Thursday 17 September 2015

This is the New Politics - And its very boring

The walking gaffe machine that is the Corbyn Collective pitched up at The House of Commons for Prime Minister's Question time. The Corbynites have so far managed one serious PR error a day.
So the media and politicians were wondering just what unforced error the old hippy that leads the Labour Party would do today.
Turn up without any shoes? Have a Hammer and Sickle badge over his poppy? Yell himself into one of his trademark tantrums over the aching poverty of Tory rule.

But .. in fact .. nothing happened at all.

The Politburo of Old Labour decided on a new type of politics, The People's President would ask questions posed by the people themselves. General Secretary Jeremy had solicited questions from his legions of supporters. From the many he received, and he claimed to have had 40,000, he chose six. Six questions that would hold the government to account.

And not in the pre-revolutionary,  capitalist-imperialist style either. But in the considered, reflective style of a left wing campus. No shouting and jeering here. Simply a collection of six, unrelated questions for David Cameron to pontificate on. Questions from and Joan & John Q Public, that would shame the government into changing its ideology devoid ways.

One by one, he read out queries from Marie on housing, Steven on rents, Paul on tax credits, Claire on benefit thresholds, and Gail and Angela on mental health.

And mightily dull it was too.

 David Cameron said he welcomed Mr Corbyn's new , less theatrical style of PMQs. And we can believe him. Because he no longer has to spend days rehearsing his answers..or even the non answers he used to give to Miliband. 
He can just wait each week for Corbyn to read out, in his drizzly day delivery style, a set of phone-in topics from a radio show.

Kim in Hammersmith says the NHS is underfunded. Ahmed from Leeds says he can only get a zero hours contract... Aleysha thinks the buses should run more frequently.
 And Cameron can answer any way he wishes. Because the danger at PMQs is not the question. But the follow up question, after an answer has been given. Or in being made to shift ground when he didn't wish too. To concede a point, however trivial, is a victory for the opposition.

The old idea at PMQ's, under the party formerly known as the Opposition Labour party, was to fox the coalition. To get Cameron to give a commitment. A denial. Even a vague pledge, that Labour could file away and use against him sometime in the future. 
Or they could reel off statistics, or newspaper coverage of damaging government department figures or rifts. Point out inconsistencies in government claims. Hints of splits could be probed to test their depth. 
Or the opposition leader could quote from his own favourite think-tanks or charity or Quango.
Occasionally the opposition could set a trap. 
Miliband's Syria retreat, for example.
They can pledge their own, alternative, policy to undermine the government's. An energy freeze promise. Or ask the government to support one of their ideas, that has some public support, but the government of the day won't go near. Hacked Off style pressure grouping.

 The opposition must uncover government weakness. And exploit it. 
And one of the ways to achieve that exploitation is to barrage the Prime Minister with similar questions and to probe his responses with further follow ups that hint he is misinformed. Or out of touch. Uncaring. Or just plain lying.

Corbyn's no dynamic speaker. He couldn't ignite a crowd of firelighters with his dreary tones. His power is in his message. Tell them what they want to believe. What he sincerely believes. Tell them what they want to hear. 
He decided to give that away. He guessed that by using 'the public' to ask his questions for him, Cameron could not risk simply dismissing them.  Cameron would be answer to the People! And that did happen. A little bit. But it will happen a lot less next time. And not at all the one after that.

On this occasion, which was the first skirmish, Cameron just answered as he usually does with his fairly, easy playing tennis style.  He can hit a zinger over the net if he needs. But he is content to simply lob the easy balls back over the net until the clock runs out. And Cameron is, and always has been, very good at this style of dispatch box politics. Its where he appears a leader. Unruffled. Unworried. Unconcerned. The opposition need to get under his skin. That's when he fumbles.
Today was so effortless for Cameron his barley water would have remained untouched. 
He left it to his own MPs questions to do the attacking.

Comrade Corbyn probably wanted to try this 'new way'. Has probably believed in a more reasoned debate for decades. His advisers probably thought that it would soften the expected blows against him and agreed. Forgetting PMQs isn't a cozy debating chamber. Its an arena. 
So all that actually happened was not much. Corbyn read out some emails and Cameron replied to them much as a customer service department might.

 "Thank you for your concerns. Your call is important to us and you are being placed in a queue..In the meantime ..please hold..Did you know that we are now the fastest growing economy in Europe? For more information about how good we are... press one. hear about any other of our super range of fantastic services and achievements, press two.."

