Party Leader Election Debates

Bear with me on this one, I actually wrote it last week prior to last night’s 7-way leader’s debate broadcast. Although I’m feeling perfectly vindicated as the whole thing more or less confirmed my suspicions as detailed below….

UK politics were treated to another novel concept this election cycle, the slightly oddly formatted affair on Channel 4 that saw Cameron and Miliband grilled separately in quick fire succession by the tenacious Jeremy Paxman, in addition to a small studio audience. It felt like a dense affair with little breathing room, as both leaders were put under no small amount of pressure by their inquisitors. Snap opinion polling gave the nominal win over the affair to Cameron by an order of 54 to 46, but the small margin has seen some commentators claim that, due to low expectations, Miliband was the actual victor.

Various other subsidiary metrics were gleaned via polling, relating to matters such as leadership quality, world standing, likeability, veracity etc., but really it’s hard to measure what if any genuine impact the event will have on the election. Reactions from journalists, politicos and the average observer seem to pretty much boil down to confirmation bias, and the much vaunted “undecided” are unlikely to pin their ultimate decision down to what they witnessed. It largely felt like a vapid presentation piece during which we learned nothing new, and the best a sceptic might say is that it was entertaining to watch both leaders squirm a bit.

Frankly, these leadership-oriented events are something of a betrayal of the traditional nature of British politics and a further step in the trend towards imposing a presidential sort of perception on things. For anything that adequately and accurately represents how the Westminster machine still really ticks you would have to include at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. But given the tedious palava that were the negotiations to establish this year’s varied set of cross-party forums, such an eventuality would probably be beyond the capabilities of the broadcasters and parties to achieve.

The seven-way debate on April 2nd could be fairly forecast as a complete debacle, unless ITV’s Julie Etchingham has moderating qualities of supernatural proportions. If you’ve ever watched an early-stage US presidential primary debate, in which there are multiple candidates still in the field, you’d probably agree with that statement. They either descend into noisy and cluttered diatribe, or the moderator wields an iron fist and the strict time allocations reduce proceedings to a stilted competition of who has the best sound bites. And that would be referring to the relatively mild Democratic primaries. The Republican iterations are downright outlandish.

As for the other main formats, the April 16th BBC five-way will offer little by way of improvement for lacking Cameron and Clegg, despite Dimbleby’s formidable experience, though at least the April 30th Question Time between Cameron, Clegg and Miliband carries the familiar and tested feel of a UK political staple. The town hall vibe feels marginally more genuine, as even if the core questions are guaranteed to be pre-approved, there is no grooming the often visceral reactions of the crowd. The people in the audience that night will hopefully feel entitled to express themselves as freely as they often do on many an ordinary Thursday night.

One wonders if the broadcasters considered something completely different though, something that might have offered the electorate a proper look into the parties in a fashion that is actually representative of UK politics. The cross-party aspect possibly does provide an adversarial entertainment element, but really it is completely meaningless. Going back to the notion that the Chancellor and Home Secretary should be representing their parties as well, you could expand further and include other major portfolios, and have broadcasters host single party events that more fully delved into individual party legacies, policies and promises.

Line them and give them a treatment on par with Paxman’s uncompromising assaults on Cameron and Miliband for Channel 4. Perhaps it may appeal less to those who don’t already have a healthy degree of political engagement, but considering a major complaint of the Channel 4 spectacle was that it broadly lacked substance, perhaps not. The format would provide proper focus and strip away the chaff of who is a better debater or performer, which is an utter irrelevance to political competency and ideology.

There’s no doubt the parties would still find a way to moan and quibble over how the broadcasts were released, which day of the week, timeslot, order, interviewer, proximity to election and more, but it would be worth pursuing in future elections if the British public are keen on more accessible modes of having their political options presented to them. The spirit of televised pre-election political broadcasting is in that sense very worthy. But clearly as they are still a newfangled thing in this country, there’s great room for improvement on what we’ve seen so far and are yet to be served up with.

