I’m not sure when it really started. Was it Maggie bringing in Saatchi & Saatchi for the 1979 election? Certainly by the time Blair was aping Clinton with sound bites, spin doctors and the 24 hour grin we were well on our way. Even Blair’s career path of university to law to politics was the standard American one. Now I have nothing against America, I worked for US marine companies for most of my working life. I am even a republican in the sense that I would rather not have a monarchy. But I do not envy the US political system. Now, like them, the difference between our two major parties can be hard to define.
Recently I have begun to feel we were out doing the Americans at their own game. It’s the increase of twenty-something potential and actual election candidates who have moved directly from university to a political career. This isn’t only happening with our own party, but also with the Tories and Liberals. Although I don’t always agree with him the Ken Livingstone interview on the Labourlist blog does highlight what’s going on. See two of his answers below.
Q. “Do you mean Old Labour with a capital O and a capital L or…”
KL. “Both! The main weakness of the so-called New Labour project was that it was too young and too graduate middle class. I was surprised how many old right-wingers who had spent their lives trying to stop me ended up supporting me because of how bad things had got.”
Q. “You know you can be young and graduate and working class and on the left of the party…”
KL. “I’m sure there is one somewhere. But in the run up to the 1998 Borough council elections in London, they introduced al these tests. Instead of being selected, you had to write statements of your values and management experience. But it wasn’t just the left wing that was stripped down by that; it was the working class people, black and white. I thought that was absolutely disgraceful. Blair and Brown between them took a functioning, broadly working class party, but one that was also strongly middle class, and reduced it to a shell. They closed down all the channels by which working class people could express themselves, through their unions and their local parties. If they hadn’t closed down the Labour party in that way, they might not have made the catastrophic mistake in carrying on Thatcher’s ban on council house building, And they’re now surprised that working class people are angry? What fuels the anger of those working class voters is that their kids have got nowhere to live.”
We haven’t really seen this since WW2. Before that there were rural seats that were passed down through aristocratic families, but by the 1945 election many of the new MPs had been in the forces before. Even those who wanted a political career like Churchill 40 years before that started with another job.
These new members of the political class are the evil spawn of Blair, Cameron and Clegg. Blair had a pretend job in law while attempting to get into parliament. Cameron didn’t even do this, going straight into the Conservative Research Department. Clegg looks like he saw the opportunity to enter UK politics via Europe.
But what do these and the new crop bring to the table; what experiences have they had which will help the country move forward? I try to see something positive in the youth of these people and New Labour’s parachuting in the likes of Georgia Gould, but it’s not working for me. Just look at the photos of the posters in the left column of Labourlist’s home page. It scares me that these are our next Labour Party representatives. (Apologies to those who don’t feel they fit my description.)
What the expense scandal should tell us is that we can’t afford to have this type of candidate. The political class must know that eventually the public will revolt and not just by not voting, or by voting BNP. Maybe a study of the French revolution will give them some warning. The people are very angry.