Sunday, November 19, 2006

Don't shoot the messenger....

So I'm back after going up north for a few days to see J's family, and on my return I find my inbox full of kind people's messages pointing out this gem...

Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser fears ''the internet'' could be fuelling a "crisis" in the relationship between politicians and voters. Mr. Taylor talked of the "shrill discourse of demands" made by those tiresome voters behaving like ''teenagers'', "conflicted" about what they actually want - and the nasty off-message bloggers are apparently to blame. He says

''What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are. ''
"The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government."
He challenged the online community
[ the what?] to provide more opportunities for "people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face".
( more via the BBC)

Oh dear. Poor politicians, faced with this ghastly dilemma of what to do after stumbling across the angry thoughts of their electorate. And what, pray, is wrong with blogs exposing how venal, stupid and mendacious politicans are - if politicians are behaving in a way which is venal, stupid and mendacious?

Look, it's quite simple. If you don't want voters blogging angrily about venality, stupidity or menaciousness in politics, clean up your act. Stop venally taking bungs and then installing the donors as lawmakers, stop passing stupid laws without proper consultation, stop lying about the build-up to illegal wars.

Or, if you are going to carry on, stop whinging when you are exposed for it and ordinary people say, quite reasonably, that they are utterly fed up with you .

Voters have always been angry about venality, stupidlity and menadaciousness in politics; the problem for New Labour (and all the other parties) is that they can now read about exactly how angry the pesky voters are. Does Blair's strategy chappie look chagrined on learning this, and vow to carry back the message that the Government must do better to regain voters' trust? No, he goes and has a hissy fit at a conference. (It's not the Government themselves who are having a crisis. Because the stroppy voters have retired to their bedrooms and slammed the door having lost faith in politicians and politics, oh no. It's the nasty intranetwebthing. Ruining the ''relationship'' between politicians and voters. )

What, us voicing critical opinions? Talking back on our little personal blogs? That buggers up the ''relationship'' between Government and governed, does it? I'm sorry, but I don't want to be in a ''relationship'' where one side has all the power and the other side just shuts up and does what it is told without complaining. That's an abusive relationship.

Part of the problem, he added, was the "net-head" culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and "anti-establishment" attitudes.

Oh, this is pathetic. ''Net-head culture''? Have you read the newspapers recently, Matthew-the-ex-strategy adviser? Looked at opinion columns, cartoons, polls? Watched TV? Been to a pub, even? Talked to any voters, at all, in the last five years?

*Deep breath*

Dear Government. You have an awful lot of power. You seem to be on a mission to get even more. You don't seem to be listening to the voters whom you are elected to serve. We've tried voting, and we've tried not voting, we've tried turning out on the streets in our millions, we've tried writing to you, signing petitions, some of us even got to meet you and tried to talk to you face to face, and now, wearied by the general lack of interest in our concerns, hoarse from shouting at our TV sets, some of us have now started writing down our thoughts on our personal web diaries.

Y' know, engaging. Giving a stuff. Debating. Caring. Being transparent about what we think. (Thought you were once keen on that sort of thing?) All over the UK, people from ''hard working families'', normal voting members of the public, men and women of all ages, all political persuasions, are simply sitting down at a keyboard and writing what's on their mind when they see the news, when they see politicans on TV, when they read what politicians say

And boo, hoo, you don't like it. Well, then, why not look at the causes of our ire ? Look at yourselves. Explain yourselves. We're listening. The slightly encouraging thing is, that now, possibly, you might be listening or at least reading, too. Although that's actually quite scary, given what happened when you didn't like the messages you got from disparate people protesting in Parliament Square. You made Parliament Square and the surrounding area a no-protest zone, didn't you? Great.

Are you going to try and close down the seditious and ungrateful blogosphere next?

Quite possibly. Well, hey, blog while you can, people, say what's on your minds. Nobody is stopping you. Yet. The Government might even be reading.

And just remember, nobody has to read this stuff if they don't want to, and if they do, they don't have to agree. But any Government wonks reading might want to consider this. Seems like lots of blogging voters - independently of each other - do seem to be expressing somewhat similar thoughts , even though they come from all sorts of different persuasions, and from right across the political spectrum. The fact that parents and students and office workers and G.Ps and lawyers and magistrates and musicians and soldiers and coppers and train drivers and ambulance dispatchers and nurses and teachers and journalists and priests and writers and programmers and photographers and farmers and painters and carers and councillors...

...have recently felt moved, individually and variously, to begin blogging and say they are pig-sick of the Government's behaviour...

... might perhaps be a teeny indication that there might be something that's striking a chord amongst the huddled masses yearning to be free...

... and the crisis might be a bit closer to home for the Government than the flipping ''internet''.

A cross voter writes on Slashdot...

''Dear Matthew, (can I call you Matthew?)