PMQ's isn't just about the enemy either. It's about rallying your own troops. Demonstrating that the opponent is on the run. Demoralising the adversary's back benchers whilst lifting your own. Making their leader look incompetent, evasive or untrustworthy. While you look impressive and statesmanlike. Its the opportunity, one of the few public ones, that the opposition leader gets to make themselves heard and to have their performance rated, applauded and evaluated by the political press. 

Having "Edna from Edmonton" ask the question isn't going to do that. The quiet on the benches isn't going to excite anyone.

 This 'New Politics.' This Crowd Sourced, Micro-politics. 

Its even more boring than it sounds.


Sackerson said...

Perhaps it is time that politics ceased to be showbiz for ugly people.

Kynon said...

Perhaps focusing on the message rather than endless spin & semantics might be seen as a refreshing change from the public-schoolboy hectoring & braying that has been seen in Westminster for so long...

NielsR said...

But what's the message? 6 people, or even 40,000 people (not that I believe all of the emails were useful questions) with concerns that xyz needs government money is an irrelevance, it's the status quo. Spinwars make for a poor opposition, but so does refusing to fight.

Bill Quango MP said...

Sacks and Kynon: Few would argue that Prime Ministers Questions is a good example of the political process. A room of shouty toffs and angry trots yelling at each other.
But this is the theater of government. It lasts half hour a week when Parliament isn't on a long holiday and is watched or listened to by a minuscule number of people.

The normal business of government isn't carried out this way. Cross party working groups seek agreement and consensus to pass legislation.

PMQs is just knockabout for reasons explained.
Watching the last one reminded me of a Parish Council. All procedure and format,and lack of any spectacle. Just the dry tones of a councilor objecting to a kitchen extension by citing some 11th century objection to the "preparation of mead within sight of ye Church spire".

Its already a boring subject, politics. Employing mostly boring people. To do boring things that need doing.
If PMQs goes down the council chamber route, that suits the government. Who don't wish to be held to account. Abandoning the anger and the passion and the fake outrage and cheers and boos makes the session unwatchable. And it becomes a few dry lines on the BBC website and has even less resonance then it does today.

NielsR: Vgood point. Corbyn must fight. He can fight on his "new politics" platform of ordinary people , but fight he must.

2 things occur to me. 1. Miliband tried "Wayne from Hampstead told me he agrees Tories are horrid and I'm a lovely" That got him nowhere.
2. promising to do politics differently, as Corbyn has done, locks him into this failing strategy. When he abandons it, he will suffer for not being different at all.
If Corbyn had had a proper spin team, instead of his old mates, they might have pointed out the pitfalls.

Steven_L said...

Has anyone else been online long enough to remember 'webcameron'?

Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...


Corbyn (and I'm no fan) played it right. He went up against a seasoned operator and came away unscathed. If being smeared as a bore is the best the media can do...

This is a result for him. He has shown wisdom.

Despite criticism he stood at the singing of the national anthem. He - uncharacteristically - wore a tie as a mark of respect to the fallen. He is an unslicker and I thought you all might appreciate that quality here.

These days anyone expressing an opinion that falls outside the present zeitgeist is deemed to have made a gaff.

The RAF's fallen gave so that we may be able opine as we wish and may not use the German language, such as the word zeitgeist - even those refugees claiming to want to be German prefer not to use their language, which is their right if impolite to their intended hosts (if we are to believe them.)

On a slightly different subject but really the same in comparing a slicker with an unslicker: David Cameron has paid the money that he promised us not to pay to the EU in full.

He made a grand performance of this - remember ?

I am on record here telling you that he would pay in full and pointed out the slippery language he was using to cover it. He clearly has a better understanding with his EU compatriotes than he does his own people - he talks complicitly in their own coded language.

He is now using similar language on the refugee crisis and we will be taking in millions - soon. You will all be seeing great changes and we should be pressing that this does not just affect the poor and working class areas this time.

We're all in this together as the man once said.

Whatever Corbyn is Cameron is no patriot and he is the one we should be really watching.

dearieme said...

How many of the questions boiled down to "Give me some money"?

Jan said...

I think you're a bit hard on him....he's had rather a lot to do since being elected and maybe when they've worked out their position on a few things they'll be able to go for the follow-up questions.

He's already been skewered by Laura Kunsberg of the BBC about kneeling in front of the queeen when being made a member of the privy council(is this really important in the grand scheme of things?) and it seemed like bullying to me. Give the bloke a chance to draw breath. The new politics Corbyn espouses maybe won't be quite so aggressive as in the past and as far as I'm concerened that will be a good thing.

Steven_L said...

How many of the questions boiled down to "Give me some money"?

If you're PM or Chancellor or any other government minister for that matter I'd imagine 99% of the things people ask of you boil down to this.

