
The opportunity of a new Parliament can be turned into an opportunity for the creation of a new kind of politics in Scotland that is based on the direct democratic representation of the interests of the electorate. In order for this to come about it is necessary to target a constituency or constituencies in which the possibility of successful election exists.
The process is then to select a candidate from within that constituency who is already involved in some level of public or political activity in the widest sense. The candidate would be chosen from and answerable to a caucus formed from groups active within the constituency and would agree to represent the interests of the people as represented through the caucus within the limits of the candidate’s conscience. It is envisaged that only people with several years residency within the constituency would be considered as potential candidates. In order to protect the interests of the electorate, the caucus would have to be drawn from all possible groups and also welcome all concerned individuals within the constituency who wish to have input. There are many ways of doing this and regular open meetings funded directly by the Parliament n might be the optimum solution.
Additionally the following point s should be considered;
Whichever candidate is selected, they will agree to serve one term only, and be replaced by someone following the same selection procedure. This would go some way towards avoiding some of the problems mentioned above and it would discriminate against most individuals who see politics as a career. It might be possible to allow people to stand, and hopefully be elected a second time, but not consecutively.
The candidate, if elected would serve as a full-time representative, undertake no outside work or representation of any special interests;
The candidate, if elected., would hold regular meetings/surgeries with the caucus and all interested constituency groups;
The candidate, if elected, would undertake to fulfil all their duties in the clear light of day and be prepared to answer to the caucus or members of the electorate at all times (within sensible limits). Government in the United Kingdom is by its very nature secretive, manipulative and expert at presenting special interests as the public good. This is unsupportable in a truly representative democracy;
The candidate, if elected, will be prepared to take up matters prepared and presented by the caucus even when they go against perceived public interest as presented by mainstream political parties. This is of particular importance in the vexed question of sovereignty. The sovereignty of Scotland, which is manifest in the people of Scotland has never been handed over to the United Kingdom government, despite the contentions of the Establishment and its lackeys north and south of the border.
The candidate, if elected will be prepared to ally themselves with other representatives on the grounds of issues only. Any attempt to make long term political alliances, even with other representatives selected the same process without express consultation with the caucus should be considered a breach of faith with the electorate and should lead to resignation on demand by the caucus.
The people who showed their commitment to Scottish democracy by manning the VIGIL during its lifetime are the natural first port of call for this discussion and it is likely that the constituency incorporating Colton Hill, Edinburgh Central should be the test-bed for the ideas herein presented. Within Central Edinburgh there are many groups and individuals who could be contacted to consider the possibility of creating the necessary people’s caucus. They include tenants’ associations, a thriving local newspaper, school boards, gay activists, mental health survivors groups etc.
If support from such groups was forthcoming planning could begin soon for the second election of the Scottish Parliament and the aim would be to have at least one representative from every street in the constituency, as well as from the groups on the caucus. An added benefit of this approach would be that not only could the caucus put more people on the streets electioneering but that people would hear about the candidate and the ideas of true democratic representation from their neighbours.
The intention of this document is to engender a discussion about these ideas as widely as possible and to consider whether they are possible, practicable or even worthwhile. Perhaps people are not interested in democracy but when have they been asked.? Perhaps the cynicism towards this hypocrisy and bullying by politicians has not soured people as much as we think. The very existence of the VIGIL, which was created by concerned individuals and eschewed both party interest and organisation suggests that there is support for a new sort of politics in Scotland.
It is important that it is realised that many people have been effectively disenfranchised from the political system and in order to ensure as wide a support as possible, any literature developed be presented in simple and effective ways using the languages of the people. This should include Scots and any languages spoken by minority groups in particular constituencies as well as English e.g. Gaelic in Partick and Bengali in central Edinburgh. If there is not a concerted attempt to represent everybody in the constituency then this process would not be significantly different from party politics as they currently stand. There are some limitations and there should be no contact whatsoever with those representing racist or fascist viewpoints – viewpoints which go against Scotland’s heterogeneous history and culture. We must be aware of the needs of all sectors of society and be prepared to try and give a voice to everyone.
