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The final results – 100% of NJB agrees this Election is the most annoying yet.

May 5, 2010

April has largely been about having fun for me – celebrating my 50th birthday at length and in style – and enjoying our best spring garden for years.

That’s not to say that the election campaign hasn’t regularly thrown up individual performances, patterns and group behaviours that had me seething and close to writing a specific post about them. But the end is in sight and, in spite of 100% of the myself that I polled agreeing that I hate our current political and electoral system, I will be voting and I will be staying up on Thursday night to watch the results. That’s because the process and outcome is still fascinating – leaving me hope for some kind of dramatic moment. And it’s because this isn’t a game, and it will determine, to some degree over and above global forces, how we live our lives for the next few years. So I am going to satisfy myself with just a few soundbites, in true political manner, to vent the sum of all my April seethings. I am saddened by –

  • the fact that so much has boiled down to three white men in suits and ties in a distant TV studio – drawing attention even further away from local candidates, from an emergent bottom-up mandate to govern, and from the recognition that policies are complex and interconnected
  • the fact that, as we get closer and closer to polling, key spokespeople feel able to talk in ways which fly more and more in the face of honesty, reason and reality, in the belief that the nation will have an amnesiac hangover on Friday morning, forgive and forget this behaviour and trust those same individuals to govern with integrity and thoughtfulness
  • a version of the ‘Big Society’ (a principle otherwise so close to my heart) which discredits the principle by reducing it to either yet another alternative decision-making structure or a license for EduCorp to run our schools and HealthworksPLC to run our hospitals on the basis that they have articles of association which appear to eliminate commercial profit. [I made them up btw – hope they don’t exist]. We already have democratic ways of deciding most things – the key is to draw people in to these by increasing their opportunity for action, contribution and to get feedback showing that this actually has an effect
  • “efficiency savings” as clung to by all parties… for ten years as a Whitehall civil servant (under Thatcher and Major governments) I saw efficiency savings built into plans (effectively by accepting a top sliced cut before the year began) and then delivered by being able to tell any old story at the end of the year about how this cut hadn’t reduced outputs. The subsequent desire to make outputs more objective and measurable is, of course, the (laudable) aim which left us with such patronising managerial politics during the last decade. With this goes the demonisation of a mythical army of bowler-hatted back office “bureaucrats” who, in spite of at least 31 years of efforts to exterminate them by all parties, can ONLY NOW be miraculously and summarily sacrificed to save us all.
  • the fact that most politicians seem to regard most people as electoral cannon fodder, to be talked down to, marketed to, bamboozled and generally misled in order to secure our vote and confer upon them the right to determine our lives. [If that seems harsh then I modify it with “during an election” and “as far as those we are allowed to see and hear are concerned”]
  • wilful disregard of global forces which national governments can only hope to moderate or understand – global forces which have outcomes for which domestic parties should neither be praised or blamed
  • the sheer negative invective and infantile game playing of so many of the political wonks I see stalking around the social media space – again from all parties… and not without honourable exceptions.
  • a mutual ‘lowest common denominator’ approach which sees openness and plain speaking as a kind of naivety which will be exploited by others who are more pragmatic and driven than you… ergo, for a greater good, you must outdo them at this and not expect to become corrupted in the process.

After all of which, I am not detached from tomorrow’s election. I can, at least, hope for an outcome which paves the way for electoral reform which, in turn, forces a national politics built on alliances of purpose, action and open honest belief… not on this ever more distorted concept of ‘party’ as the only vehicle capable of collecting, carrying and applying an aggregated mandate. The individual scandals, not just over money, which have further eroded the belief in politics and politicians, are not somehow divorced from this institution of ‘party’ – they are a product of arrogance and of an adversarial first past the post (to reach safety and immunity) mindset directly derived from it.

Words are all well and good – but on this blog I keep advocating individual action and honesty. So I’m promising this [and I hope to god I’m wearing the right shirt and making the right hand gestures here] – if, by Monday morning, I see no signs of the election result creating some hope for this degree of change in the way government derives decisions and authority from the rest of us, I personally will be out there for the next five years working to ensure that we don’t find ourselves back here again.

‘No’, men in suits, ‘I’m sorry – you don’t get to suck us all into the competitive game, with your coloured rosettes and your  ‘knock about’ political humour – you don’t get to sweep the events of the last few years under the carpet – you don’t get to launch a generation of professional politicians into playing the same old game.’

The world really has changed, and is changing faster and faster, in ways that bear directly on collective deliberation, communication and association. ‘Party’ is a piece of information and communications infrastructure which was necessary for the last few centuries. That necessity is no longer self evident.

Annoyed too?

Press the ‘reset’ button – NOW!

[PS. Oooh ! I really was quite annoyed wasn’t I?]

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