Monday, January 08, 2007
On Gordon Brown and the Renewal of our Politics
"Brown's words were strikingly clear and ambitious. Britain needs 'a new kind of politics', with a 'government that intervenes less... you have got to listen and be prepared to talk, consult and debate. The challenges of the future demand something quite different from the past.'"
We can all agree with that. Having helped campaign for political literacy all my professional life, I'm dismayed at the decline in our civic culture that has seen election turnouts plummet and cynicism proliferate(though I have to confess to consuming a fair helping of it myself). We certainly need to revive our civic culture: a tolerant , engaged and responsible culture which has matured over centuries and made Britain a beacon of liberty as well as a wonderful place to live. But looking at Brown's proposals, I'm not sure that:
i) Brown is the right person to talk about a government which intervenes less; at The Treasury he has intervened obsessively with every aspect of government.
ii)Nor do I think his record suggests someone who is able or ready to listen if the criticisms of his former colleague Charles Clarke are anything to go by.
iii) His prospectus of strengthening parliament, culling political advisers and terminating 'sofa-government' will do more than scratch the surface of our intractable political apathy.
What has happened, it seems to me, is nothing less than a wholesale collapse of faith in our civic procedures and culture. We have become so immersed in our complacent cynicism that its akin to an addiction. We have failed to appreciate how hugely advantageous that culture is compared with the alternatives; Will Hutton's report on China yesterday emphasized how the more liberal Chinese envy what we have allowed to be be devalued in our own eyes. What will it take to bring ourselves to our senses? Addicts usually require a period of hitting 'rock bottom', a period of despair, before they begin to reacquire that life positive mindset. I hope I'm wrong, and I don't wish it, but it might require a serious crisis in our national life to achieve the renewal our politics really needs.
One is also forced to question what Gordons' vagueries actually mean...
Links to this post: