Friday, December 10, 2010

Jeremy C***, Wikileaks, Katia the Spy, and Students: Just Another Week in Politics

It’s been quite a week in politics. First of all, there was the James Naughtie slip-up over Culture Minister, Jeremy C (see video above, as long as you are ready for 'strong language'). Really, he will never be known as Jeremy Hunt again and his political career is pretty much over. The damage done by such slip-ups is irreparable (e.g. when Michael Howard was tainted with having ‘something of the night’ about him, it marked the end of his parliamentary ambitions), although it would have been less catastrophic had the slip-up seemed less of a shoe-in.

Then we had wikileaks, the arrest of Julian Assange, and the hacking war by Anonymous on PayPal, Visa, Mastercard etc. I had a quick glance on 4Chan’s crazy ‘random’ board yesterday and noticed a few commenters seemed furious at all the publicity generated by ‘Coldblood’ at the BBC. They’re happy at the hacking attempts but not everyone is happy at people talking to the press about them.

Most of the leaked documents do seem to be very much in the public interest. Not the one on places thought to be of maximum strategic importance– I can’t see why it’s in anyone’s interest to make such documents public – but today’s one on how North Korea may be helping Burma to build nuclear facilities, for example, and the conformation that there was significant heated communication between Britain, USA and Libya over the release of Megrahi, accused of the Lockerbie bombing. This latter document shows, if we needed conformation, that Governments are happy to suppress information and lie to their voters. They will spin any story to their own advantage and deliberately mislead people as to how they arrived at their decisions. The US government were prepared to lie through their teeth to the very people they claimed to support – the relatives of those who had died in the bombing. That, surely, is disgusting, especially given the USA’s hard line on Megrahi’s release afterwards. The London government lied so that Megrahi’s release would seem like a purely Scottish decision. If you don’t believe me, read the link.

Now, I live in a democracy, a place people died so that everyone could have a vote. I’m fairly sure they didn’t die so that elected governments could treat their voters with complete contempt. That’s why the governments in Washington and London are so furious with wikileaks. It’s not because the documents ‘put lives in danger’ as they pathetically claim (they couldn’t care less about that) but because they have been embarrassed that their relationship with their own voters has been revealed as entirely duplicitous. Anyway, I also liked Dave Bonta's post about wikileaks at his Via Negativa blog.

Then, there’s the story of the 24-year-old beautiful Russian woman employed as a press secretary to a liberal democrat MP, who didn’t suspect for one minute that she might have other motives for having access to files etc. Of course, some people might get angry at this and ask why, just because a woman is beautiful, vivacious, young and Russian, they are necessarily also a spy. True. But we might also ask how many other male MPs have young, beautiful, vivacious, Russian aides, and, on the assumption there aren’t any, we might well ask if there’s a good reason for that!

Finally, the students. This story fits in well with wikileaks. Few people like to see violence on the streets. But I heard Michael Portillo a few weeks ago say that, when he witnessed the violence over the poll tax in the 90s, he knew the poll tax was dead. The trouble is – when governments treat their people with contempt, break promises to voters, and refuse to listen to argument, what else is left but violence? Last night, on This Week, I heard former Labour Cabinet minister (now part of a political ‘think tank’, supposedly on the left, but his record in the New Labour Cabinet somewhat contradicts that), James Purnell, say from his comfortable news studio that the students had to answer to the bare fact that, for all their protests, they had failed to prevent the increase in tuition fees. Well, of course they have, because politicians they voted for, who had promised not to raise tuition fees, now believe that raising tuition fees is an excellent idea. But Purnell’s complacent arrogance, of which he seemed not remotely conscious, is partly why people are angry, why they’re out on the streets, why violence is brewing. People feel betrayed. They feel democracy has become a sham, that the moral priorities of the nation haven’t changed in the slightest even after financial meltdown, that the rich and powerful will continue to become richer and more powerful, and everyone else will have to pay simply to make that happen. When Michael Portillo comes over as more humane and understanding than an ex- Cabinet minister from New Labour, it’s painfully obvious how out of touch politicians of all colours have become.

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