Your government is elected by a minority of the electorate using a system that gives it an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. Your Members of Parliament say their first loyalty is to the Party and the manifesto, not to the electorate. You ensure almost all votes are whipped through Parliament with fearful penalties if an MP disobeys the Party line. You have changed your Party conferences so that votes by the members have no bearing on policy making which is performed behind closed doors. You refuse freedom of information requests that would allow the electorate to see that policies are enacted according to regulations. You take money from multimillionaires and do not declare it to the authorities; coincidentally, all of these donors then become members of the House of Lords where they become law makers. You pass legislation that require people to get police permission to protest outside of Parliament. You rip up ancient laws that regulate the power of the State over the citizen and propose to take more for yourselves. You politicise the intelligence service, getting your spin doctors to sell a war planned in collusion with a foreign power.

You shouldn't be so much wondering why voters feel alienated, as be amazed that we haven't dragged you out of Downing Street and strung you up outside of Parliament''

Ho hum.

UPDATE: Blairwatch ( lefty, fed up with Blair) and Ian Dale ( righty, fed up with Blair) both picked up the story too, which kind of proves the cross-party point.

UPDATE UPDATE: Still finding more links...Netherworld (lefty/liberal), Guido (libertarian right), Paul Linford ( ex Parliamentary lobby journalist), Devil's Kitchen ( sweary libertarian), hmmm...I'm going to stop putting blogger's affiliations now as this will take ages, you get the idea, people from all over the shop...Blood& Treasure, Bookdrunk, TimWorstall, Martin Kelly., Longrider, Mr Eugenides, Bag, Man in a Shed, Stumbling and Mumbling, James Cleverly, The Tin Drummer, Shuggy, D-Notice, BudgieBird, Dirty Christian Socialist Cow and Not Saussure.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have often wondered if we are becoming a society of digital haves and have-nots.

Matthew Taylor would appear to prove the theory may have some validity, although it appears that it's not access to the technology that he lacks, but a basic comprehension of its potential...

Frankly, on this evidence, I wouldn't even trust him with a pocket calculator.

"Chief Strategy Adviser"? Be afraid, be *very* afraid...

November 19, 2006 10:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...




November 19, 2006 10:56 pm  
Blogger aidanrad said...

"Net-heads"? Oof, oh dear.

Ban the internet!

November 19, 2006 11:59 pm  
Blogger budgiebird said...

Excellent post.

The article you refer to made my blood boil when I read it. Mr Taylor calls for new ways in which the public can engage in consultation with the Government, but when the public DOES take the trouble to get involved in an official Government Consultation, their views are treated with contempt.

During the consultation regarding proposals to bring in new laws to deal with Extreme Pornography, over 71% of individuals who replied said they felt there was no need for a change in the law. The consultation itself was extremely biased and misleading, but despite this, the overwhelming majority of those responding put forward well reasoned arguments as to why these proposals would make bad law.

Their views have been totally ignored and Labour is pressing on with this, regardless.

Please spend a few minutes checking out the background to this on my blog at:

November 20, 2006 10:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Confirmed "net-head" applauding here.

The arrogance of the man.

November 20, 2006 11:18 am  
Blogger Nicodemus said...

Another bloggy rebel here.... Mind you, Nanny will probably use this as an excuse to monitor my inbox. The swine.

November 20, 2006 12:19 pm  
Blogger kris said...


I ain't the one throwing a hissy fit because a few bloggers have found their voice and are busting labour's spin!

It is SO over for those guys.

November 20, 2006 8:44 pm  
Blogger Geoff said...

Excellent post Rachel, Who knows the government may even begin to listen. Unlike the MP I visited who proudly stated she didn't have time for emails and so deleted them. The beauty of blogs is that, unlike TV, newspapers, emails etc they are searchable and in the public sphere for a long time.

November 21, 2006 11:50 am  
Blogger MorrisOx said...

Stunning, isn't it?

And this from the breed that brought you 'The Big Conversation'...

I have to deal with some of these people on a regular basis and while venality is rare, stupidity and mendaciousness reign supreme.

You can make your point to them, do deals and compromises with them until your nose bleeds. But you may as well be a gnat with a megaphone.

They will never hear because they never, ever listen. When you point out how utterly fuck-witted some of their ideas are then you will be greeted either with an increase in the volume or the employment of the phrase 'I think you misunderstand'.

So that's it. It was me all along. They're right and I should just take my happy pills and piss off.

November 21, 2006 9:01 pm  
Blogger silver_flight said...

Reminds me of the Bush Administration's tactic of coming down heavy on all opposition to their policies, no matter how slight.

Also reminds me of the 1st November lobby of Parliament around the issue of privatising the NHS. As well as meeting with MPs, attendees were also spoken to in groups by junior Ministers for Health, who (it later transpired) had been given a briefing on the government's official line, and when challenged on this, reverted to aggression: "It's either us or the Tories, and you don't want the Tories back in, do you?"

It is wrong on so many levels that the government should condemn its citizens for expressing their thoughts. Dealing with conflicting ideas and criticism is part of the responsibility of leadership. Is Mr Taylor saying the government can no longer do its job?

Personally, I have had enough of trying to engage with these people. All they care about is retaining power by any means necessary, no matter how shallow, corrupt or divisive they have to be. They themselves have cut off the public from its role of keeping them to account. The only thing left for us to do is to sack them and replace them with more representative 'representatives'.

November 22, 2006 1:27 pm  

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