Monday, 29 October 2012

Skyfall (SPOILER WARNING).....

This blog is unashamedly about politics and I pretty much keep it on topic. And today is no different - tho the title has to be a bit vague, because (SPOILER) if I say it's about select committees and inquiries you'll have a bit of the clue of the plot of Skyfall - and as it's rather good I wouldn't want to do that.

Back in July I wrote this about Parliamentary Sub-Commitees . It seems I'm not alone a certain revulsion for their current incarnations, and both Skyfall and The Thick of It recently have referenced inquiries and select committees as being akin to the medieval stocks. Indeed, Judi Dench's character, "M", comments on being told she has to appear at an inquiry that she'll be "in the stocks at midday?.

The Thick of It - which apparently only us politicos watch - my Labour friend commented to me in the pub the other night that "nobody else watches it", produced a tour de force the other week, however viewers might find their sympathy seems to be more with the panel than in the Skyfall version of an inquiry - a rather brazen and ego-centric minister asking questions of our statesman-like Judi, perfectly characterising the frustrations and power play often evident in these things.

Have inquiries jumped the shark? With open parody in The Thick of It and big budget movies like Skyfall,  it could be said they've gone rather too far. And as I argued back in July, nothing ever seems to change as a result of them. 

It's a shame, because as Skyfall, Malcolm Tuckers leaving speech about how his job has changed and Dan Hodges correctly identify, the world has moved on. Information is still power, but information, seems to have changed phase. It's more like water than solid blocks of information now - it moves faster, leaks and leads back to a source a lot more easily. With a more open world, a more interdependent one, I, ever the pacifist would like to argue a more stable one - perhaps world peace is closer, or perhaps further away.

So, open parody of a fine idea, to understand and root out deception and get to the truth, suggests that inquiries and committee hearings etc have lost some respect. I think that may be because they've been allowed to get out of hand and become more about the people asking the questions, and as Rachel Cooke describes - their schadenfreude than the answers they are apparently seeking to find.

I guess we'll have to wait for Ed Miliband to call an inquiry into this tho. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Politicans' relationship with voters

"When I say the word 'politician', what do you think?" the first golfer, named Peter, replied: "Liars"."Selfish," added David."Privileged and arrogant," said Paul. "Devious," said Barry. "Insincere," said Steve. Daphne, the only woman in the group, was not much kinder. "Self-seeking," she said

Through observing this important work that Gloria is doing, I thought that it does have relevance to some of the findings from this series of posts. Though the scope could get wider here, it occurred to me that through these words, we seem to a problem with a breakdown in a relationship. It sounds almost as if these voters split up with a partner they really didn't like very much!

So this started me thinking about the relationship between a politician and a voter. All human interaction forms relationships in my view, the differentiating factor being the length or depth of the relationship.

How should we appropriately define a relationship in this context? Wikipedia tries here. It's not completely the same as a relationship with a significant other, of course but a number of the same concepts can be applied

Commitment: This is an interesting one - the voter is clearly able to change party - that's the point of democracy. However, the politician is encouraged to commit to promises, pledges, manifestos and other written contracts. Very interesting - somewhat one-sided you might say!

Consistency: Consistency is a natural human need that we all have and can be exploited. We seem to want ourselves and others to be consistent. Politicans will know all about this.

Balance: I think the voters at the moment hold a lot of resentment towards the politicans as the perception is, as Gloria De Piero's research above shows, that they are "in it for what they can get" - a rather unbalanced relationship, and the effect is voters are voting with their feet - going anywhere but the polling station.

Shared values: Ah, the holy grail of a political party. This one I think the three main parties articulate quite well, probably because we've been at it quite a long time. However, it is highly volatile. As a Lib Dem, I am passionate about fairness - so I'll be holding up our politicians to a microscope to see how fair they are - but an individual policy or action may put that in jeopardy - even if their general attitude to policy is pretty fair.

In order to perceive if someone has the same values as you, you can only judge on actions. That takes time. In this sense the voters actually have an advantage - the politicians try to judge on intention - polls, however the public judge on action - which is pretty wise. Of course as politicians we can judge on action, in hindsight, after the votes are counted. But then, it's a bit too late to  reference their values or, indeed change their actions. 

Respect: Hopi Sen has also written a very sensible blog post on Labour's lost voters, and why they are wrong. It's actually more respectful in a relationship to be honest, tell the other how you feel (respectfully!) and what you are prepared to do/not do, and then you are both well situated to talk further and perhaps come to a compromise - otherwise you might have to go your separate ways. But, by chasing every vote, rather than drawing our boundaries and saying, in effect "No, I am not prepared to do what you want - and here's why" we may be setting ourselves up for a dysfunctional relationship with the voters - one without boundaries
Trust : And so I come to trust. It's often said that once the trust is gone, that's it. However in both interpersonal relationships and other ones, trust can be restored - it takes time, and references back to both shared values and consistent action. I think there is a breakdown in trust. I'm not sure how it can be regained, but perhaps we need to know better who we are as politicans, politicos, activists in order to better understand our relationship with voters and trust therein.

And to those voters who aren't "wrong" but who have lost faith in the political process anyway? I think it's more that they don't see the point anymore, like a failed relationship.

But, these days, post 1997 and the time the country fell in love with the Labour party, and packed it's bags and left in 2010, who's left to pick up the pieces?