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Limited Term Politics

Now there was an announcement of interest – David Cameron won’t run for a third spell as Prime Minister, assuming of course he grabs a second by what won’t be more than the skin of his teeth. This caused surprising levels of disquiet among the Conservative Party, and the world of political analysis went into overtime to parse the meaning of it all. Was it clever? Was it reckless? What impact will it have on the election, and who would be the next in line? One question that doesn’t seem to have been asked though, is why it’s seen as appropriate for one individual to hold such a degree of authority in the nation’s politics for longer than two terms?

There’s no sense in dredging up the ostensible facts about the structures of British politics, cabinet politics, where technically the Prime Minister is only meant to be a part of a core team of fellow ministers. This isn’t the USA, some would say, Cameron isn’t the president and the differences in these systems means unlimited-term ministers are of less concern. But if we’re being honest, there has been a shift in the last two decades in the character of British politics that has seen the role of Prime Minister assume greater relevance. While still a far throw from being actually presidential, there’s no doubt a heady step in that direction was taken with the ascendancy of Tony Blair.

Even if that wasn’t the case, the question would remain – what is the logic and wisdom of allowing a limited group of individuals an unending seat at the tables of power? Why in this country is that effectively the default position for our ministers, from the lowly junior elect all the way up to No.10? Whatever bearing Cameron’s declaration will have on the imminent political landscape, and assuming the declaration was honest and to be borne out in the fullness of time, it’s hard to understand why it was greeted with any sense of controversy. Where were the congratulations for daring to be forthright about the limited extent of his political ambition?

It is a rarity that a political career of noticeable longevity was thus because of the excellence of the politician in question. More often than not it is a product of entrenchment, where the individual in question was simply able to cling on out of vanity and comfort, without any aspect of genuine competition for their place in politics. We see it in Westminster and in Washington, and in many other of the halls of governance across the world. That constituencies can be so utterly stagnant as to allow for the continuation of political livelihoods that span decades is surely something that defies the better wisdom of public service.

In the UK we have even enshrined the position of longest serving MP with the title “Father of the House”. For the last five years that honorific has belonged to Sir Peter Tapsell, although it may just be that this man belongs to that less common set of genuinely unflinching public servants, and it’s difficult, perhaps not even called for, to make criticisms of someone so broadly respected. This doesn’t mean the system in place that allowed a ministerial career that started in 1959 and runs to this very day, only disrupted by two years out of parliament from 1964-66, isn’t worthy of criticism.

It takes a glance across the Atlantic to see what is unquestionably the poster child for reformations to the allowed terms of public service, one Congressman Charles Rangel. How this perennial lightning rod of ethical discrepancies has maintained his 44-year career is no mystery, as we go back to those key words: vanity, comfort, entrenchment and stagnation. Leaving behind naïve ideals of politics, open ended political service is far more want to produce the Rangels of this world then it is the Tapsells.

Look to the expenses scandal our dutiful MPs found themselves embroiled in, in 2009. To date, eight politicians have had criminal charges brought against them, Labour’s David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Eric Illsley, Denis MacShane, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley, and Conservative Peers John Taylor and Paul White. All but Jim Devine had served for a period of not less than 13 years, in most cases considerably longer than this. Of the dozens of other MPs obliged to repay the public coffers for their indiscretions, most assumed office in or before 1997.

This isn’t to say that a prolonged stint on the public teat is definitively corollary with petty corruption, and many MPs were quite capable of resisting temptation, but it is simply another layer to the argument that ministers, let alone cabinet or prime ministers, should have better restrictions placed upon them. Besides, a traditional ideal of politics was that it never should have been a substitute for an “actual” career, namely one that began and thrived in the private sector and then ceded into public service once some form of wisdom or experience of the real world was accrued. In that sense, politics carried some characteristic of sacrifice, rather than opportunism.