Saturday 30th May
So the politicians continue to bleat and tremble – and their leaders scramble to find a position that will allow them to do as little to change the status quo as possible I am reminded of a conversation I had long ago wioht The Man in The Bar. “ Politicans,” he snorted. “ Just like, bankers, and judges, there to do the will of the rich.” I asked what he meant and he said simply that if you take any group of the establishment, in politics, media, commerce and the law, and check out their backgrounds you find they went to the same few public schools and often Oxbridge. Thus he toldf me they live in a fantasy world where they only ever really meet people like themselves who believe the same things as they do and have never entertaned the possibility that anyone else on the planet outside their own charmed circle has anything interesting to tell them. They already know what is necessary to keep control of power and continue their own elite position and what else could possibly of any interest.
Their much vaunted assurance is in fact a combination of arrogance and an ignoracne of anything outisde their own expeerince. This of course is compounded in the plolitical wing of this section of society where it is an absolute rule that anyone who disagrees with you is the enemy. Many of these poor fools believe thevacuous tosh they spout because they simpy know no better. The one thing they have no capcity for, or understanding of, is critical thinking. As Bob himself said a while back, The Times They Are A-changin and this lot are incapable of recognising how much.
The one thing that does seem clear is that the pace of change is accelerating and you don’t have to be a millenial eschatologist to sense that thfuture of world is really uncertain – our so-called, and self-defined, elites led us here but are not capable of dealing with the consequences of their own actions. The only thing we can do is get involved and the minimum entry level for that is to CAST YOUR VOTE FOR CHANGE.
Monday 8th June
So the expected slaughter of the Labour Party at the polls happened. Hardly surprising but they still have hopes. Why? Partly because of their arrogance and hubris but also because so few people voted. This is a shocking indictment of the political system in the UK – even in Edinburghhome of the still new (ish) on Scottish parliament only 35% of the electorate thought it i worth turning out. This is as much a criticism of the other parties, including the SNP as it is of Labour. Labour can still delude themselves that they can get the votes of the 65% who didn’t vote but clearly the Thatcherite New Labour/Old Tory brand has been found out and short of a complete turnaround in their neo-liberal economic and social thinking would be required. What might help? Scrap all PFI, Scrap Trident and scrap all “advisers” being seconded to government from business at obscene rates of pay. However there is as much chance of that as Gordon Brown winning Britain’s got talent.
All of the political parties are in thrall to the bean-counters of the accountancy and management cartels that have taken a stranglehold on our government. Fantasists many of them may be but they are creating havoc with their twisted ideas about “targets” and their insane and fanatical belief that “management “ is a science, separate from the actual functioning of business. The government has long been filling high level Civil Service posts with such creatures, most, if not all of them PFI advocates who strangely always seem to end up with shares in the profits of whatever results from their intervention. It has been like seeing a fox being hired as the security consultant for a chicken farm and the sneaky resurgence of the criminal banking class shows that this government and all the rest of out professional politicians still cannot see the vacuity and potentially fatal short-term greed of the managerial classes. The disgraceful behaviour of individual MPS on top of the adoption of Thatcherite fiscal policy by the entire political establishment (with hardly a murmur from their ex schoolmates in the media) has allowed the fascist BNP to gain electoral representatives at the European level.
Change is happening and happening ever faster. The old cliché that you are rarely aware of how fast things change when you are in the midst of history unfolding has never been truer than now. And as the Labour Party writhes around in self-pity and the other parties hover like hungry vultures who is actually doing anything sensible or realistic about environment change, soaring poverty and increasing social breakdown? If it wasn’t so damn tragic it would be a hoot.
