“Most politics is necessary drudgery. Populists who damn the whole spectacle are the decadent ones…”

Nice opener from Janan Ganesh in tomorrow’s FT, “The UK Independence party does not represent the start of a revolt but the culmination of it.”

It’s an intriguing piece which calls to attention, amongst other things the retraction of the political class into “self-loathing” and fear of its own shadow:

The measure of a politician’s worth is how much he is like “us” and not like “them”. Mr Farage’s real achievement is not electoral – his party has no MPs and runs no councils – but cultural. He has spooked the mainstream into emulating the values and priorities of its own tormentors.

As a ploy to neutralise Mr Farage, this self-abasement gets nowhere because it concedes his basic point – that Britain is run by a conspiracy of malign people – and radiates the most lethal weakness in politics: inauthenticity.

Rather he concludes that the mainstream needs to get its head around the long term changes that have put air under populist wings, and…

…instead of smearing themselves with tar and feathers, mainstream politicians should remind populists that they do the hard work of politics: representing constituents, reconciling competing claims and taking an interest in dry corners of legislation that affect people’s lives. Most politics is necessary drudgery.

Seen from this angle, the “elite” are the people who get their hands dirty. And populists who damn the whole spectacle from cosy sidelines are the truly decadent ones. [emphasis added]

But do really go and read the whole thing….

  • UKIP …the whole thing is disappointing.
    There is (apart from a faction in the Tory party) a consensus on Europe…and dare I say it…the point we are at in Europe now was achieved incrementally by stealth.
    And the expansion from 15 nations to 25 (now 28) and effectively two different economies was a big mistake, especially with hindsight.

    Migration and Race and Multi Culturalism….never far below the surface…have never really been discussed openly…and this gives Farage and his cohorts an excuse to bring it up on their own dishonest terms.
    With the newspapers originally treating Farage as a 1950s throwback…and a safety valve….they are now trying to undermine UKIP by a stream of shocking revelations, few of which seem to bother the electorate.
    The three-party cry “we must do something about Nigel” would be more worthwhile if they had not actually allowed the situation arise.

    I normally have a lot of sympathy for hard working politicians but the Financial Times report overdoes the whole “heavy lifting” thing. A lot of the heaviest lifting has been expenses claims forms.
    Its a mess.
    But frankly the views expressed by UKIP are not much different to those heard here. We dont challenge it here. We call it Culture and Diversity and embrace it.
    Id be surprised if UKIP top the poll. Call it “scrutiny” or the Establishment “out to get them” or just a basic decency in Electorate….I think Labour will top the poll….maybe a lot of Lib Dem and mainstream Tories wont want to see ” UKIP Triumph” headline.

  • mr x

    UKIP voters believe guys like Ganan ought to be in the curry house or the corner shop.

  • notimetoshine

    UKIP seem to thrive on ill informed statements of the ‘I hear they are getting all the houses’ type to tie in with the mainstream conspiracy concept. But what seems to make them stand apart is that they use this in their official election material.

    A certain local UKIP politician for instance has claimed on one of his UKIP youtube videos that 25% of the maghaberry prison population is made up of foreign nationals, information that he has ‘heard tell of’. Now this is used as verbatim information in certain election materials. It is misinformed populism of the most base level I have ever seen.

    So just more misinformation from a supposedly ‘straight talking’ party…

  • DC

    It is hard for national and indeed regional politicians to justify inflation busting pay increases whenever their democratic workload is lessening with 75% of new laws being legislated on by European technocrats, perhaps the national civil service are in a better position to justify pay increases due to having to transpose these laws into the national legal framework, but not the politicians, whose influence and debating powers have long since left them and gone elsewhere.

    It is stuff like that that really pisses me off and I can only say hell slap it up the politicians getting a poke in the eye from the gutter when setting up their own wee pay commissions or committees to pay themselves more and not having the wit and decency to show restraint. It really is a pretty pathetic spectacle that MPs cannot be trusted to set their own pay and be trusted to not pay themselves more without these pay commissions. MPs need to learn to live with the constraints that they themselves are imposing on the wider populace and its pay. For instance as a result of the government increasing taxation and implementing cuts in public spending and public goods, all this eats away at take home pay for ordinary people.

    Just when politicians actually begin to feel the squeeze they manage to bump themselves up a rung it’s pretty pathetic viewing, if not genuinely worthy of complete and utter contempt.

  • Mick Fealty

    75% DC? Have you got a reliable source for that?

  • DC

    UKIP 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Had to be them or SF, the Reform Alliance or that French guy whom The Sun newspaper used to love to hate, wotsis his name? Oh yes, Jacques DeLors.

    It’s cynical crap masquerading as outsiderly insight. But hey, the voters love it, so what’s the harm, eh?

  • DC

    You are in denial Mick, politicians just need to behave themselves better and feel the squeeze like the rest of us and people would think much more highly of them rather than using the power of assembly their own legislative assembly to contrive a clever wee pay committee to bump them up an inflation busting rung on the pay ladder.

    Help us we are feeling the pinch, we are treading water and being made to eat our own fat – Pay Committee to the rescue!


  • Brian Walker

    Populism is about the attraction of the easy answer to problems big or small. It has always existed and always will exist. It’s thriving just now because of the erosion of traditional class and national loyalties which once shaped politics and the clash between financial retrenchment and ever rising expectations.

