Thursday, September 24, 2009

The tedious party conference season is back

Will it ever be possible to hear a political debate other than the one about "the immigrants" that isn't shrouded in hollow Westminster-jargon?

With the soporific party conference season under way, it is clearer than ever that Britain's mainstream political debate is moribund.

Aside from the tiny elite of MPs, think tank people, Nick Robinson and Polly Toynbee, most people are not going to be remotely interested in the hollow language of Labour, Conservatives and, I'm afraid, the Lib Dems too.

I've lost count of self-referential newspaper articles trying to dissect the subliminal significance of Nick Clegg not wearing a tie or speculating over whether David Cameron will use an autocue or not. People are not interested. Especially because, at the risk of sounding overly cynical, the three parties really are regurgitating the same things with the only difference consisting in touches and tones.

The litany of this season is the word "cuts".

Nick Clegg spelt it out at the beginning of his speech. "Oh my god. What will that imply?", gawped the newspapers. "That's what David Cameron did too! But he sounded more confident", argued others. "And will Gordon Brown cut a submarine only or two?", is the big concern.

This is why people are falling pray to the far-right. It's not because Labour doesn't ape disgraceful headlines like this one. It's because people can't even remember the last time they heard a mainstream politician discuss something relevant to their day-to-day problems.

And when proposals are made, they are literally drowned in that exasperatingly hollow Westminster-jargon of "tough messages", "difficult choices", and "progressive austerity".

No wonder that when some populistic peddlers appear and mouth off hysterical xenophobic slogans, they strike a chord with people. All they need to do is rant about the most tribal of issues and the easiest of punchbags and half the job's done- especially with the direct help of million-selling tabloids doing the groundwork.

What's most striking is that, on the left, there is the biggest gap in history awaiting to be filled. Forget the broken record about immigrants, for a second. There's a list of concerns that would strike a chord with ordinary people -and with good reason. Except that nobody's out there to articulate them. People need to hear tangible solutions to low salaries, wage differentials, repossessed homes (65,000 this year alone), the cost of living, the cost of transport, job insecurity or raging unemployment.

The Lib-Dems could cash in on it, but instead they're eager to join in with the decrepit tediumfeast of Labour and Tory.

Nick Clegg's been repeating that "the party must make though decisions to be taken seriously by the voters", yet it's unclear how aping the others at a time of unprecedented unpopularity for the political establishment would help him break through that stubborn 18 per cent barrier.

The only time the Lib Dems looked like they were going to overcome political wilderness was when they were stating loud and clear that they disagreed with the other two. Iraq and top-up fees were their best moments. On both, the majority of the country was deeply at odds with the parliamentary majority and the Lib Dems were the only alternative on offer.

However, that was five years ago. Until they decide to bite and show some jaffas, you'll have to put up with more Nick Robinson reporting about the underlying implications of open neck shirts and gurning jaws.


PH said...

And when there's an issue like immigration flung around by the tabloids, the party in power loses objectivity even on that problem.

I was at Parliament today, watching a discussion panel on HIV positive migrants being deported to countries where they cannot get access to treatment.

The Home Office's approach is completely at odds with the Department for International Development (two depts within the same Government remember), who are being praised internationally for helping to push forward the agenda of universal access to important health services.

The Government is singing one tune internationally, and another at home, in its pursuit of the best possible image.

It's no wonder that people don't have much faith in politics. It has been reduced to the pursuit of the perfect presentation.

No2EU said...

Vote NO2EU!
We're different.
The only true alternative.
A coalition of trade unionists, political parties and campaigning groups which have come together to defend democracy here and across the European Union.

PH said...


Do you mind if I start a rival party called NO2NO2EU?

Anonymous said...

It's not the LibDems fault if you don't keep up with the news. Their proposal to tax £1m homes caused a bit of a stir as it sticks out from the rest.
Also yesterday Nick Clegg called for a timetable to withdraw our troops from Afhganistan which, correct me if I'm wrong, is not something currently supported by Labour and Tories alike.
So, you can go on with this exercise in whataboutery but the fact remains that the LibDems are different.

claude said...

Awrite Anonymous,
I did read about Vince Cable's £1m homes tax and I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. However, this is the thing: will they shelve it in a year or two? Like they did with the 50p in the pound after Charles Kennedy was ousted? Or like with their "scrap tuition fees" pledge that is also been ditched?

This £1m thing. Either they turn it into a flagship policy and really go on about it at every opportunity or otherwise it amounts to nothing.

Also, I seem to recall that reforming the voting system used to be one of the Lib Dems' best proposals. Again, one that would set them apart from the rest. Now it looks like they've ditched that too (or they've gone very hush hush about it).

I'm sorry, it really appears that under Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems are on a mission to "normalise" themselves. But there's already two -bigger- parties like that: Labour and Tory. Do we desperately need a THIRD one?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

No2EU is comedy gold.

PH said...

Actually if you go to their website you'll see they're actually:


Now, let's take the value of each of these letters separately:

n = positive integers

So the value of n is not constant - this tells us that no^2eu is a formula for a changing parameter rather than representing a fixed value.

Let's say that n is the number of years that Britain has been a member of the EU. So in 2009, n=36 for our purposes. However, we're interested in next year's elections, when n will be 37. So we'll use that value.

The use of 'o' is an odd one. It's generally avoided in formula due to its similarity to the symbol for zero.

I can only imagine that it represents the atomic mass of oxygen. So, o=16.

'e' is an easy one, that has a fixed value. I'll round it to 1 d.p. for simplicity's sake. e=2.7

'u', of course, represents initial velocity. "Velocity of Britain in 1973" doesn't being up too many helpful results in Google, so I'll take the Earth's velocity, as calculated in 1973 as 29.8km/s.

Of course, that's not standard units - we need to convert to m/s and get u=29800.

So, the value of no^2eu is calculated as:

37 x 16^2 x 2.7 x 29800
= 762,117,120

It appears that Douglas Adams was some way out with his value of 42.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

PhilH, you're a hoot and I mean that.