N.B. If this review is rather long, that is because Peter Oborne's book raises a large number of issues that are very difficult to deal with briefly.
I find this book to be highly perceptive about some recent social trends affecting politics in the UK; also on the plus side, it is a real pageturner, written with caustic wit, and with a clear (and startling) message. However, although I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and see much truth in what Oborne is saying, I am not at all persuaded by the central argumentthat there is little difference between the three mainstream parties, and that the next big development in UK politics is therefore likely to come from outside the mainstream (Oborne is ambiguous about whether such a development is to be welcomed).
The first claim is fleshed out by Oborne as a story of the decline of the party system since the 1950s, when the Labour and Conservative parties could both boast 2 million members each (or more). The mass memberships from different sections of society sent MPs to Westminster as, effectively, delegates to represent their respective interests. The result was an authentic choice between opposing political outlooks based on the differing life experiences of people far from Westminster, underpinning a healthy democracy. The rot sets in when party membership starts to decline (somewhat oddly, Oborne doesn't venture any suggestions as to why this happened). This eventually results in local constituency associations becoming hollowedout shells, powerless to resist the takeover of the parties by their national leaderships. Once all three of the major parties have been through this process, their respective leaderships naturally form a cartel, which is none other than the Political Class of the title. As the cartel sticks together on all major issues, General Elections become meaningless, and real politics is driven to the margins, leading to an increasing sense of alienation amongst ordinary people. Meanwhile, as the elite's confidence grows with the realization that it is effectively invulnerable, its rule begins to take on more totalitarian characteristics (e.g. curtailment of civil liberties, attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the civil service). The postdemocratic era is characterized by low standards of conduct in public life, and equally low levels of competence in governmentnational decline only intermittently obscured by the techniques of "manipulative populism".
As I say, there were moments when he almost had me persuaded! But I think there are less alarmist explanations for the trends he identifies. The decline in mass membership of political parties can be put down to the fact that they have lost their function as social clubs; that is, most of the people who left were not activists, but people who went along to socialize, and have now found more exciting ways to do this; many activists have stayed and are still engaged in doorstep politics and local campaigning, just as they always wereat least if where I live is anything to go by.
The national leaderships of the parties certainly have much more leeway than in the 1970s to make policy independently of, say, party conferences; but this does not necessarily support the thesis that leaderships have declared independence from their memberships. On the contrary, in all parties the leadership is itself chosen in a more democratic way than was the case in the 1950s. Besides this, there are other powerful incentives for leaders not to neglect their core constituencies, e.g. the need to keep the activist base enthusiastic, the need to get the core vote out at elections (even in marginal seats, in which it is not the case that the electorate is composed mainly of uncommitted "floating voters", merely that the number of committed supporters of two or more parties is fairly evenly matched), and the need to treat sources of funding that remain reliable in hard times with due respect. The benign explanation for the increased freedom of leaderships to form policy is that making policy via party conference proved to be a hopelessly unwieldy way of doing it, which parties have had to abandon in order to avoid losing competitive advantage to those of their rivals that have already given it up (or never used it in the first place).
The inevitable (and healthy) struggle for competitive advantage amongst the parties also explains why their platforms can sometimes appear to get closer together over time. A potted history of Britain since 1945 will illustrate what I mean. First, a new ideological paradigm appears on the scene (1945; 1979) and is embodied by a radical government that sweeps a horrified, protesting opposition before it. Next, over time, some features of the paradigm become generally accepted (the NHS in 1948; private ownership of industry in the 80's), whilst others prove to become increasingly irksome (national wage and price controls in the 60's and 70's; underfunding of public services in the 80's and 90's). To win votes each party must move away from its initial, ideologically entrenched, starting point in order to keep up with the evolving consensus. Until a new paradigm appears on the scene the differences between the parties will tend to become more subtly drawn, at least in terms of the original paradigm. This is not necessarily unhealthyit is merely symptomatic of the fact that there is no point in continually revisiting issues that were settled years ago. A party that does try to live in the past in this way tends to lose elections, as Labour discovered in the 80's and the Conservatives discovered in the noughties). Furthermore, this setting aside of old issues creates space for previouslyneglected issues to come to the fore, e.g. climatechange, immigration, genderequality, press regulation, banking reform. Whether the parties are actually getting closer together or not rather depends on the perspective from which the party battlefield is viewed; from a vantagepoint fixed in the past the parties will appear to converge as they move on from old issues; but from a vantagepoint that keeps up to date it seems instead that the the battlefield has changed shape rather than shrunk. That Oborne's vantage point is outoftime is suggested by his choice of political heroesGeorge Galloway and Jonathon Aitkenfigures whose dearest wish is to relive, respectively, the battles of the 1940's and the 1980's.