    No sooner had government divested the means of production and distribution than it found itself still held to account for just about everything, either through being forced to acquire new powers of regulation over arms- length government, or in a state of last ditch emergency as when the state took over the banks. It’s impossible to imagine any politicians these days telling the public as Harold Macmillan did half a century ago: “You’ve never had it so good,” (adding by unspoken implication,” why don’t you stop gurning?”).

    The nature of the party battle requires that politicians never reject the call of rising demand even in today’s circumstances. Cutting welfare bills is presented as empowering people “to get into work,” a target which goes unquestioned as a public good. Austerity is presented as a better route back to growth than deficit spending.

    The big no-no for a politician is that you never tell the public that they’re wrong. The public when they can be bothered sense the lack of authenticity in the politician but are no keener on accepting limitations than the politician.

    And so I come to two mottos for the sampler. Hypocrisy is a small sin that makes harsh truth bearable. And ideology is what you rely on when you haven’t got the evidence. Populism is what you get when these basic rules come under strain.

    In Britain in 2010, the populist party was the Lib Dems. Once they were in government with mixed results, the spotlight of populism was bound to shift elsewhere; in England to UKIP, in Wales amazingly to the Conservatives who were out of it for a long time and in Scotland, spectacularly to the SNP. But I hear you cry, the SNP have been in government for more than half a decade! Yes, but they spotted the dynamic of devolution that others didn’t, that they can still get away with blaming the Big Yin in Westminster for just about every failure.

    In Ireland north and south the most successful populists are of course Sinn Fein. Different from UKIP in that sit in the domestic parliaments, they are in government in one part and entertain not unrealistic hopes of government in the other. Populism is fuelled by the unfulfilled and not impossible dream which is part of chemistry of revolution. This applies mainly but not entirely to the North. In the South, the populism is of the more conventional variety, exploiting the unpopularity of government coping with harsh austerity. In both islands, the main political parties have been trying to manage the financial crisis and inevitably have been found wanting.

    It’s hardly surprising that next month the appeal of alternatives of populism and non-voting will be given full rein. But they are not the best guide for how people face electing a government, the choice that still matters most. In no stable state is a populist government in power. Italy has finally thrown out Berlusconi, Greece missed one narrowly and Putin has gone very ugly populist.

    Populism is a reverse indicator of stability. What does it say about Ireland?

  • SDLP supporter

    BW, good post. I’ve never believed in ‘vox populi, vox Dei’ (bog Latin, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’). The electorate can be at times just as venal, skittish and downright hypocritical collectively as they are individually.

    The US is a case in point. No major figure there has had the guts to tell the electorate there that those who voted in George W Bush twice as President were downright pig-stupid (unless they were multi-millionaires) and that they deserved all the adverse consequences.

    Reminds me of the Gallup poll in early 1964 when a sample 86% of the electorate solemnly assured the pollsters that they had voted in 1960 for the recently-martyred JFK , when less than 50% had actually done so.

    People are sceptical of politicians. At times, I am pretty sceptical of the people.

  • SDLP supporter

    Apropos of nothing, have just got Diane Dodds’s (DUP) Euro election leaflet in my door and, in a cursory reading, have picked up, ahem, one significant “untruth” and one omission.

    The untruth: “Such was her impact and reputation that in 2005 she was elected to Belfast City Council with the highest ever individual vote of any candidate in Northern Ireland.”

    Ms. Dodds indeed got 4,176 vote in Court DEA (Shankill) in 1976. However, this was far lower than the 7,087 votes which the late Paddy Devlin got for the SDLP in Area D, Belfast City Council in 1977. I am sure the nerds out there can find other Council votes that were higher than Ms. Dodds’.

    The omission: in a bar chart of party strengths in the Assembly, they have managed to completely leave out the Alliance Party. The love that dare not speak its name?

  • Mick Fealty

    As SDLP Supporter says, good post Brian. I want to come back to some of that later on…

    Nick Cohen’s trenchant attack, not simply on the racism UKIP’s candidates but it’s opponents and the press is interesting with regard to rise and rise of populism (http://goo.gl/PTCssX):

    Labour stays silent because it hopes Ukip will split the Tory vote. The Tories stay silent because they fear that many of their supporters agree with Farage, and the broadcasters don’t apply the same standards they apply to other politicians because, well, Farage is a character who brightens up their dreary schedules.

    It suggests that populism is in part a wider condition than just the populists themselves. It feeds on a sort of broader surrender of the verities of public service and a glut of ‘policy based evidence’ driven journalism?

  • terence patrick hewett

    The UK electorate are in an ugly mood. According to the latest polls UKIP are 11 points ahead of Labour their nearest rivals. It is always a mistake to judge the human condition by how we would like them to be: not how they actually are. The UK Polling Report gives:

    TNS-BMRB have European figures of CON 18%(-3), LAB 27%(-3), LDEM 10%(+1), UKIP 36%(+7), Others 9% (tabs here). Changes are from their last poll in early April.

    ComRes/ITV have European figures of CON 18%(-4), LAB 27%(-3), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 38%(+8!), GREEN 4%. Full tabs are here and changes are once again from a previous poll in early April.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Are Mick me old sausage: the human condition: is it pathos?

    or is it just pomposity and crapulence?.