I wonder how many readers of these columns have noted something that occurred to me today.
Have you ever observed how, when political Parties become the elected Government, suddenly things happen making it very hard (in fact usually, impossible) to do what they said they were going to do?
And equally, have you ever noticed that a Government – when stripped of its power by the electorate – becomes just a political Party again, for which everything seems to be very easy indeed if only they were given a chance to show everyone how?
So people immediately think ‘Sh*t, why did I vote for the bunch of plonkers we’ve got now? Next time I’ll vote for the other lot’. But they feel miffed about having to wait four, five, six years or whatever.
Now I’m going to offer you two interpretations of my ‘insight’ ha-ha as follows:
1. By citizens who are awake, sober, and not the unfortunate owners of severe brain damage: It’s because all politicians promise what they don’t have to deliver when in Opposition, and about half of all electors are naive beyond belief. Thus politicians are not to be trusted, and dumb voters should learn their lesson. For once.
2. By Oxbridge media types and politics wonks who live in and around Highgate with three large dogs and no common sense: My God, what an breakthrough thought! There is clearly a lesson for us in this. Who is the man who came up with this? Is he called (insert name here eg Marx, Keynes, Bagehot, Aristotle, Friedman, Reagan, Mussolini, Grillo etc)? Quick – say the publishers – we must bid for the rights to his next tome.
Within days, somebody on the Guardian/New York Times/Rolling Stone/Daily Mail/PCPro/Daily Star/New Society writes a piece suggesting how electronic finger-pressed instant voting should be used whenever over 20% of the electorate think the Opposition has a better idea that should be taken into account. (Because research based on 170 years of Hansard shows conclusively that the Opposition always knows A Better, Easier Way).
The following week, The Daily Express/Fox News/The Sun/The Mirror all come out vilifying everyone against the idea for being creepy pervert fogeys and Grumpy Old Technophobes whose neolithic ideas must be swept away in the name of progress.
As the momentum grows, John Birt comes out of retirement to tell the British People that the author does indeed have a new book out (to be published by Observer-Amazon) and yes, he has effectively shown – in putting his astonishingly percipient hammer on the coffin-nail of the flawed two-Party Government/Opposition farce – that a permanent Assembly of legislators tuned into the desires and anxieties of the Nation would be far more democratic.
“And think of the money we shall save on General Elections,” adds Lord Birt, wearing that beatifically banal facial expression that only he could ever own. Britain, he concludes, will become the first sovereign State to deliver Government without all the infighting that goes with adversarial Party politics: we will be the vanguard of permanent instant flash feedback LaboraTory electing (PIFFLE).
If you think this scenario far-fetched, let me offer you some examples of ‘policy initiatives’ from the recent past:
* Trickle-down wealth * 24/7 Drinking Laws * Vetting 12 million people before allowing them near children
* Returning an area with 67,000 on it to natural fenland * Applying austerity to Greece in order to rejuvenate the economy.
I could give you a hundred other examples. But you know what I mean.
Earlier today at The Slog: Why sales data will tell the economist far more than predictive studies