Like or loathe or David Cameron for his politics, there is at least a little something to applaud in his apparent unwillingness to plough ahead indefinitely in Westminster, without doubt with regards to his role as Prime Minister. Periodically, new leaders, new ideas and a new direction are hugely important to reinvigorating national politics. While it also remains to be seen if Cameron becomes part of the “revolving door” dynamic of modern politics that sees many slip from office into some form of lobbying, there shouldn’t be anything implicitly negative about saying, in politics, “Enough is enough.”

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Vote Your Politics

Emanating from the heart of the Labour party as much as from its ardent supporters on the fringes, is a message that causes deep frustration to the more hopeful observers. “Vote Green, Get Blue” is the most often touted line, but recently we’ve also seen “Vote SNP, Get Blue”, and the sentiment clarifies. Effectively, vote anything but Labour, and we’ll have a Tory government for the next five years. Don’t waste your vote on a party that can’t win the seat.

It’s understandable to a point, First Past the Post is a fairly odious electoral system that generates extraordinary advantages to the established parties with both intensive and extensive enough support among the constituencies. We’ve seen cycle after cycle that lesser but ambitious parties like the Greens and Lib Dems do not reap remotely proportional benefits in relation to their overall vote share, to the benefit of Labour and the Tories.

So here’s the question. When the hell is that ever going to change if all we can bring ourselves to do is perpetuate the dynamic in feeble subjugation to the cautionary words of the established parties? From where will the impetus for a better system ever come? Not selflessly from the parties that the current system well serves, you can be assured of that.

A basic truth of proper democratic government is that winning the election does not grant the victor an unyielding mandate to pursue their agenda. Not only is there an opposition to convince or circumvent, but there is in fact still the message of the people rendered by the vote. A winning Labour or Tory party understands that many millions of people don’t support their vision, otherwise they would have voted for them too.

This is to say, a vote for a losing party is not a zero sum game. Every vote carries with it even the smallest amount of political capital, even if it doesn’t translate into seats, and this is exactly why we should be ignoring the fear-ridden message of Labour. A vote for Green is a vote for Green, and a vote for the SNP is a vote for the SNP, and so on. If you sympathise with these parties’ messages, or any other party’s message, you simply must vote for them. Do not vote the system.

Voting the system means the system will never change, and you’ll never have a hope of achieving the politics you want. Of course you’ll always have to temper that hope against the fact that this is a democracy and your views may well just be in the eternal minority, but the notion that we only have room for two major and only a few minor schools of political thought as represented by the current parties of Westminster, is daft.

The issue has never been more pertinent, as this year we do see several smaller parties muscling their way onto the centre stage, notably over the matter of the televised debates. In only their second incarnation, two of three debates will see not only the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, but also UKIP, Greens, SNP and, controversially given that regional parties Sinn Fein and the DUP actually courted more votes in the last election but are not invited, Plaid Cymru.

It’s right that these forums are as representative as possible, and chances are you’re going to hear some very appealing notions from parties you never thought to bother with. But what’s the point if all you’re going to do is vote based on electability? On that basis there really only are two parties in this country, Labour and Tories, being that no other party is likely a generation within being a viable majority party. Unless, of course, we start to have the courage of our convictions and vote purely and only for our politics.

There’s no surprise whatsoever that the Lib Dems have long since championed reforms to the electoral system, and that Green and other minor parties support this change as well. Labour have shown some meaningless sympathy to the idea, smothered in prevarication, and the Tories are simply just against any change in this regard.

Looking ahead to May, we can predict that the Greens might elicit around 6% of the national vote, for which they will likely be rewarded 0.2% of available seats, or in real terms, likely only one seat, their Brighton stronghold. This is, in and of itself, a clarion call for changes to the system, as it is patently, demonstrably incorrect that this should be the case. However you feel about UKIP politics, a possible 15% of the vote share translating into possibly four or five seats, 0.6% of available… well, it just isn’t a fair reflection of the will of the people, is it?

