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A fine, if incomplete look at UK politics

I recently got round to reading Peter Oborne’s “The Triumph of The Political Class”, which I would tentatively rate as the most important book written about the state of British politics in recent years. His basic argument is that today’s political class has little experience of the real world outside the corridors of power, is drawn from an insular group of metropolitan folk who consider themselves superior to, and cut off from, the ordinary mass; it craves power for its own sake and for its monetary rewards, is corrupt, venal, obsessed by controlling the media, and has damaged and is damaging any institutions and practices – such as the old House of Lords or judiciary – that get in its way. Oborne argues his case with a tremendous passion and penetrating use of argument. At the end of the 334 pages of text one is left – which I think is the idea – feeling rather depressed. With good reason.

So why do I say that the book is incomplete? Well, for a start, Mr Oborne does not spend much time figuring out how the European Union and the growing centralisation of power in Brussels plays into all this. This strikes me as a bit of an oddity. Consider this: if we accept Mr Oborne’s idea that this class of people are determined to acquire power and wealth, why have they been so keen to transfer so much power to the EU? Sure, some of these politicians may have made the base calculation that they can feather their own nests very nicely in Brussels or Strasbourg, but for a lot of them, turning parliament into little more than a branch office of Brussels with a few perks is not much of an ambition. It is odd that he does not spend more time on this aspect of the question.

I also think that Mr Oborne’s attack on the mainstream media for getting too close to the established parties – especially Labour – is seriously undermined by his completely ignoring the role of modern electronic media, particularly the internet. He makes no mention of things like blogging whatever. Now, I do not think that the role of the web should be exaggerated, but surely, the role of blogs in digging into subjects left alone by the MSM has, at the margins, made a positive difference. Take the scandals that have been exposed by Guido Fawkes, for instance.

But perhaps the biggest mistake in the book is quite simply this: it is no good Mr Oborne or anyone else attacking such a political class unless they attack the fundamental problem at its root: Big Government. Remember, that this class is powerful because it has a large structure off which to live. Re-establishing some traditional checks and balances into public life may reduce some corruption and public venality, as Mr Oborne no doubt hopes, but it is only by cutting the state down to size that we will realistically starve the beast that feeds this class. As I have pointed out several times on this site, one of the most damaging things done by the current government was to have enabled a massive rise in the number of people employed directly and indirectly, by the state. The reversal of this process is, in my view, rather more important than wondering whether an MP is fiddling his expenses or having sex with his secretary.

Even so, I urge people to read this book if they want to get a good handle on the state of public life in the UK in the early 21st century.

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9 comments to A fine, if incomplete look at UK politics

  • Ian B

    I would suggest that the reason Mr Oborne hasn’t addressed the apparently paradoxical handing of power to the EU (and other tranzi orgs) is that whatever the reason, it will sound like some kind of bizarre conspiracy theory.

    But there is perhaps one mundane reason IMV, and it ties into what I’ve said before about humans being intractably tribal. I’ve also said that in the West particularly these tribes are often notional rather than based on older tribal concepts of genetic relations or religion. Our tribes are defined as just “people like me”.

    When a person thinks tribally, they are concerned as much with the advantage of their tribe as with their own advantage. This is because of the logic that members of one’s own tribe will grant you favours if they are in power. If there are two tribes in a society, let’s call them “reds” and “blues”, then if I am a red, and the reds are in government, then I will be better treated than the blues. So it makes sense for me to do what I can to assist reds into power, even if don’t personally get to be in power. The actual red who gets to be president has flashy cars and a harem; I don’t get that, but he’ll tax the blues harder than me, and I’ll find it easy to get a lesser cushy job in the bureaucracy and so on. Of course people don’t necessarily plan like this, but it underlies our tribal behaviour.

    As such, the political class are all committed to the EU because it empowers their class in general at the expense of other classes. To be against the EU, for a proggie, is to be against benefits for his own class (tribe), which is irrational. The whole class gains and thus the individual within it gains too.

    Furthermore, the EU is a government that can never be deposed (well, except violently heh). It thus entrenches the class (tribal) monopoly on power more effectively than national governments which are more at the whim of the electorate. Whatever the British people vote for in the irrelevant provincial council, the EU will grind on unchanged, dispensing patronage towards the entire tribe that put it in power, the political class discussed in the book.

  • The “why” of the sell out to the EU is one of the greatest mysteries of modern history.It is an issue where no one goes,the great black hole of politics.

  • Ian B

    Also, there’s the simple fact that people who are drawn to self-aggrandisement like to be part of big things. It’s that thing where somebody pompously puffs out their chest and announces they work for “the world’s premier supplier of bathroom furniture” or whatever. To somebody of that type in politics, it makes them feel all proud to be part of a government of half a billion souls, rather than a few paltry million in a little “backwater” nation.

  • Sam Duncan

    I read Booker and North’s The Great Deception immediately after Oborne’s book and it felt very much like a companion piece, even though it’s longer and was written first. Between them they offer a pretty comprehensive diagnosis of what’s gone wrong. It’s glaringly obvious from Deception that what’s being created in Brussels is a Political Class government.

  • Jon Gregory

    This answers some of the issues, as to why our politicians are so willing to hand power over to the EU Commissioners. However I am still puzzled as to why they are so supine (all politicians that is).
    If Cameron (call me Dave) were to be elected you will not notice any real change in Government, it will continue in the same fashion. I am coming to the conclusion as I approach my dotage that the system has become so corrupt that a revolution is the only solution

  • Paul Marks

    There is nothing odd about the selling out of Britain to the E.U. – it is just the nature of politics.

    Take the small example of steps in Kettering market place.

    There never used to be steps – and no one wanted steps.

    So when the market place was altered some years ago (at great expense to the taxpayers) lots of steps were added.

    Now that the market place (and so on) is to be altered again more steps will be added, and various other changes will be made (again at great expense) that no one wants and which will make the town even worse.

    It is not some dark plot – it is just the way the political process works.

    Or rather it is why the concept of government control (local, national or international) does not work.

  • ian

    Paul Marks said:

    It is not some dark plot – it is just the way the political process works.

    Or rather it is why the concept of government control (local, national or international) does not work.

    In general terms I agree with you – which leads me to ask:- why are you a willing participant in the process?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Ian I am in the process – I am paid about four thousand Pounds (minus what my poltical party takes from me) to be so.

    It is possible to “make a difference” sometimes – but not often.

  • I completely agree with your comments regarding big government. Not only do we have a substantial government machine, but we put people at the top that have little experience of running such large and complex organisations. We have had, for example, a postman running health, an ex-sailor running the regions and transport and so the list goes on.

    Once our MP’s het elected, they seem to completely remove themselves from reality, distance themselves from the people that placed them there and just become an integral cog in the political machine. I don’t know about a broken society, we certainly have a disengaged government and alien MP’s.