I still have to deal with:
the growing sense of alienation with politics amongst ordinary people
the alleged totalitarian tendencies of the ruling elite
the thesis of British national decline
the forecast that a new movement may arise from outside the mainstream
Alienation From Politics
Oborne's description of this problem is very good, and I think he is right about some of the reasons for it, namely: the professionalization of politics, and increasing levels of corruption. His other reasonthe lack of difference between the mainstream partiesI have already dealt with above. But what can we do about the first two causes?
On professionalization, I would pose the question: is this not something we would be better off just getting used to? After all, we've got used to professional athletics and even professional rugby union, so why not professional politics? As with the other two cases, the professionals in politics have tended to win over "amateur" opposition because they are just better than them at winning according to the rules of the game (getting the most votes after 5 years of pitiless 24/7 media scrutiny, in the case of politics). Because noone in politics wants to lose, I don't see any easy way to reverse this professionalizing trend. I can also see a benign consequence, namely that votersfaced with a seemingly blander choice between similarly professional alternativeswill be encouraged to concentrate on the policy issues rather than merely deciding with which candidate they can most easily form a tribal identification.
If accepting the professionalization of politics sticks in the throat, then something that might sweeten the pill is that politicians are not the whole of politics. The media (including social media) are a powerful independent force, and are increasingly open to apolitical citizens who organize campaigns on the issues that concern them. The media are just as much "clients" of these campaigning citizens as they are of politicians, and of course the media also have to think all the time of their own clientsthat is, us, their readers. The politicians only get to survive for as long as they can ride the media's bucking bronco, which involves combining a receptiveness to public opinion with the ability to mould it in a constructive way. I think Oborne recognizes this in a way, but whereas he calls it "manipulative populism", I would label it more optimistically: "leadership".
OK, so what about corruption? The first point to make is that Oborne is right to be concerned about corruption in British public life. The second point is that he is also right (on the whole) to point the finger at Tony Blair's premiership for undermining the traditions of due process that keep corruption under control. Where I differ from Oborne is that I don't share the part of his diagnosis that portrays Blair as the culmination of a trend that has its roots in the 1960's. Instead, I diagnose corruption as a perennial hazard in public life. After all, Asquith and Lloyd George were notorious, and that should be impossible given Oborne's picture of Victorian moral rectitude persisting till the 1950s. I am not saying Blair was a oneoff; just that, from time to time, leaders will come along who take short cuts because they have an inadequate understanding of the role that rules play in upholding fair play and decency. I think this problem has always been with us, rather than being, as Oborne has it, a recent phenomenon (interestingly, his epilogue on the Brown administration in the paperback edition acknowledges that Brown tried to restore cabinet government).
I think it is also important to note that even the Blair Administration's record on standards in public life is not all bad. It was the Freedom of Information Act (2000) that allowed the scandal of MP's expenses (something that had been going on for a long time) to be exposed, forcing MP's to tighten the rules. Also, if the point of comparison is supposed to be with the 1950's, then we should remember that that was the decade of the Suez War, the MauMau concentration camps, and concealed scandals about unsafe nuclear power plants. My point here is that we might be seeing more corruption because we have got better at spotting it, rather than that there is actually more of it around. Another thought that reinforce this one is that the sex scandals that have recently surfaced concerning figures who were powerful in the 1970's would be unlikely to occur today, as it has simply ceased to be acceptable to use social position to extract sexual favours in the way that it was then. Whilst these optimistic thoughts should not let the Blair's off the hook, they do tend to undermine Oborne's thesis that corruption is on the increase in general.
Totalitarianism of the Ruling Elite?