Friday, 19 October 2012

I'd like to help you son, but you're too young to vote Eddie Cochran sang in Summertime Blues

I'm gonna take my problem to the United Nation
Well I called my congressman and he said quote
"I'd like to help you son, but you're too young to vote"
I'm very pleased that 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote in the Scottish referendum in 2014. Most pleased because it might cause the same pressure in our own General Elections, tho I know this isn't automatic, given the Scottish and Welsh commiment to more proportional voting systems hasn't filtered down to UK Parliament. 

I am not the most enamoured with Alex Salmond, and I'm sure this is a political calculation on his part rather than the whole hearted support of the extension of suffrage that I believe in down to 16 year olds. The case has been put well by Liberal Youth Scotland, amongst other people.

But to add to that, I'd like to say that the younger the voting age goes, the better (clearly up to a point, and I think 16 is a good age. Yes, older people vote more, and that is to the detriment of younger people who are not participating in making decisions that will affect them far longer, assuming they live longer. But with an aging population, it's more important than ever that the younger generation vote, and that more of them are able to do so.

I support Votes at 16. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A deadening of feeling....

Just watching the excellent Ian Hislop's "Stiff Upper Lip : An Emotional History of Britain" and had a bit of a PING moment.

He refers to Wellington, in his chart of how we ended up such an emotionally repressed nation - in part as a counterpoint to the dreadful French of course - but this is fascinating

Wellington "I always say that next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained. Not only do you lose those dear friends with which you've been living, but you are forced to leave the wounded behind you. Of course you do the best for them, but how little that is. Every feeling is deadened"

And, as Hislop goes on to say - "it was that very deadening of feeling that Wellington decided was essential, if you were to answer the calls of duty, or public service."

This is especially evocative as a symbolic moment in Wellington destroying his violin - the playing of which he was very good at - by throwing it in the fire. He felt it would get in the way of him winning battles.

How many of us as politicos are throwing away what we consider our "violins" in order to "win battles"? How many of us are deadening our feelings in order to move onto the next doorstep, or to win this election or that one? Does it help?

And crucially - does it help the voters relate to us or do they think we're more out of touch and not like them than ever? 

Maybe that might get the attention of politicos more than focussing on the damage it's doing their own emotional health. Never let it be said I don't know my audience. ;)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Growth - an update.

"The UK economy returned to growth in the third quarter, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
Based on its survey of 7,593 UK firms, the BCC says the economy grew by 0.5% between July and September, after three consecutive quarters of contraction.
The BCC said it did not agree with the Office for National Statistics' "gloomy estimation" that the UK has been in recession for the whole period."

I like being right. 


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Lib Dem Conference 2012 (or the Children of the Revolution)

So a picture is worth a thousand words? OK, no blog post on Lib Dem conference, just this....

Oh, alright then. Words too then.... Don't say I'm not good to you.....

I love this picture for personal reasons because it contains a number of my very good friends, and also one or two new ones that I like very much as well. It was taken on Tuesday night of Lib Dem conference and kind of sums up a lot of the good things about the week, for me - spending time with those I like and trust, meeting more like-minded folk and having fun.

It also evidences one of the dominant themes for me and other was the new generation at this conference. This was also because of a number of lobbyists, party staff and exhibitors around and about the place.

So what did I do - policy debates, training, fringes on liberty, manifesto forming and how to differentiate from the Tories. I also noticed a lot of my friends and acquaintances were being asked to speak to the media, BBC News, Sky News etc.

In fact this is a trend I've noticed amongst the main blogging sites - tho perhaps it's always been there it seems particularly recently that I've noticed bloggers and commentators pop up on the news. My perception is that when Labour were in power they did a lot of this commentary themselves, rather than leave it to bloggers or whatever Paul Staines is. Now the Tories seem a little more circumspect, and we don't have as much resource as the other two to spend on media appearances, I feel we are hearing a lot more from bloggers.

Back to #ldconf - twitter was key as well, not only for directing people to where you were in the auditorium and greeting me with mnfggggfffff tweets first thing in the morning (you know who you are), but to announce to the world how Nick Robinson and Michael Crick "enjoyed" their first Glee Club and tweet photos as evidence of same.

I also caught it referenced more than once by different MPs, including one grudgingly admitting that he was "on twitter" tho he was sure he didn't know what to do with it.


I think my favourite fringe has to be the one run by Lib Dem Voice - Manifesto 2015 - including Kelly-Marie Blundelll from the SLF and Charlotte Henry from Liberal Reform

It was good to hear both sides of several issues and I wanted both sides to get their teeth into a meaty subject like health or education. I advised this to Helen Duffett and my ideal would be to see a bit conference hall debate and possibly even a vote at the end. 

The most interesting debate was the one on the Justice and Security Bill or as Henry put it as he ushered us all to the hall "Secret Courts". This was also where the group above formed and expressed much liberal indignation about this idea, and listened to impassioned speeches from Jo Shaw before t

Low points: 

The housing motion was described by my debate companion Andrew Tennant as a "fabulous motion" and I agreed, but slightly confused to find conference delegates voting for it as well as the motion against planning reform ahead of it. I'm wondering where we are supposed to build this housing - perhaps Lib Dems are in favour of castles in the air?

In conclusion, I had an awesome time at Lib Dem conference, I'm sure I'll be back, and tho very tired and having lost a few pounds (bizarre as basically living on chips as Kel said) - I do want to do it all again soon.