¦ What You Can Get Away With

My post earlier reminded me of something I’d read before that was even more illustrative of belief in the One True Party than the article I linked in it.

This piece, in response to the Guardian’s endorsement of the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 election, is a perfect illustration of how some will argue that you must support the One True Party whatever it has done or might do. I really can’t describe the full oddness of it, but if it was about religion instead of politics, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was written by a cult member. It’s that special.


I don’t normally read LabourList, but this morning someone on Twitter linked to this article about Labour’s fight against the Greens. It starts out almost sensibly, then descends into such a pit of belligerent tribalism that I began wondering if it was a parody. (Then I noticed it was by arch-Blairite ‘moderate’ Luke Akehurst, and was assured it was serious)

There’s a certain category of politico – and I’ve seen them more in Labour, but they exist in every party – who are convinced that theirs is the One True Party and argue that case with a near-religious zeal. In this world view, anyone who disagrees can only do so because they are evil or misguided. There are only two sides to any political debate – the right side and the wrong side – and the One True Party is invariably on the right side. Anyone who disagrees with the One True Party is obviously evil, and anyone who suggests there might be a way to achieve something that’s not the One True Party’s way is misguided.

This is what lies at the root of Akehurst’s assault on the Greens – that they’re getting in the way of Labour, his One True Party. His arguments aren’t based much on ideology (and when they are, it’s all about how hard it is to triangulate Greens) but purely on the principle that Labour are always right, thus Labour need to be in power, and thus anyone who gets in the way of that is harmful and needs to be stopped. The Greens didn’t actually win a seat in Hackney – in Akehurst’s view, they ‘blocked’ someone from Labour getting their rightful place on the council. Greens aren’t people with different views and arguments, they’re ‘a huge drain on campaigning resources’, because all that matters is how the One True Party does. It’s probably the statement that ‘if you want PR for councils at least let your primary motive be improving Labour representation in rural areas, not giving a free pass to the Greens in councils where we have been fighting for years to stop them getting elected’ that shows the One True Party view most clearly. The idea that PR might be a good thing in itself cannot even be processed, and everything must be judged in terms of how it helps or hinders the party.

One True Party types exist in all parties, though, not just Labour and we shouldn’t pretend that they’ve never served a useful purpose for their parties. In a time of tribal and class-based politics, where voters (and even activists) generally had little information to work on, it was important to build loyalty to the party as an institution, not necessarily the ideas behind it. When most elections were just about two parties, descending into tribalism ‘the One True Party is always right’ partisanship does make a certain kind of sense.

We’re not in those times any more. Obviously, for some people politics still is a predominantly tribal affair, or even just a game between opposing sides where winning is the only important thing, no matter how you get there. However, I’d argue that with the breakdown of strong loyalties to parties amongst the voting public, this sort of approach isn’t likely to attract support in the way it used to. Trading insults back and forth with your opponents might feel good to the One True Party activist, but it’s not likely to attract the voter who knows that there are no true parties, just a group of different parties that might do different things. When offered with ‘you must vote for us because we’re right about everything’ in several different forms, is it any wonder when they go for something entirely different?

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I’ve just added WordPress’s Jetpack plugin to the site, which should make it easier for people to comment and like posts, as well as making it easier for me to share posts and get stats about my site. It also means you can now subscribe to the blog and get notifications of new posts via email by using the box on the sidebar at the right.

As ever, whenever I add something new to here there’s a good chance I’ll have broken something else in the process, so please let me know if you see anything that’s not right. Though if it’s in the content of posts, that’s probably nothing to do with Jetpack.


Russell Brand and our political culture – Chris Dillow argues that Brand gets publicity because our political culture as a whole is anti-intellectual.
Stuffing envelopes and getting stuffed – An alternative take on Liberal Democrat campaigning by Alex Harrowell.
The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed – the realities of social media content monitoring.
The world will change around 2020 – According to David Boyle, that’s what the trends are pointing to.
Profs Bumble Into Big Legal Trouble After Election Experiment Goes Way Wrong – This is why conducting political science research is hard. However, I do hope the researchers involved are adding up all the news stories about them as ‘instances of our research methodology being cited in public discussion’.

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Until I’d read this Guardian story about it I’d never heard of KidZania. That was possibly a good thing, because now I’m despairing that we live in a world in which it exists. If you’ve never heard of it until now, here’s how they describe themselves:

KidZania provides children and their parents a safe, unique, and very realistic educational environment that allows kids between the ages of four to twelve to do what comes naturally to them: role-playing by mimicking traditionally adult activities. As in the real world, children perform “jobs” and are either paid for their work (as a fireman, doctor, police officer, journalist, shopkeeper, etc.) or pay to shop or to be entertained. The indoor theme park is a city built to scale for children, complete with buildings, paved streets, vehicles, a functioning economy, and recognizable destinations in the form of “establishments” sponsored and branded by leading multi-national and local brands.