CityUnslicker said...

Jan - It will be far more aggressive. It is hard left politics. These are not nice people, they are nutjobs who HATE lots and lots of things. Labour had been going down the hate road for a while, now, with a mild mannered leader it has arrived.

Corbyn maybe calm but his acolytes are literally street fighters.

Bill Quango MP said...

Dearime - Probably all. I was on Candy Crush by the 4th one.

Kev - His errors are his own. No member of the Labour Party, especially the Trotsky wing, can be unaware of the attacks their movement faced from the popular press throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Peter Mandelson was hired in the 1980s to unspin the media. of course, he went on to do a lot more than that.
Corbyn should know the power of the press and the 24 hour media. He knew Michael Foot. He knows Neil Kinnock. he is totally aware that if he gives an opportunity,the media will take it.

If he decides to ignore media pressure he MUST do it consistently. He MUST wear a white poppy. He must NOT join the privy council. He can't do the easy bits and not the hard.
he will be sunk if he tries. I agree he could make a very principled stand on a kind of a British Coup basis, to be different and stand by his views, regardless of the outcome. Thatcher's leadership was her unshakable convictions {real or not-she made out they were.}.
Nobody accused her of being unprincipled or unclear.

On the EU - different topic. But that payment was inevitable.

If UKIP and the OUT gang were united they would have both Cameron and Osborne's 'cast iron' promise not to pay. And youtube it with the actual overpayment made. And with the borders being closed in Hungry and Serbia and Austria.

And pointing out that the EU can close the borders and stop free movement when it suits..Why not get real?

I believe the chances for a Brexit have never been higher. But I doubt the Leavers have the skills to make it so.

Bill Quango MP said...

Jan - His errors are his own. If he thinks he can just ignore the media - or call the cops to protect him from journos, he's mistaken. He's not 'a bit different..he's a bit unprepared.' Backbenchers are shielded all their terms from the big bad media.
The now household names of the guilty in the expenses scandal, were mostly unknown. Despite 10-20 years in politics.

He may genuinely wish to try a gentle politics. And he will get a gentle response back. But what will he have achieved ..

"I have an email from Colin..who is on benefits..blah blah...give him more money.."

"I welcome the comments from Colin and assure him this government thinks upon his welfare night and day and will move heaven and earth to assist him.."

At the moment Corby supporters say that is a win. How is that a win? Well, they claim, he didn't lose.

not losing is not the same as winning. His job is to win. Not to draw,.

Electro-Kevin said...

"On the EU - different topic. But that payment was inevitable."

And so is vastly increased mass immigration. My point is that Cameron makes promises that he cannot keep and does so in tricky deceitful language.

"If UKIP and the OUT gang were united they would have both Cameron and Osborne's 'cast iron' promise not to pay."

The Out gang (the Redwoodians one presumes) are disingenuous and easy to catch out if you press them. They are far more loyal to the Blue team than they are to the country.

"And pointing out that the EU can close the borders and stop free movement when it suits..Why not get real?"

They can't close the borders. That such as Hungary now control British borders means that we are brought down to their standards.

"I believe the chances for a Brexit have never been higher. But I doubt the Leavers have the skills to make it so."

And with a tricky lying fucker like Cameron, boy, you need skills. What should be a simple case of the majority of voters saying Out and getting what they want is not possible. Even if they vote Out we will not get Out.

The biggest problem for the Outs is that the Tory Party has got a lying cunt at the head of it.

Electro-Kevin said...

decietful (can never remember the spelling)

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Did anyone see his economics 'guru' on Andrew Neil's show at lunchtime, Richard Murphy? Fuck me. The dense is strong with that one.
(I confess I have a telly in the office - supposedly for video conferencing, but there you are).

Electro-Kevin said...

SW - Impressed that you have an office.

Further to my 'skills' comment.

It's not skills that are the issue. It's on-side media - it simply doesn't exist.

The Left still control the parameters and the very language of the debate.

CityUnslicker said...

SW - He is certifiable, totally mad. He says rollocks like companies avoid 500 billion in taxes every year etc.

Luckily, it is so pathetic that it will never catch on. The fact that Corbyn relies on him is hilarious.

BQ - Corbyn's approach is to get 0-0 and claim a point. As you say this is not a win. Worse, no paying punters like a 0-0, teams who get lots of 0-0's lose more supporters, at least in a 4-0 thrashing against your own side you get to see some good goals....

Bill Quango MP said...