This keeping up a blog is not as straightforward as I thought – as the contortionist said to the actress. However there are always things to be said, particularly at a time when our politicians are running around like chickens with their heads chopped off while trying to pretend that the situation is close to normal. Well I suppose the situation is normal in the sense of the old US Army saying – Situation Normal All Fu**ed Up. Major international companies who a few months ago were celebrating the good times, are shedding jobs, forcing through pay cuts while all the time trying to hang on to their profits. That after all is what capitalism is all about. Profits. However wherever there is a profit there is always a loss. The clever (?) thing about capitalism is that it has been exporting the losses – in terms of poverty, disease, death, environmental degradation, pollution and all those other interesting by-products of the belief in never ending progress to the rest of the world for centuries now. And often enough – particularly in the good old UK large sections of the indigenous populating re treated exactly like “ abroad”. That is they are not worthy of being thought about other than in terms of sound bites. Which raises an interesting point.
Ten years ago while advocating recognition of he Scots language (and the importance of Scottish History ) within the education system I had the great privilege of working with Robbie Robertson, a high-up in the then Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum. Along with many others, we were greatly and continually vexed at the intransigence of members of the SCCC board and other government leaning types and their consistent refusal to appreciate the educational and social benefits of what we were pushing for. When his bosses suppressed a widely supported report into Scots and the teaching of Scottish History which they had commissioned Robbie to set up he was a bit miffed. After this he came up with the idea of the gatekeepers – people whose role in Scottish society was to keep as much of indigenous culture suppressed as they could. They saw anything authentically Scottish as inherently anti-Union and like the law, their forbears in education and the kirk (later suplpanted in its social role by the media) were always more concerned with protecting their own priveliged positins than thibking abut anything as crass as the ocmmon good, or helping htose in need. These people who conform precisely to the indigenous servant class of colonial masters as delineated by Fanon and others can perhaps best be described as McEnglish. In their McEnglishness they aspire to certain aspects of so-called British society which are at the root of our current problems. Although not all of Jock McEnglish and his clan went to merchant schools – modelled of course on the English public school system – it is the aspiration of all those who want to join their priveliged company to send their children to such benighted places. For having attended a public (or merchant) school and then served their time at Oxbridge as vast numbers of politicians, meeja-folk, company directors and upper military ranks have done they find themselves in a world which is different to mine and yours. The encouragement of self-confidence, perceived as arrogance by those outside their pale, amongst these people is accompanied something else. That is ignorance. Because they know themselves to be priveliged and are encouraged to believe that by the time they are in their mid-twenties they understand everything that it is necessary to understand they are incapable of learning anything really new. Critical thinking is not something they are aware of and their habit of only ever listening to others like themselves means the are unlikely ever to learn anything other than to repeat the mistakes of the past. If it was good enough for pater it is good enough for them is carved in their hearts. The combination of self-confidence or arrogance and this blinding ignorance of anything outside their own limited vision means that their effective roles as much Gatekeepers as Jock McEnglish and his ilk, makes them singularly unsuited to face up to the changes that now arise. The greatest of these is probably climate change but for our gatekeeper friends the greatest threat is not environmental devastation, famine or plague but anything that threatens their own odious self-importance and positions of privilege.(Duck Hotel anyone? Going cheap, or should that be quack?)
All of this utterly metrovincial group gladly espoused the militaristic Thatcherite doctrine of managerialism with its tick-boxes, targets and endless parasitic consultants, no one more so than son-of-the-manse Broun and none of them are capable of the creativity needed to meet the coming challenges. Even the disastrous Profit First Initiative has yet to be abandoned and our darling Chancellor sees less need for control over the merchant bankers (sic) than the Governor of the Bank of England.
The cliché has it that “cometh the hour, cometh the man” – well he wont come from this shoddy lot that’s for sure.