The UK is, for the time being at least, one sovereign political entity, not 650 constituencies. Having constituencies works in terms of establishing geographical or demographic units for individual MPs to serve, but it’s madness that they should function as they currently do, which is effectively as self-contained electoral units. The national vote should be the national vote.

Without going into the nitty-gritty of the more representative systems available to us (and they are perfectly available to us), the message here is that if sufficient millions of votes appear to back the mandate for changes to the electoral system, it becomes a difficult issue to ignore. Voting Labour or Tory as a tactic, or out of a sense of futility, instead of a conviction, is nothing more than a vote to perpetuate an unrepresentative system, which is itself the only reason not to vote your convictions.

Staring down the barrel of a political future where outright majority governments are fewer and further between, where the coalition will be key and smaller parties of greater relevance, there is every reason to make the push now. Vote Green. Vote SNP. Vote Lib Dem. Vote UKIP. If they or others speak to you, give them the legitimacy to say the system in place is just too flawed. That is the meaning of your vote, even it doesn’t win your party the seat, and even if it does defer votes from whichever major party is politically “close enough”. As politicians live and die by the vote, they’ll clamber to be the party that delivers.

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Direct Democracy…?

Recently I wrote about the need to vote because of it’s exclusive significance to political responsiveness. There are presently no better means by which to ensure your interests are paid due deference by the political class, because the vote is the only mechanism that has a binding impact on the futures of our politicians. Simply put, their careers depend on the vote. I didn’t say, however, that this was right.

I think I might have even said that this is quite wrong and a strong root cause of disenfranchisement, but unfortunately it’s one of those harsh realities that has to be directly engaged with if there’s ever to be a hope of change. Vote, vote and vote some more, be politically relevant, then make your demands. Though as it happens that word, change, has been dogging my thoughts for the past week or so. Not for any particularly grand reason, but simply because of the excellent tool, change.org.

You may well have signed a petition on the site, pertaining to any matter ranging from the important to the trivial. Currently running petitions include a bid to prevent the evictions of hard-hit families from their homes in the New Era Estate, a noble cause courting nearly 350,000 signatures. There is of course also the latest infamous Jeremy Clarkson debacle, attracting nearly a million signatures in favour of the man’s salvation. Popular causes apparently outweigh serious ones, but the point is that it’s a tool people use in meaningful numbers to express themselves.

Unfortunate as it is to link this back to the futility of relying on such forms of expression in the strong expectation of political action, that’s what has to be done here. Change and similar sites, like Avaaz and 38 Degrees, do not actually guarantee anything, as even the most highly subscribed petitions only offer the tangible outcome of public pressure. While this can be very hard to ignore, particularly for corporations, even governments, and have in notable cases achieved their aims, they remain in any official capacity limited in function.

However in at least the UK, there is of course the nigh-on identical tool of UK Gov e-petitioning, which possesses the significant advantage of actually putting any agenda that attains over 100,000 signatures directly onto the plates of our esteemed politicians. By law, they have to “consider” the issue for debate in the House of Commons. It’s an important distinction, however meek a proposition it is that MPs might debate something, especially when you consider that even if it goes that far they could happily debate an issue straight into the ground.

Regardless, UK Gov e-petitioning does represent an important step in the right direction, insofar as it possesses even a minimal degree of genuine direct democratic representation. Assuming you can build sufficient consensus, it is more effective than going through your local MP to raise an issue. In that scenario you would first have to successfully engage your MP, hope they take the issue to parliament and then hope yet again that your lone MP’s voice might be heard amidst that baying, pantomimic scenery, which occasionally enforces the notion that faith in elected representation is madness.