Kev : We will be looking at immigration and Brexit again soon.
But the Farage camp is in the same boat as the Corbyn camp. They are not going to get a level playing field.
Luckily for UKIP, Farage is a far better performer. Unluckily, the Leavers message is not nearly as cuddly as ''more free stuff for people like you, paid for by the rich.''
Its going to be a harsh battle . And a united team will do better than a divided one, obviously.

SW - I have a TV in office too. And saw him.
Was a good comment about him.

"he is an 'economist' in the same way that a Tarot card reader is a 'scientist'.
Turn the cards and make up an explanation...3 of cups..raise taxes ...The hanged man..Lower interest rates on a Thursday..etc.

CU - Agree. And, to continue with the soccer analogy, a team that draws every game in a premiership season will almost certainly be relegated with 38 points.

Electro-Kevin said...

BQ - Cameron is a disaster but he's getting away with it. His intervention in Libya was at least as bad as Blair's and its effects have blown up in his face, though his accolytes are too blind to see.

4 1/2 years of this administration to go without even a competent opposition to blame for what is about to happen. Oh dear.

"But Labour started mass immigration"

Well actually they didn't. Major did. Even before Maastricht was signed; I was a police officer in central London and we were overwhelmed with illegal immigration. The Immigration Office told us to back off it because they couldn't cope with the numbers.

Then came the squeagie gangs and the Eastern European beggars on the Tube. Long before Blair.

Actually we've already had 5 years of Cameron.

The focus should be on him, not Corbyn. But good. The more useless Corbyn is the better. We don't want a reprisal of the Thatcher/Kinnock era so that Cameron can fake being a barrier between left wing radicalism. Cameron IS leftism.

He's not a lucky leader as some say. In fact he's unlucky. The whole thing is about to go tits up on his watch and - having won the election and inadvertently destroyed Labour - he's out in open ground with no shelter.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

@E-K: although I am indeed a commercial Titan of the specialty chemical industry, I think they really gave me an office to keep me out of the way. I was upsetting the young people with my old fashioned ideas on spelling, scientific rigour, how to write lab reports, and how you musn't put unscientifc shit in front of customers, especially stupid ones, because they believe you and then you're really in trouble.

Standards have dropped and the country is going to the dogs, btw. Even Russell group graduates are as ignorant as mince these days.

Electro-Kevin said...

SW - This is in keeping with my parental experience.

I don't mean to be unfair on my sixth form lads and I am proud of them - but they are both fucking useless at anything other than passing exams !

I can't even trust them to lock the front door after them and I dare not trust them to mow the lawn - they insist on doing everything one handed, you see, and there's only one thing I can think that's good for.

Yes. Standards have dropped. The children of our whole family and of associates seem to rack up A grades with ease. They must all be gifted.

Sackerson said...

E-K: adolescent brains physically redevelop -

- which make them crazy/clutzy for a while. There are some who say this should be taken into account when judging criminal capacity -

As to exams, it's a combination of "grade inflation" (recognised by the fact that we now have A* grades to compensate for too many As being awarded), plus "teaching to the test". Teaching has become far more industrialised and standardised; good in some ways, but not sure where the unusual is going to come from in future. No more Faradays and Newtons? Also mainstream teachers working so long and hard now that they are in danger of becoming drudge-ignoramuses, never having the time to develop their own reading and thinking. And they have to blow left and right with every political breeze. My best friend (a GP) and his wife home-educated all 3 of their children to keep clear of The System. Two went on to do higher degrees abread, all are lovely.

Jan said...

CU I see Corbyn as more akin to Tony Benn than other far-left thugs. Both of them can/could argue their case in a civilised manner and remain(ed) true to their beliefs through thick and thin even in the face of the thuggery of the two-faced Blairites who ruled from the top with an iron fist whilst appearing on the surface to be nice as pie.

By the way this doesn't mean I necessarily agree with him just that I admire people who stand firm in their principles.

Electro-Kevin said...

Sackerson - Thank you for the link.

I have a simpler view of the issue.

Their incompetence is down to pure indolence. They think that common work is beneath them and this is because they are being told that they are brilliant and they have the grades to prove it.

By no means all are like this but the majority, I would say.

Bill Quango MP said...

Don't be so down on the grades.

I worked with my 6 year old for about 2 hours on his "Forest School" Tree diorama.

I wore his "Woodpecker of the week" badge for days


Ryan said...

It's all very well but there isn't really any opposition. The opposition party is not the real opposition. It is not the opposition that the people want or need as the opposition. They would want and need UKIP as the opposition. All the key issues are issues to be discussed to the RIGHT of Cameron's current position. Consequently, whatever Corbyn says or does is an irrelevance. The fact that he isn't playing the Machiavellian PMQ games is only making it more obvious - the official opposition is not opposing from a credible position.