Heading off to the wilds of Easter Ross for a bit of R&R so nothing will appear probably for a couple of weeks. Before I go though it’s interesting that the Metropolitan Police have said there is no case to answer re New International’s alleged phone tapping. I though it was the DPP’s job to decide such things. Or is it the case that the long-term relationship between Roop the Scoop (nothing to do with any journalistic skills he might possess – you can work it out) and the Met since they aided his strike-breaking activities at Wapping is as strong as ever? Or is it merely that the metrovincial charmed circle – as they think of themselves – are acting as per normal and treating the law with disdain? Either way what with the merchant banker’s, MPs expenses and now this the old ways are under a bit of stress. Politicians and the media are in denial over the depth if the problems facing humanity at a global level so it would be too much to ask the died-in-the-wool, smug Brit establishment to show any clarity of purpose, wouldn’t it? Nice to hear Cameron saying that he believes in giving people second chances though – doesn’t seem to have been applied to many of his own (older) Tory MPs sacrificed to save face in the expenses scandal does it? Then again consistency, like morality is too much to ask from most of the denizens of the Westminster squawk-shop – particularly those who believe they were born with a right to be there. Hopefully the culture committee will grow some balls and summon not just Coulson, Hinton et al but Murdoch himself. That would be responsible, grown-up behaviour for politicians – fat chance eh?
Saturday 1st August
Well, heer I am back from a relaxing in time in beatiful Sutherland where it didn’t rain all the time and what do I find. Life in the Good Old U of K is getting crazier by the minute. Workers in the Isle of Wight are having to ocuupy a factory makng wind turbines to try and prevent its closure when Minister s in HM Government are constantly wittering on about the Green economy. Joined-up thinking is clearly beyond them as they carry on the Blair-Thatcherite policy of sound bite government – anything for a headline, never mind actually getting the public school Oxbridge numpties in charge of the actual day to day running of government (a.k.a. the Civl (?) Service) up to speed. Let’s just tell everbody we’re dedicated to the Green economy and they’ll believe us.Why should we? Just because it is in the newspapers – owned by a bunch of bigoted, Mammonite and often psychologically damaged individuals and cheats – on the box – controlled by types like those at the aforesaid Civil Service – all of who wander about with their craniai up their fundaments in the fantasyland of metrovincialism that is Londin and the south- east.
And it gets worse. Gary McKinnon who did the bampots at the Pentagon a favour by exposing just how terminally inept their security was, is to be extradited under a treaty that allows the US of A to target any UK citizenthey fancy for trial in their country without any proof at all. As Gary’s mum said the Americans would protect their own people I a similar, so why won’t our government? In fact it raises the point – what is goverement for? If government doesn’t protect its own citizens against foreign persecution on what grounds can it claim any legitimacy? If we had anything like a decent media such questions would be asked – don’t hold your breath.
And another thing – he said as the steam began to percolate from his ears – this metrovincial toffee nosed lot are extracting the micturative liqid are they not over the questio of helicopters in Afghanistan? I am virulently anti the delusive insanity that keeps the British government trying to pretend there is still a rump of Empire and sending British troops to various parts of the world in support of the Empire of Stars and Bars but their attitude to the brave men and women who put their live son the line for wages that are far less than the dodgy expenses of our so called representatives is disgusting. Millions can be spent on providing profits to their friends in the arms companies(cost overrun anyone?)– whose boards are ful of ex-CS and forces chaps – but w ehave a situatin where getting British casualties to hospital takes longer than the Yanks managed n Vetnam.And why? Lack of helicopters. Yet the mealy-mouthed moral degenrates of the New Labour (Old Tory?) government continue to say they support the troops fully and that they have enough helicopters even as they seek to cut the compensation injured troops receive.. They lie. They lie. They lie. The other lot will be no better as they are if anything even more mired in the arrogant duplicity of the public school Oxbridge metrovincial cess-pit that passes for politics in Britain today.
It is easy to criticise. Can anything be done. I believe so. Local campaigns on specific issues terrify the numpties – all you have to see is how the Police reacted to the last round of demonstrations to realise that our masters (they think that’s who they are, really, they do) deep down, want to have all protest designated as illegal. Well maybe if you write a letter to the papers or join a vox pop inanity on the airwaves to have your say, it’s all right. But exercising your democratic rights to peaceful protest – Christ man that’s just one step away from terrorism.
Soon I’ll be putting up a couple of papers with ideas about how to effect change but in the meantime get after them any chance you can.