I don’t quite believe that, and however puerile the Commons can be sometimes there is an obvious logic in allocating the nation’s decision making to a group of, hopefully, informed and responsible individuals who can conduct the affairs of state while we get on with our own livelihoods and concerns. That’s not to say we couldn’t perhaps better harness the increasingly available and effective tools of direct democracy to much better effect. Referendums in their traditional format are messy and fairly expensive things to organise, but looking forward, perhaps even now, they clearly needn’t be.

It would hardly take a technological leap of the ages to implement a function similar to e-petitioning, but with the added democratic clout of being, say… e-voting. While some issues will always be beyond the remit of the broader populace to be entrusted with, requiring varying forms of heightened expertise, that’s not to say there are many issues, some extremely important, that aren’t. One critical issue on the horizon is the question of Britain’s involvement in the EU, and while what I think about that doesn’t matter a jot, it’s a question that among others speaks to the heart of the character of the nation and has been denied to the people for generations.

Nowadays, nigh on every person and their dog as some form of device and internet connection, or access to these things. With a little imagination and desire towards getting the systems up and running, we could fairly say there are few excuses in terms of the logistics of regularly putting important issues to the people in a binding capacity. Although I’ve been banging the drum for voting in general elections up to this point, I would entirely support this kind of change. Whatever enfranchises the people and helps them engage, can only be a good thing.

The only slight irony being that in order to achieve these changes… we’d have to vote in politicians that would enable them via the general elections. Reality bites again.

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May 2015

Dusting off the old blog again… always a curiosity to go back to old writings, and I’m pleased to say I’m not altogether ashamed of some of it. But being that I was graciously published by the New Statesman’s election-dedicated subsidiary May2015 last month, I figured I’d give my enterprise a tentative lease of life again.

If you do somehow find yourself reading this and have any kind of interest in UK politics and the upcoming election  you should check out May2015.com. Self-serving as I am, why don’t you explore it via the article I wrote, a small impassioned plea to actually get yourself up and go to the polling stations next month. I’m not being airy and idealistic about voting, quite the opposite, as frankly you’re a daft bugger if you can, but don’t. So read.  “If you don’t vote, you don’t matter

More to follow….!?!?!?!?

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Indyref Scotland

So it’s 3 in the morning. What else to do other than start rattling out thoughts for a blog more or less abandoned since the advent of having… an actual job. Obviously. But my fellow countryfolk north of the wall just made a fairly bold constitutional statement, which I’m eminently pleased to say fell favourably for those with any vestige of a rational mind.

The Union will remain.

Clearly, this issue isn’t over however. Crass chancers like Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are two a penny and if it’s not them in five or ten years time, it’ll be the next generation trying to lead Scotland by the nose into a cataclysm of redundant sentiment and needless division.

As emphatic as the results of yesterday’s referendum are currently appearing to be, albeit with most districts still to declare, this rankling little agenda of nationalism isn’t without some vigour. Something I think is a shame, because I might go so far to say that it’s all bull. Not the notions of self-determination and democracy, or giving Scots the opportunity to express an opinion on their nation’s fate, but the actual substance of the SNP and the frankly nauseating dishonesty of their campaign.

I wasn’t allowed to vote. I live in London, although my father still lives in Edinburgh and I have lived in Scotland in the past. The first black mark against the basic integrity of the Yes campaign. Salmond can publicly rationalise his decision to exclude non-domiciled Scots all he wants, but the truth of the matter is clear. The numbers never panned out for him were I and the hundreds of thousands of other outward looking Scots included.

But this vague form of gerrymandering wasn’t enough. So the SNP had to include voters over the age of only 16 in the hope that undeveloped minds would be easier to appeal to in the manner they knew would be most effective in advancing the cause. Emotion and the leveraging of dissatisfaction.

To hell with complexity and empirical evidence to back the raft of claims that Scotland would undoubtedly thrive, despite the raised voices of concern and caution against basically every one of those claims. Westminster isn’t implicitly serving every one of Scotland’s professed needs in terms of political and social identity, so let’s just piss off into the sunset, undoing over three centuries of a union that unquestionably brought stability and a long era of prosperity to the Isles.

