Monday 26 May 2014

Politicians Partying Like It's 1992

Back in the early 90s, during public distaste for the poll tax, Tory Home Secretary Ken Baker was heckled in the street by protesters while on a political engagement. Employing his smuggest grin - Baker was, of course, famously lampooned by Spitting Image as a slug because smug was his stock-in trade - he pointed at those booing him and said to the attendant TV media "look at them, just look at them!". His point was to show how pathetic he thought the protesters' opinions were in the most condescending manner possible, even while the country was almost unified against his government's policy.

After the 1992 general election, when the Tories were famously rescued from defeat by Kinnock's last-minute Sheffield grandstanding and John Major's soapbox man-of-the-people image, I remember Kenneth Baker emerging from Tory HQ in Smith Square in the early hours of the morning and saying "we have listened, we understand" or some such platitudes.

They did to some extent. Major's government scrapped the poll tax and replaced it with council tax - albeit at a level more than double the rates system that had gone before it (the confusion and lack of transparent comparison had led councils to spend like they'd never been able to before). However, nothing much else changed and the 1997 election saw the Tories swept from office by a landslide. The problem with the Tories was far more deep-seated than the poll tax, they just didn't recognise it.

Of course, this was back when voters truly believed they had a clear choice. We really thought it would make a difference if we voted for Thatcher or Kinnock; for Major or Blair.

Since then, though, we've had our civil liberties systematically stripped away by Blair and a period of boom years where the state had cash to inflate the public sector by a phenomenal degree. Government protected itself from criticism with quangos and state-paid sock puppets which pretended to act on behalf of the people, and its "investment" in state authorities installed nodding dogs in every municipality up and down the country at our expense. During all of this, the EU claimed more and more of the powers over legislation previously decided in Westminster as one directive after another rendered UK politicians fairly redundant in many areas (in my industry for example, transport, in the past 15 years all but one area of regulations - one involving external vehicle lighting - that we are to adhere to is now by order of an EU directive which replaced UK legislation and expanded on it massively).

However, the number of politicians in our country didn't change, neither did the huge number of spin doctors, advisers, quangos, fake charities, tax-sponging lobbyists, and other bodies whose existence - and the salaries of those within them - relied on regulation and legislation (in fact, they increased and spawned newer versions of themselves).

Fewer and fewer areas for Westminster to lord over us, coupled with a huge state machine designed to regulate in those fewer areas, has led to a toxic situation where these forces are focussed on an ever-decreasing low hanging fruit. An avalanche of political correctness was spawned to control what we think and say; health and safety became an industry all of its own to dictate how we work, rest and play to sometimes absurd levels; and social engineering has evolved rapidly to tell us what we can eat, drink and smoke. Common sense and tolerance died a sad slow death.

In 2010, a lot of voters had had quite enough of this and the diminishing few who continue to vote gave the politicians one last chance. We were promised the Great Repeal Bill, which didn't materialise; a "bonfire of the quangos", which left intact those who actually harm the public; and a red tape challenge which has not noticeably improved anyone's everyday life. Meanwhile, we have seen new legislation brought in which has united both Daily Mail and Guardian readers in condemnation of career politicians, but still they press on.

The last chance then became, for hundreds of thousands, the last straw.

UKIP have just scared the bejeesus out of the three main parties but I see echoes of 1992 in the ensuing reaction. Labour say they need to reconnect with the working man, we can be sure they won't; the Tories see UKIP as a reason why they must urgently renegotiate with Europe, but that's only part of the problem; while the Lib Dems seem to think that they're doing brilliantly!

They all say - just like Ken Baker in 1992 - that they understand, that they are listening. Cameron says that his party "share our frustrations", but they really don't while they keep ignoring their backbenchers who actually do. Miliband says his party is "making progress" and must "answer the call for change", but they won't. They will, instead, carry on nagging and dictating to us about what we choose to consume while their Welsh counterparts continue to try to ban e-cigs. The vulgar, illiberal Lib Dems will do the same because they don't think they're doing anything wrong.

The life experiences of everyone in this country have been diminished for a very long time now because career politicians simply can't stop meddling, and the only people who don't seem to have noticed are the career politicians themselves. The EU meddles - as it is a regulatory machine specifically designed to do just that - but the UK government has been doing extra meddling in its ever-expanding spare time and we have all had enough of it.

Or, as Suzanne Moore termed it last week.
Never mind the threat of Ukip, the electorate has been consumed with anger and alienated for years
I can, with some confidence, tell you who represents the majority of people in this week's elections. No one. Most people will not vote. For all the headlines and hoo-ha of the political/media class, the big story is not Ukip and whether Farage worships Satan in a smoking jacket. The real issue is that people neither know what they are supposed to be voting for, nor see any point in doing so.
They can address immigration and offer a referendum on the EU if they like, but it won't cure the underlying cancer of a political elite blithely ignoring the public and - just like Ken Baker 20 odd years ago - considering their views as irrelevant. This superior attitude to the people who pay their wages will carry on the moment they next step through the doors at Westminster and Whitehall.

Back in the 90s, the answer to Tory Baker's arrogant dismissal of the public and his party's failure to change attitude was to vote for Labour. Now, it seems, the public believe that the only answer to arrogant paternalism from the main established parties is to vote UKIP.

Is it really too much to expect our elected leaders to leave us alone to live our lives as we see fit within the law; and to actually listen to us - not state-funded quangos and lobbyists - once in a while? I suspect that we will discover in the coming weeks, months and years that, yes, unfortunately it is.


stevetierney said...

