Thursday 22 November 2012

Losing Focus On The Future

One of the “gaffes” allegedly made by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip RN is to an overseas dignitary who said that in his country’s representative chamber, or Parliament, they had 200 members.  The Duke is reported to have quipped, “It sounds like the right number, we have over 600 and most of them are useless.”

Some of us would see that as not so much a “gaffe” as an honest and intellectually perceptive comment on a complex issue.  Given what is going on in the House of Commons these days, let alone The Lords, some of us might be hard put to find as many as 200 being useful.

As well as the serially corrupt and less than honest arrangements relating to their property investments many of our MP’s want to be within walking distance of the
Palace of Westminster.  While my “walking distance” might amount to three miles or so, I suspect theirs is more in the region of 3 furlongs at most or 660 yards.

Which, purely coincidentally, is where some of the most expensive and desirable property in the world, currently, is located.  It is not surprising that so many of us are of the opinion that they are remote if not detached and live in a different world from the rest of us.

That world seems to have been self made.  George Bridges confessing on 20th November, in the “Telegraph” under the heading “The Tories have gone astray and I helped” says that the key to the problem of Parliament, Westminster and why we are so badly governed is that now political “strategy” is put well ahead of principles.

I would deny that “strategy is the right word.  It is more a succession of short term tactical moves dressed up as organized thought and given the name “strategy” to lend a veneer of respectability.  The crucial quote from the article is this:


“Before I go any further, let me be clear. The men and women with whom I worked were – are – Conservative to the core. Conservatism courses through their veins.

Yet during the Nineties all of us, and the entire political class, became hooked on a new drug, a new line in “retail politics”: to treat voters as a retailer treats consumers, constantly tweaking what was offered to meet changing trends, minutely analysing opinion polls and focus groups to pick off the voter in the marginal constituency.

As political parties became “brands”, their principles were reduced to “attributes”. Just as Heinz may change the level of salt, the label or the price of a can of baked beans, political parties began to ditch or adopt policies to suit the public taste, day by day, week by week.”


As today most of the “brands” in our shops are foreign owned, many of them are either junk products or junk food and “value for money” almost possible to find and we would be better off without them, this does summarise our politics very well.

More to the point however, is that in many western “democracies” today, allowing that the UK is a particularly bad form of it, power rests in the hands of the few who direct their attention to minority elements in the community whose votes are the key to whether a party gains power or loses.

This situation has been at the centre of many of the evils of British politics for a long while now and yet because we have a political class bound up with it and have been told repeatedly that British is best, the baleful effect on both policy formulation and decision making has been with us for a long time.

The recent BBC documentary, on at a late hour, which dealt with the 1966 to 1974 years of the Harold Wilson against Edward Heath elections reminded us that the real fight was to win “marginal constituencies” which represented a small proportion of the total and in which particular groups of voters were changeable in their views.

Given that the two parties were in thrall to certain groups in their own “fiefs”, it meant that whatever a majority of people might have thought, this is not what they were going to get.  That would be what either one set of lobbyists wanted measured against what would sell to the critical voters.

Much the same appears to have happened in the recent US Presidential and elections to Congress.  For the Presidential the Democrats seem to have technically outwitted the Republicans in delivering the swing votes in the marginal States.  This was done by money and airy fairy speechmaking.

The French election was also close to call in some respects and we have a German one up soon where the going could get a lot rougher than the international media are bargaining for.  A lot of voters are increasingly annoyed and this could begin to show as personalities overcome politeness.

The French constitution is always bust.  It is an established feature of their history.  The British Constitution is in advanced decay.  The American one is urgently in need of repairs and spare parts.  The German one, lovingly created by the USA and UK soon may begin to separate at the seams.

And all the focus groups in the world will be totally useless.

1 comment:

  1. "Some of us would see that as not so much a “gaffe” as an honest and intellectually perceptive comment on a complex issue."

    I think "some of us" is more like "almost all of us".