I think Oborne is barking up the wrong tree on this one. Totalitarianism is normally characterized as a state of affairs in which every aspect of life is deliberately politicized (and polarized) by an allpowerful ruling elite. It is hard to see how New Labour can be saddled with this, whatever its other faults. On the contrary, one of Tony Blair's strongest points is that he is good at understanding the perspective of people who are basically apolitical (remember "Mondeo Man"? Plenty of other evidence of this trait can be found in Blair's memoirs). Britain today is not a highly politicized society (like Venezuela or Cuba, where leaders with totalitarian tendencies have left a divisive legacy), but a complex, multifaceted society in which politics sometimes struggles to get the hearing it needs. Blair's talent was that he could (sometimes) get it that hearing. Oborne diagnoses that talent as something diabloical ("manipulative populism"), on the grounds that the Blair government invoked public opinion to challenge the functioning of established institutions such as the judiciary and the civil service. But, hang on a minute, isn't it the very idea of democracy to make just such a challenge possible? It is too easy (lazy) to diagnose totalitarianism any time some leader does something popular that you disagree with.
British National Decline
Approximately 1% of the world's population lives in Great Britain. But, in the last twoandahalf centuries or so Britain has exercised an influence on world affairs out of all proportion to that. Why? Because the industrial revolution happened here and not somewhere else, giving us a huge advantage. Eventually, other countries were bound to catch up, as much of Europe and America did in the late 19th century, and much of the rest of the world is doing now. So in one sense, national decline is indisputably real. But I don't think this gives us license to wallow in selfindulgent negativity, as it is still very much open to us to improve our standard of living and way of life, even as we become just another "ordinary joe" on the world stage.
The recent very important work by Stephen Pinker ("The Better Angels of our Nature") demonstrates convincingly that the world is rapidly becoming a less violent place. This means that losing the military dominance that we had until WW2 need be no very bad thing for us. Instead it is open to us to redifine our identity in the way suggested by E.M. Forster in Howard's End:
Does [Britain] belong to those who have moulded her and made her feared by other lands, or to those who have added nothing to her power, but have somehow seen her, seen the whole island at once, lying as a jewel in a silver sea, sailing as a ship of souls, with all the world's brave fleet accompanying her towards eternity?
A new Movement from Outside the Mainstream
Well, we don't have to speculate about this prediction, as it has already come truein the form of UKIP, the BNP, the Green Party and the Respect Party. But then these alternatives have (in some form) always been thereit is just the fact that they have not generally been popular at the ballot box that accounts for the fact that we don't generally pay them too much attention. Indeed, as one of them (UKIP) has recently started to make inroads at the ballot box, so mainstream parties have started responding to its policy agenda, as should happen in a healthy democracy (whatever you think of UKIP's ideas). In theory Oborne should welcome this as an injection of "principle" into the mainstream, but somehow I doubt if he does.
In general, I find Oborne's apocalyptic tone puzzlingly contradictory. He complains whenever politicians trim their sails to the wind, but he also seems to regard the likely consequences of their not doing this (takeover by parties currently regarded as nonmainstream) as also being potentially sinister. Democratic politics has always been, and continues to be, a mutually educative interaction between governing elites and the wider public, and I see little insight to be gained from casting this interaction in relentlessly negative terms. If some of the main parties stand for something different than what they used to stand for, that is because they have chosen to move with the times and stay mainstream, rather than being left behind and become minor. I think this is a mundane, rather than a scandalous, fact of our political history.
There were a few times when I thought I might be packing this book in. It started becoming more probably when Oborne, who is a journalist for the Telegraph, painted the higher ups of the financial world as saints who find the acts of politicians as deplorable. Do us a favour mate! It's a shame this book wasn't released a year or so after the 2008 financial crash. I wonder if it would have been a slightly different book.
Another issue I had with book is it is very biased. This is a very antiNew Labour book with little to no criticism of the Tories. The Tories are the Establishment whereas New Labour is new money. In saying that, the corruption that is listed is unbelievable. The demise of New Labour was deserved.
I persevered till the end but it is very biased.
Anyone teaching politics or British government or even Constitutional Law without reading this book is criminally negligent.
A whole new way of being governed has been developed and connived at by various factionspoliticians (of all parties), the media, the public relations industry and lobbyists to create a new ascendant governing classthe eponymous Political Class. This new P.C. is every bit as invidious as that other bane of modern life, the other P.C. (political correctness) and although unspoken the two have a lot in common.
They are both part of an illiberal conspiracy that has undermined the very institutions that were our bulwarks against tyranny in the U.K.: the monarchy, the judiciary, an independent civil service, foreign service and secret service. These institutions have been attacked remorselessly and largely sidelined in the way we are governed, thus allowing a political elite to govern virtually by whim. He did not start the process, but he certainly became its high priest: Tony Blair.