The idea that UKIP are somehow any sort of "solution" to out-of-control statism doesn't hold water with me. They are the most populist of all parties, and it is populism which brings about statism.

If people didn't scream: "Something must be done," every time an event occurred then politicians wouldn't echo "something must be done" to win their votes.

UKIP are the very definition of "something must be done" - support for smoking in pubs aside. Sure, they talk Libertarian when it suits them. But see the chance to win some votes by opposing gay marriage? Go for it. See a Flat Tax as a vote loser? Quietly drop it.

I have no idea what the solution is. We do seem to increase our rules, regulations and controls relentlessly. But I definitely know what the solution is not. Nigel Farage.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Good points, well made.

As Suzanne Moore said above, the electorate are confused as to who to vote for if they disagree with how our politicians are behaving, which most do. UKIP are currently the protest vote de jour and will continue to be so - whatever their policies - until politicians learn to behave themselves.

One simple solution may be to listen to what the public say in public consultations (an oxymoron if ever there was one) rather than place more weight on responses from vested interests organisations and lobbyists as happens now. At the moment, 100% of the public could tell the government to drop a policy but their reply is always "this is a consultation, not an opinion poll".

John Davidson Jr said...

Its quite apparent the EU experiment is whats in control. They wont by any means deter from it no matter the outrage. The PM has made it abundantly clear he cares not what voters want or any message they are sending to him and the rest of the politicians. Eventually it will be Farage and Ukip running the show unless the EU somehow comes into the UK and sets up a puppet government as they've done in other EU member states when the electorate kicked the last EU-crats out of office.
Weve defeated them in every forum and they care not,they just keep on keeping on. It leaves in the end nothing but normal folks finally rioting in the streets and perhaps a military coup against the governments of the EU. Well hell that's already happening isn't it.

Geoff Cliff said...

Once again, Dick puts his finger right on the button! No politician now pretends that he or she represents anything other than the search for personal power. As a voter of 47 years standing, I can honestly say that I have never in my life seen my views fairly represented in the corridors of power. I still vote, but more in hope than expectation that we will eventually see our voices heard. Nigel Farage promised an earthquake; we need to see a revolution!

Little Black Censored said...

A truly excellent article. Thank you.

moonrakin said...

Major's government scrapped the poll tax and replaced it with council tax - albeit at a level more than double the rates system that had gone before it (the confusion and lack of transparent comparison had led councils to spend like they'd never been able to before).

Ain't that the truth....

A dark place said...

Westminster has totally deserted the people,divorced from reality.
The Media avoids the truth,chasing pre ordained agenda
The web promised a new awakening then led thousands into a digital wilderness, once worthy cheerleaders ,now reduced to slavish conformity.
Where now do we seek hope,where now the feet on the street.?
A dark place

Dick_Puddlecote said...

A good friend of mine was a ratings officer at a local council in the late 80s. He was thrilled with the poll tax because he was able to get three new cashier tills built to cope with the extra number of people who would be paying. Alongside that, his department - encouraged by councillors - could green light many projects that would have been forbidden before, simply because local taxpayers were not financially literate enough to compare budgets before and after the poll tax.

If your council tax goes up, you know it because you know how much it was before. If the whole system changes, you can't. It was boom time for local authorities.

moonrakin said...

Not 'arf West Wiltshire went a step further and privatised the council computer department at the same time (new line in Poll Tax Council Tax collecting software sold to almost every local council in the land (Now owned by Crapita)- forgetting to pay for the computers, premises and take the "executives" (and others) off the council payroll.... kerching!

It's not just that they have too much money - they see no reason why they should ahem... initially volunteer (understatement(3MB Image)) who they're giving it to see here - mannah from yer mates in the Rotary Club? - courtesy of taxpayers.

Throw in a Heston Blumenthal,lookalike and you're in...

Junican said...

I don't think that it was the poll tax directly that did for Thatcher. It was the backstabbing members of her cabinet, who wanted her out so that they could have a chance to get power. She was popular with tory voters; the poll tax problems provided them with cover.

Don't discount the power of the internet yet. Remember that ideas can spread almost at the speed of light! Can you imagine the difficulties of communicating if the only way to do was was by soapbox? But the internet has replaced the soapbox and is undermining the MSM's power. You might say that UKIP has succeeded despite the enmity of the MSM.

truckerlyn said...

I will vote UKIP, on the basis that I agree with most of what they say and the other lot need a darn good shake up - much more so than they have just had.

Undoubtedly UKIP would not be able to actually form a government by the next election, but the more people they have in Westminster the bigger thorn in the side of the other 3 they will be and therefore there is a little more chance that we, the people who pay their wages and whom they are supposed to serve, will start to be listened to and idiotic nannying ideas from quangos, etc, should get stronger arguments against and some of their lunatic ideas might even be vetoed.

I don't see any point in voting for any of the main 3 because, despite the shake up they have just had, they will not change because they are too darned arrogant and dismissive of US.

I also do not see the point in not voting, as that will let one or more of the main 3 back in, in comfort, to continue, unchallenged, stamping out our freedoms.

As for those who believe that UKIP is racist, I believe they are realists and fighting for what many of us want, which is protection of our race, which is being rapidly diluted, plus, thanks to governments pussyfooting around so called 'ethnic minorities' and giving in to their demands, it is now our own race, the indigenous Brits, who are fast becoming the 'ethnic minority' and losing our roots as they are being taken over by those of other nations and beliefs; something we could never do if the tables were turned and we went to live in their country.

I, like UKIP, want to save this country and return it to what it and it's values were.