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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday May 31 2007

Iain Dale quotes an interesting gob of writing (note the new category I have created - “bits from books") by Jeremy Paxman (from this book).  I now quote the same bit:

Being loved is what so much of contemporary politics is about. In a post-ideological age, the Labour Party has built its success upon seeming safe and appealing to people who might never otherwise have voted for it. Yet you cannot achieve radical change without being willing to confront those who might be disadvantaged by it. The difficulty is that the great battles which divided the parties after the Second World War - on nationalisation or nuclear weapons, for example - are finished. The Welfare State brought the state into everyone’s lives, but the consequence has been that it turned ministers from lawmakers to managers. And managers of a system which is bound to fail, at least part of the time. Where, once upon a time, governments impinged very little upon people’s lives, there is now scarcely an area of human behaviour which is not touched by the law. Yet, while government is all pervasive, it is not, by its nature, particularly effective: the public knows from its own experience that ministerial boasts about the superiority of British health services, education or transport systems, are empty. So the opportunity which the politician thought he had to make an impact on the lives of the entire population is just as easily an opportunity for the citizenry to blame him for the failures they see all around.

In an age when politics was driven by profoundly differing convictions about how the world ought to be organised, enemies were the price of progress. But when all that is being argued about is the mechanisms by which services are delivered to the general public, there is nothing to stiffen the backbone. Politicians have to become evangelists for a system which is intrinsically incapable of delivering what is asked of it: the greatest credibility problem of modern politics is that the political process cannot answer adequately for the performance of the public sector. It follows that the wisest ministers are those who realise soonest how very little power they really have. The number of politicians who can look back on their ministerial careers and feel that they really made a significant difference to their country is small. Roy Jenkins could honestly recall his time as Home Secretary and say that he had achieved something, in endorsing the reforms to the laws on abortion and homosexuality. Margaret Thatcher emasculated the trades unions. Tony Blair gave Wales an assembly and Scotland a Parliament. But quite what the Secretary for Culture, the three junior ministers and their aides write in their diaries each night is something of a mystery.

When it comes to this allegedly “post-ideological age”, you can count me out.  Just because your ideology has failed, that doesn’t mean that all ideologies have failed.  It just means what it means, that your ideology has failed.  Not mine.  My ideology remains true, and you must, if you care about the truth, accept it.  You admit that yours had failed.  One-nil to me.  Now, I’m going for a two-nil victory.  I want you to admit that my ideology has not failed, and is true.  If you think I’ll settle for a draw, by sportingly volunteering the idea that my ideology has also failed when it clearly has not, just because you have admitted that yours has, and when on the contrary the failure of your ideology only goes to show how right my ideology was all along, think again.  I know that thinking is not something you now like doing any more because it hurt your brain so much the last time around, but do it anyway.

When I say “you”, in the above paragraph, I mean ... well, you know who I mean.  I mean all the people I mean.  But, and this is the interesting thing to me about the above quote, I rather think that maybe I do not mean Paxman.

Government is not by its nature very effective?  It is a system which is intrinsically incapable of delivering what is asked of it?  That sounds a lot like my ideology, to me.

But then again, I guess that might be true for any ideologist who regarded his ideology as still flourishing in the post-ideological age.  What does Paxman think it is about the intrinsic nature of government that makes it such an inevitable disappointment?

I suppose that if I really want to know, I’ll just have to read the book.  Which just goes to show that there is no better way to sell books than quoting long bits from them.

He works for the BBC. Not just the BBC but he is a key figure on Newsnight. He makes a show of being antagonistic to MPs but never on meaningful questions. The quotes from his book sound good but somehow I doubt he realizes just what he said!

Posted by Bernie on 02 June 2007
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