There is so much I could say in support of this book, a brilliant insight into where British politics now is, how it got there and where it may well (with appalling consequences) lead. My only surprise is that the European Union gets barely a mention, because in my view that is a supranational political class with increasingly sinister and dangerous consequences for democracy (as we know it, and are duped into thinking we still have!), and I hope that Mr. Oborne will turn his attentions to this before too long! [ Free E-pub ] ♾ The Triumph of the Political Class ♳ THE TRIUMPH The Triumph News Is Ayear Old Newspaper Situated In Kano Nigeria The Company Published Its Production In English Language, Hausa And A Skip To Content Friday, July ,THE TRIUMPH News Politics Business Feature Interview Opinion Health Issue Sport Editorial E Paper Search For Breaking News News Produce Evidence Against Me, Magu Challenges Malami Crime Police InTriumph Motos For The Ride The Official Triumph Site Motorcycles That Deliver The Complete Riding Experience View Our Range, Find A Dealer And Test Ride A Triumph Icon Today The Triumph Of Fame Wikipedia The Triumph Of Fame Is A Tapestry Made In Flanders In The S It Is In The Collection Of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art Creation The Triumph Of Fame Is One Of A Set Of Six Tapestries, The Other Five Of Which Are Now Lost, Based On Petrarch S Trionfi It Was Created Probably In Brussels, By An Unknown Workshop The Triumph Of Time And Truth Wikipdia The Triumph Of Time And Truth Est Le Dernier Titre D Un Oratorio De Georg Friedrich Haendel Qui A Connu Trois Versions Diffrentes Pendant Cinquante Ans De La Carrire Du Compositeur The Triumph Of The American Idiot By Umair HaqueWhat Americans At Least Enough Of Them Never Quite Learned Was This The Triumph Of The Idiot Is Also The Downfall Of A Decent, Civilized, Prosperous Nation Umair MayClutter Can Be Useful The Atlantic This Article Appears In The July Augustprint Edition With The Headline The Triumph Of The Slob We Want To Hear What You Think About This Article Submit A Letter To The Editor OrTriumph Of The Will Bggbasement Triumph Of The Will Nazi Germany Vs Imperial Japan,enables Two Players To Game The Entirety Of Alternative History S Worst Nightmare A Triumphant Nazi Germany And Imperial Japan, Having Won World War II And Conquered The Planet In , Square Off Against Each Other The Triumph Of Fear EverQuestWiki Fandom The Triumph Of Fear Edit VisualEditor History TalkShare Watch The Loop Games Do You Like This Video Other Resources ZAM EQU Census Xml EverQuestQuest Information Journal Category Heritage Journal LevelJournal Difficulty Heroic Starting Zone Lost Temple Of CabilisHow To Start Speak To Xuurk , ,waypoint , ,part OfTriumph Of The Will Wikipedia Triumph Of The Will German Triumph Des Willens Is ANazi Propaganda Film Directed, Produced, Edited, And Co Written By Leni RiefenstahlIt Chronicles TheNazi Party Congress In Nuremberg, Which Was Attended Bythan , Nazi Supporters The Film Contains Excerpts From Speeches Given By Nazi Leaders At The Congress, Including Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess And Julius StreicherHorowitz Sweden Riding High And The Triumph Of TheHorowitz Sweden Riding High And The Triumph Of The Rational Herd Immunity Approach Daniel Horowitz July ,Font Size A A A Matejmo Getty Images After Avoiding The Man Made Plague Of Lockdown And National Emotional Abuse, Sweden Most Certainly Is Languishing From The Original Plague Of The Virus Itself, Right Well, On Tuesday, There Were ZERO Deaths In The Country That Eschewed
Interesting stuff and easy read as you follow the British Political affairs. You wonder whether it is necessary to vote as the ruling political parties are all playing a big game and we are pawns in their hands.
A nice introduction to the British Political game This was an interesting book which proposes that we are now largely goverened by a small clique of aparachniks. The evidence for this thesis is weel drawn and does suggest that our politicians are increasingly separate from the general population. Interesting and mostly entertaining 'gossip', masquerading as serious political theory. At timesthought provoking and even worrying. Strictly for political 'buffs'.