What Salmond and company have done is so audacious that it might actually be impressive if it weren’t also preposterously reckless. Asking a nation to take a leap of faith into the unknown is… insane. It was insane. Romanticism be damned, this is the lives and livelihoods and well-being of millions of people potentially at jeopardy for the sake of a politician’s gambit.

Currency union? We’ll figure it out. Lifespan of the resource that would theoretically underpin the Scottish economy for generations? Inflate it, how can important can that be. Can we realistically and adequately fund our own healthcare and education systems based on an independent Scotland’s tax haul? Errr, sure why the hell not! What about the sensitivity and logistical and diplomatic burden of, say, redistributing shared military assets including Trident? And so on…

Like a petulant adolescent Salmond swatted away these legitimate questions as pessimism, sure signs that the institutions of the UK and broader global community had it out for the dreams of a small nation that only wanted to govern itself. It still utterly astonishes me.

So why am I ranting after the fact? And why I am being so entirely negative, you might wail? Or not, as who the hell is reading this anyway. Because the issue isn’t dead and buried. I daresay Scots independence is a bit like our favourite Black Knight, and likely can’t be killed whatever murderous blow it’s dealt. I would also counter that far from being negative, I’m simply being ruthlessly pragmatic. I mean, as mentioned… it’s only a nation we’re talking about here. Recall momentarily that thing called cruel reality would you? Hate to say it but the world at large doesn’t necessarily give a shit about Scotland and it’s dreams. Sink or swim chum.

Moreover though, it may surprise you to know that I rooted my hope that Scotland would stay in the United Kingdom out of a sense of optimism and pride. The No campaign may go down in the history books as a pathetically conceived beast as far as strategy went, and yes John Oliver nailed it when he said “Better Together” sounds like the anaemic rationale of a couple who haven’t the energy to bother breaking up, but they were pretty exclusively in the right as far as I was concerned.

The UK is a good thing. I won’t launch into an impassioned speech in support of it, see anyone from Gordon Brown or Bob Geldof or any number of public figures who have done the rounds this last week. Anything that closely and positively ties nations together, especially over existing bonds of culture and history, is worth defending.

Don’t call it rigid or antiquated. It has in fact just evolved yet again. The coming months will see further powers and control divested into the Scottish parliament, if the party leaders weren’t speaking total lies. I’m a happy chap for now. Although I hope that Scotland stays with the team for as long as the course of history permits, I would say that the next time the conversation arises, and it will, all Scots deserve a more honest, and plainly better, enterprise than the SNP to lead the charge.

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The Brandian Revolution

Oh hi there! It’s been a hwee hwhile. The last thing I wrote a little over a month ago was lending relative praise to British politics when compared to US politics as they were in the midst of the shut-down crisis, which was itself comprised of so many farcical elements that I haven’t the energy to go through them again now. It turns out this was a little ironic, as within days, if not hours, I descended into a murk of cynicism regarding all forms of politics everywhere, at all points in time, past, present and future. Eloquently I say, I stopped giving a toss.

Thanks to Twitter I even have a record of how exactly this happened, my various tweets prior to this sophisticated number, “Temporarily lost all interest in the world, politics and society. Total cynicism attack. Socialists, liberals, conservatives… #suckmyballs,” telling me that it was the Tory party conference wot did it. Or at least, the last of several apathy inducing conferences that served to me precisely the opposite effect of being politically energised. Add a dash of Richard Dawkins taking another pathetic jab at religion completely devoid of intellectual value and the looming final of the Great British Bake Off, and one can see why I might have switched off from matters of import.

There’s just too much diatribe sometimes, whether it’s fronted by big dick intellectuals, warriors for justice, cold and robotic government suits or populist ranters, and that’s hardly not the case at present. Strange that I’d wade back in now when a month ago I was even getting completely sick and tired of my own cognitive involvement in whatever bollocks it was, Miliband vs Cameron vs the energy sector vs the people or Greenwald and the Guardian vs… Christ, everything it seemed at certain points. As a side note, and although I do profoundly care about security services acting wildly beyond the brief, the less I see of Greenwald’s endlessly and eminently affronted person, the better.