Yes, your kids can have a fun day out learning that their lives will be worthless unless they hand themselves over to a multinational brand. KidZania, it seems, allows kids to have a small amount of fun at the start, but then they have to go and earn themselves some ‘KidZos’ by working before they can do anything else. Yes, someone’s finally found a way to drain all the fun out of kids dressing up and role-playing, and made sure it’s now a ‘learning experience’ where kids can ‘acquire real-life skills, learn about working and having a career and are introduced to the fundamentals of financial literacy’. Because that’s a fun day out, not a hideous penetration of the adult world into the child’s. What is wrong with letting children just have a good time? In other contexts, child labour is a bad thing, yet somehow KidZania strives to make it acceptable.

I’ve written before about how we’ve let workism conquer the world, and this is a perfect example of it. People don’t usually accept and adopt ideologies out of the blue, and they often just accept the ideologies they’re exposed to as a child. Just like Soviet children could join the Young Pioneers to develop Marxism-Leninism from an early age, so KidZania can instil the value of workism and loyalty to corporations from an early age. There’s something sickeningly admirable in how it takes something kids already do by themselves, removes all the imagination from it, sticks some advertising on top and then charges for the privilege of doing it. (And, of course, makes sure that the parents have plenty of opportunities to spend their money in the nearby shops while their kids are kept busy)

I’m all for giving kids a chance to play in their own world and not be told what to do by adults, but KidZania is only pretending to be that. Read through their site and you’ll find that this supposedly child-run world is anything but:

“Zupervisors” are on hand to introduce AND provide support for each activity. Zupervisors are trained adults who guide and help kids accomplish their tasks as they work and play.

Everything in KidZania is planned out and organised, with children being led through an experience, not set free to discover for themselves. It’s perhaps a perfect metaphor for a world run by workism, where big corporations have laid out the unalterable framework of experience and everyone’s task is to process along the appointed routes, with supervisors in place to make sure no one wanders too far from the crowd. Notice that the ‘jobs’ on offer are all about working for someone in a prescribed role, not about anything involving creativity, individuality, learning for its own sake or researching.

All it needs to completely represent their future is to allow rich parents to buy currency for their children so they don’t have to do any work while they’re there and can just enjoy watching all the others work while they don’t have to, but still get all the rewards. Or maybe that would lead to the kids learning too much too young?

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She tweeted against the Mexican drug cartels. They tweeted her murder.  – A horrifying tale of what happened when a website took on the cartels.
Very quietly, the coalition tries to dismantle judicial review – And here’s your ‘oh, FFS’ moment for today.
Review: Dog Eat Dog – I haven’t played RPGs for years but this review of a rather unsettling game based around colonisation almost makes me want to again.
The death of the banana republic – John Band on the end of the United Fruit Company.
Revealed: the guest list that proves that Guido Fawkes is a certified member of the Tory establishment – I’m shocked – shocked! – to discover that a supposed ‘libertarian’ is friends with many of the lunatic wing of the Tories.

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***BESTPIX*** Labour Launches Scottish Independence Referendum CampaignAs the Scottish Labour Party breaks from tradition to form the circular firing squad before the election and find itself without a leader, speculation has begun on who could replace Johann Lamont as the holder of one of British politics most coveted poisoned chalices.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Scottish politics, so I’m not going to comment on the potential of all the candidates but one name that’s been floated has caught my attention: Gordon Brown. At least one MP is pressing the former Prime Minister to stand, and his role in the referendum campaign would make him a strong contender for the role.

However, if he were to do it, Brown would be unique amongst former British Prime Ministers in choosing to get involved at another level of politics after leaving Downing Street. of course, this is mainly due to their not being many other meaningful levels of politics in Britain that former Prime Ministers could get involved in prior to 1997, but even if we look internationally to countries with more federal systems there’s are very few similar examples.

Indeed, the only example that readily comes to mind is that of Jacques Chirac, who served as French Prime Minister from 1974-6, then became Mayor of Paris in 1977. However, the French Prime Minister is very much subordinate to the President, and the mayoralty of Paris was a newly created/restored role in 1977, making it a perfect position for someone like Chirac to stand for to keep his political prominence high.

After that, the best examples I could find were Richard Nixon, running for Governor of California after being Vice-President of the United States, and (thanks to Richard) Eduard Shevardnadze, going from Foreign Minister of the USSR to President of Georgia (though that was after the dissolution of the USSR). Even in countries with strongly federal systems, the direction of travel for politicians appears to be relentlessly upwards and towards the centre. Once one has reached the peak, there’s no stepping back to a lower role. (Another British exception, in a slightly different way is Alec Douglas-Home returning to his previous role as Foreign Secretary in Edward Heath’s government)

Of course, one major explanation for this is the question of age. Leaders tend to leave their roles at a time when most people are retiring, and they’re probably not to blame for, in the most part, deciding that a period of lecturing, memoir-writing and well-paid advising is a much better way of spending their time than getting involved in a completely different politics. However, as leaders become younger and leave office at a younger age while health improves and being 65 isn’t an end to everything, isn’t there a temptation to continue on in politics in some form if possible? In a system that now tends to throw leaders out after they’ve lost one election, rather than let them try to return to power, isn’t seeking another arena a logical choice?

All that said, I’m still not convinced that Brown becoming leader of Scottish Labour is much more than a very late silly season story, but someone has to be the first to do something, so why not let it be him?