Copenhagen, savage correspondence and soundbites.

How many of us are surprised that the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference failed to deliver all that was expected of it? It was encouraging that the event took place at all but, in truth, too much was expected of it.
Concerning the spat between Obama and Jiaboa, I was reminded of the telling retort from a senior nurse when asked how the consultants were behaving in operating theatre that day – ‘How old are they behaving today?’ Stiff necked chauvinism seems to be a depressingly frequent style for the key international political players – I suspect it is largely a defensive posture and not a calculated front. Or is it, in the case of the Chinese, a cultural phenomenon to do with ‘face’ – a facet of interpersonal exchange that is both qualitatively and quantitatively different for Westerners.
By contrast, consider the outcome of the strictly private exchanges between Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
Consider the plight of any major political figure. Whenever they open their mouths they have to consider many potential audiences – domestic, international, hostile, friendly, media, markets… No wonder the resulting words are so Delphic.
Perhaps, rather than simply belabouring the hapless wretches who represent us, we should be considering ways of improving the exchanges between them. Reducing expectations would be a good start. If ground has to be given to permit progress, the conceding party ought to be praised not have to fear vilification.
The issues under consideration at Copenhagen were of the highest priority and remain largely unresolved. Next time we must do better. People, media, commentariat and representatives all bear responsibility and must play their part enthusiastically, collaboratively and constructively.
As Oscar Wilde is reputed to have said: “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about!” With that in mind, I was overjoyed to be on the receiving end of some savage correspondence in The Courant before Christmas – obviously the treatment is working, the Conservatives are on the run and they have decided to scrape the barrel.
Privately, I had been reasonably certain that one or more of the candidates would turn up to the Question Time on a bike. That it was the Conservative candidate spoke volumes.
Can a deep green environmentalist run a 4×4 and retain any sort of credibility? Let me know when you have read my rationalisation.
As a family, we have had a 4×4 throughout my time as a rural general medical practitioner – since the late 70s. I have photos and video of some of the more memorable visits to patients down clarty, rutted tracks, across fields and brooks and along unploughed, ungritted roads in deep drifting snow. Not a few patients have been grateful that I had access to a 4×4.
My current everyday car is a Smart but, even buttered, I could not insert four adults into it for the journey to the Question Time. Hence the use of our Volvo.
All our car ownership details have been on the website, under ‘Personal Environmental Statement’, for months. There are no secrets.
The other withering ‘mastershalum’ being cast in The Courant was: “archetypal parochially introverted MP promoting a socially and politically detrimental cloth cap left wing image”.
Concern for the constituency – and all the other topics covered on the website – seems a reasonably balanced position to take for any candidate, I feel. In the end, the only thing that counts is votes. What do the people want and what are they prepared to vote for?
My reading of current popular sentiment is that the social atomisation and centralising dogma that has prevailed since Thatcher is now wholly rejected by all thinking people. The socially destructive, divisive grinding materialism and consumerism, promoted by the neo-liberal unregulated free-market dogmatists is top of the list for reversal. We must restore our social capital urgently.
Talk of left or right wing is now passé – politics is vastly more nuanced than that.
If you want to assess your own political position against that of the current parties, try taking the quiz on a website called ‘Political Compass’. I’ll reveal my position later.
Never wore a cloth cap either but I have got a lurcher.
On the news today I hear that Nick Clegg (LibDem) is suggesting that soundbites should be avoided in this election. This has been an aim of mine from the outset. Reducing politics to soundbites is actively injurious to our democracy. It will be interesting to see how the conventional parties respond.
Politics is difficult and complicated – if you are serious about it.
Our adversarial system of politics is an unwholesome spectacle, even when functioning normally. It needs to be replaced with a system that requires and rewards constructive collaboration from all elected members. The two and half party system that we currently endure, has become a contest to seize and retain power, for as long as possible, by a process of manipulative populism. That is, the politicians say what their closely managed focus groups tell them you want to hear. Your true opinions are far less valued and no proper consideration is given to the issues.
In my lifetime, our form of democracy has come to stress freedom for lobbying activities (in practice, by businesses) and a form of polity that avoids interfering with a capitalist economy. It has little interest in widespread citizen involvement or for organisations outside business.
While elections exist and can change governments, under this model, public electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionals. These professionals are expert in the techniques of persuasion, and in considering a small range of issues which they select. The mass of citizens plays a passive, even apathetic part, responding only to signals given to them. Politics is really shaped by private interactions between the political class and elites that overwhelmingly represent business interests.
This process has gone so far, that we now find ourselves in a Post-Democratic era. Contributing to the resuscitation of our Democracy will be a key role for an Independent MP.

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