So along comes Russell Brand, encapsulating precisely the reason I think I shut down in the first place, with another impossibly unanswerable dilemma for us all to chew on. Nothing so well contained as the Big Six making us choke on our winter porridge as we digest our energy bills, or the issue of the NSA or GCHQ or whatever, but actually the dilemma of… everything. It’s all crap apparently, the whole system and all of its enablers, and we ‘the people’ are in dire need of a wake up call to arms to turn it all on its head in, I kid you not, a “utopian revolution”.

I’m not going to go off on one against this bewildering comedic figure and all of his loquacious eloquence, that’s just kind of tired and Mr. Robert Webb and a thousand other commentators already had a fairly well-rounded crack at criticising most of Brand’s semi-constructions of politico-socio-economic dissatisfaction in his interview with Jeremy Paxman. I won’t even comment much on the “live chat” that Brand had with The Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan last week or his various articles penned lately, as it was all essentially more of the same thing, eliciting more of the same kind of varyingly disapproving or admiring sentiment.

What makes me grind my teeth more than any commercially golden posturing (if you choose to see it that way, the Brand brand is growing increasingly lucrative with so much attention) is the broader complaint of the global movement that at least here in the UK has temporarily and slightly unwittingly anointed Brand as its guru. Not just the Anonymous hactivists with their trite Guy Fawkes mask, (references to V for Vendetta aside, the history behind Fawkes and his movement speaks very little to the desires of these people today, Papist Catholic hegemony I’m sure not being the intended destination), but also Occupy and the entire anti-establishment family.

It’s not that I don’t sympathise to some small degree, my own aforementioned disillusionment being hypocritical otherwise, it’s just that the conclusions these folk reach and their employed means of promoting these conclusions are just so… f@cking immature! Just because the system isn’t currently working for them, or us, or indeed many, many people, is the practical response really to want the whole thing to come tumbling down? Really? Are you going to rebuild it? With your masks and twinkling fingers of democracy? Oh that’s nice of you, because there for a second I thought you were all full of shit and couldn’t provide the change you seek even if you were endowed with the power to do so. Why? Because there isn’t a fully fledged concept among you to speak of, beyond your points of criticism, rampant as they are.

To quote a representative of the Million Mask March, regarding the weekend’s slew of anti-establishment demonstrations across the globe, “It was a march against many things; political corruption, capitalism, the global dominance of the financial services industry, austerity, the democratic deficit in people’s lives, the assault on the welfare state, soaring bills and falling wages.” Flipping hell… while in this fully loaded statement are the fractured pieces of the narrative that the majority of people in the world aren’t adequately reaping the benefits of global systems, they, the protesters, heinously fail in forcing these elements to coalesce around a single actionable goal.

Silly me, why should it when you can just launch a few fireworks at Buckingham Palace, hug Russell Brand and go home feeling like you were a part of something. You were a part of nothing, I’m afraid, you are not organised enough, you are not disciplined enough, not concise enough and no where near representative enough of the sort of changes that most people would be happy with, which are largely simple and achievable. Living with some degree of comfort, as far removed as possible from the economic desperation that many today feel. Forget sea-changes, revolution or uprisings, most of us aren’t so contrived as to call for anything that grand.

The most important aspect, however, of the miserable failure that is or will be this movement, is the fact that its constituents have situated themselves squarely outside of, and in opposition to, any recognisable manifestation of the establishment they want to change. Beating on the windows or doors as loudly or as violently as you care to won’t change the fact that you’re out in the cold while the grown-ups are inside making all the decisions. This may indeed appear to be a symptom of exactly the problems you are railing against, but in truth the only way to have a reasonable impact on the conversation is to be a legitimate part of the conversation. That is, short of breaking down the doors and causing the sort of drama that no-one should ever wish for (see the details of… every genuine revolution that ever was).

