Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dirty Laundry

Just before Christmas The Guardian columnist Martin Kettle published a piece (16.12.06) urging us lefties to ‘get real’ about what level of competence we can expect from this Labour Government. The tired old argument that if ‘we aren’t careful the other lot will sneak in and then where will we be’ was dragged out and propped up in front of the fire and had its hot toddy refreshed. Those of us who are perpetually critical of the Government had formed ourselves into a ‘facile consensus’ which he branded ‘the amalgamated union of right thinking people’. Did we not realise that the business of government is about taking ‘tough decisions’? Well we ought to, it is given often enough as an excuse for fuck ups.

Kettle’s offensive to discredit ‘right thinking’, that fusty old Jiminy Cricket notion that there is a clear difference between right and wrong most of the time, is essentially an attack on middle-class, liberal values. Labour found them useful enough in 1997 I might add since they seemed to have built their ‘new Labour’ manifesto around them. They, like us, found it a lot easier to distinguish good behaviour from bad when they were not having to choose between them themselves as members of the opposition.

The difference is that we pay politicians a lot of money and voluntarily extend to them opportunities and power we don’t have ourselves because we trust them to do the right thing. Of we chattering classes Kettle says,

‘There is a disturbing endemic double assumption in the current conversation. Part one says that the principled, good and effective course of action is essentially obvious to right thinking people like us. Part two, umbilically linked, says that nothing done by politicians in general, and Blair in particular is ever principled, good or effective.’

To part one I’d say yes. What is the point of a democracy if we, the public, can’t act as a critical friend? This Government keeps telling us that’s what it wants us to do. The trouble is, like any spoiled celebrity, it doesn’t want to know what we think unless it’s words of fawning praise. Well tough. The second part contains the threat of ‘the other’, the dreaded Tories. Implied is the concept that it doesn’t matter how bad Labour gets they have to be better than the Tories.

If Martin Kettle assumes that it is not possible to be wrong about everything then I would suggest he has never worked for a local authority. It is perfectly possible and almost inevitable if you start from the wrong place. If your driving force is an arrogance which blinds you to criticism and a delusional over-estimation of your self worth which deselects you from having to apply normal standards of behaviour to yourself, then you are in serious danger of creating mass destruction and should be stopped.

Tony ‘Blah Blah’ Blair insisted on taking a holiday at the mansion of Robin Gibb this winter when the rest of us were being told that our annual Easy Jet journeys to Perpignon were the cause of global warming. While he was sunkissing his man-boobs in BeeGee Bay, his ministers were telling us that his family holiday was a private matter, as would ours be. Fine, but we didn’t sign a code of conduct and agree to abide by the Nolan Standards in Public Life which preclude the acceptance of gratuities from people who are seeking to influence us to use our power in office for their benefit. Robin Gibb is one of the coterie of ancient song writers who are hoping to persuade this Government to alter the copyright laws so their own material doesn’t pass into the public domain.

As tough decisions go, it wasn’t’ exactly up there with stem cell research. Had I been in his position, Jiminy Cricket would probably have whispered to me it’s OK to accept a nice pair of Fair Isle socks from Cherie but Bulgari watches from Berlusconi and foreign holidays from rock stars are not really on. It’s fine for me, a powerless nonentity to accept the use of my friend Charlie’s apartment in Cotinac when he’s not using it because I can’t actually guarantee him a knighthood. Easy. Yet Kettle insists,

‘…we beat up on politicians as though we expect them to inhabit a different moral universe.’

It’s no more than they’ve agreed to do. Why didn’t Blah Blah stay at home this Christmas as a gesture of solidarity to all the low income families who lost their festive savings in the Farepack fiasco? How bad can it be to spend a holiday in your own luxury mansion that’s already been paid for, Chequers? Why didn’t he wait until next year when he is no longer Prime Minster, to flaunt his connections? He doesn’t care what we think. When politicians become so arrogant that they don’t feel they owe us an explanation for doing the wrong thing then it’s time for retirement. You can’t even get away with that in Hollywood

Photo from The Daily Mail


Ms Baroque said...

Oh, I don't know. Didn't somebody give Madonna a baby?

That's so pants said...

Yes Ms B, that would be God.