Monday, 13 February 2012

The Political Morass

Over the last few hours (Starting last night) I've been exchanging messages with a man standing for election as a Town Councillor. It began because I took umbrage at a remark he made with regard to Her Majesty and descended, for a while, from there. I'm afraid he was most put out by my rather blunt expression of my opinion of the current political classes and the civil service. Apparently he was one, and set out to defend the actions, deviousness and other twists and turns the civil service make which drive the rest of us to the desire to invite them to decorate lamp posts with their persons.

Having eventually managed to agree that there is a great deal wrong with both our political system and the civil service, we've declared a truce. I won't change my view, I have far too much evidence of the duplicity, blatant manipulation and outright dishonesty at work in Whitehall to do so, but I respect the fact that he can defend his perspective from the other side of the fence. I have no doubt some town, somewhere, will, if they elect him, have a meticulous councillor who will drive his council's officials up the walls with his Whitehall procedures, but if it serves his voters, that will be a good thing.

It has made me stop to think about the whole state of the government we have. Frankly, it stinks. Looking at the voting statistics tells you its almost as rotten now as it was prior to the 1836 Reform Act which got rid of "boroughs" like Old Sarum (1 voter = I MP) and brought in a qualified universal male sufferage. OK, it took almost another hundred years before the ruling MCPs extended that to women, but already the civil service was building the empires of a myriad Sir Humphreys. We now have "Constituencies" where the vote is so partisan it wouldn't matter if the candidate was a convicted criminal serving time - he'd be elected if he had the right Party label. The first past the post system in the UK was intended to be a vote for the candidate of choice, not the Party he or she represented. But that is not how it works in practice. In many such constituencies the candidate could well be someone's pet cat. Right Party badge; it's elected.

This is only a part of a much larger problem. The voting system needs reform, so does the entire edifice that is Westminster/Whitehall, but that is like asking the turkey to vote for its own slaughter. It isn't going to happen. The trouble is that far too many voters know their vote doesn't count in their home constituency. So why bother? Even if you do get the government of choice, nothing very much changes, because the civil service is such a vast drag on everything, it is almost impossible to get anything changed and even if a government does get something changed, it is usually not what they expected or wanted, but what the civil service was prepared to allow.

In figures I have been studying lately I came across the numbers for the election of Hitler and his party. It's worth pointing out that the Weimar Republic failed because its politicians were so self interested and so fragmented, no one could form any sort of stable government. There were two general elections in 1932 followed by one in March 1933. The Nazi's polled a total of 17.3 million votes out of 38 million cast (43% with a turnout of 88%) and still only got enough seats to form a government by joining a coalition with the German Nationalist Party. Once in power, of course, they were able to rearrange things to their taste and the dictatorship was launched.

Looking at that statistic brought sharply into focus the fact that I don't recall a UK government since the 1950s that has enjoyed as big a share of the popular vote. Even Mr Blair's claimed "landslide" was 41% of the turnout vote, from memory only around 52% of the voters. This meant that his "mandate" came from 28% of the voters at best. No wonder Mr Brown never risked an election until he had no option.

The problem is that the wider populace can see that, no matter the political ideology proclaimed by the Party, the politicians, the senior civil servants and the wealthy do very nicely - and the rest struggle. The voter is nothing to these people as they award themselves generous pensions, terrific salaries and look after the people who make the big donations that keep the party rolling. That includes the Union Bosses who are just as much a part of the problem. Why should I vote for my own impoverishment? Why should I vote for some idiot who will give a chunk of my tax to himself/herself, a nice slice to his Permanent Under Secretary and his assistants and then pass laws that end up raising prices on everything and increase the profits for his chums in commerce and industry?

Frankly, if I can see this, then everyone else can as well. The truth is the current political set-up benefits only the civil servants, politicians and the wealthy. That has got to change.


  1. Until there are effective sanctions against the political class and their useful idiots (and I don't mean just voting them out, and you can't vote out a shiny-arsed clerk either), like sequestering their properties and wealth, or charging them robustly with malfeasance in public office, then I think your lamppost suggestion is a good one! Rope or piano wire?

  2. Who was it who said, ''if voting made a difference, they'd ban it''?