Mr Smith went to Washington and stayed there, he didn’t rock up, shit on the doorstep and run off to high-five his mates, or start taking heads for that matter. While it would clearly be delusional to hope that in real life one would ultimately claim victory with something akin to Paine’s climactic mea culpa, the point stands that we already have this wonderful mechanism for change called elected government that is only further neutered by calls to reject the system, (allowing the corruptible, invested and entitled to dominate affairs) instead of becoming involved and enriching it and being a part of the change you want to see.

Don’t tell me politics are just an inaccessible bastion of hereditary elites, as despite whatever lingering strain of that we still see, politics are in fact just about open enough to those who are passionate and committed to them. It’s defeatist to claim otherwise, a guaranteed lease of life for this status quo that you find so terrible. Simon Jenkins threw down the gauntlet to Brand. Serious about your own message? Why, there’s an upcoming race for Mayor of London, what a perfect opportunity to enter the system in a substantive fashion. But I doubt it will be seized upon. When offered the chance to support his critique with some solutions, Brand has simply said, “It’s not my job.”

Whose is it then? The people he wants chucked out of the doors of Westminster and onto the streets… what’s wrong with this picture? It seems to me that a surge of fervour for the current system, as it should be, would take us further towards desirable change. Active democratic participation is actually what makes politicians serve you. Younger voters get a raw deal because they don’t vote and political jobs aren’t threatened by ignoring their interests. How on earth can we expect the government we want if we’ve only just in 2010 crept back up to 65% eligible turnout after 2001’s pitiful 59%, and are already hearing calls to reject voting altogether?

The Liberal Democrats provide the best case I can think of for putting the shaft up that argument, having inspired some of the spike back to a lukewarm turnout and then appearing to consummately betray or fail their base with anything from tuition fees to social welfare reforms and much more. But then being on the verge of a hung parliament that forced the current coalition dynamic and all this unsavoury compromise is itself a symptom of democratic laziness and indecisiveness. We’re waiting for the political class to serve us up with something fresh, getting all worked up in a huff for not getting it, when all the while that something has to come from us.

This is a democracy, the political class is us, you, me and everyone who resides on the Isles. The sooner we remind ourselves of that fact and inject some enthusiasm back into the system, rather than embracing anything so Brandian* as saying, “Bugger it all,” the better. As disenfranchised as I felt this past month, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to feel from time to time (we can’t all have one eye on the state of affairs all the time), it is beyond important that we occasionally renew in ourselves at least some sense of constructive involvement in our political process and never reject it wholesale.

Also ironically then, I could perhaps thank Brand for providing what to me are some heavily objectionable opinions and for forcing me back to the keyboard. At least one of his stated goals in all of this was to get people thinking and talking, which I daresay he has achieved to an impressive degree. I just hope people are thinking practically and independently enough not to prescribe to the other specific points of his strain of wisdom, or rather the strain of wisdom that is prevailing among certain circles.

And by the way, if you didn’t hear much about the Million Mask March, it’s probably just the corporate media conspiracy keeping it all under wraps, but don’t worry. The established media is to be the next target of ire for these masked crusaders, further proving they have less focus than an addled puppy that can’t choose between eating dinner and licking its own balls. I would say to them that the established media probably lost interest in their ilk back in 2011 when the best they could elicit from the grimy hippies of Zuccotti Park were statements of lesser cogency or coherence than the aforementioned addled puppy could provide.

Methinks the protester doth protest too much. Or too painfully ineffectually. Right then, enough. Fin.

*Brandian, phrase coined courtesy of Suzanne Moore of The Guardian, who shall be paraphrased to provide the definition of, “endlessly see-sawing between braggadocio and yoga-ed up humility”

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