« Labour's leadership vacuum | Main | My Corbyn dilemma »

July 18, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hilary Richards

Quite agree. The PLP going to war against their own members (and in doing so compromising their chance of getting a candidate more to their liking elected leader) only makes sense if they don't value their membership at all. In their view they only need the media to reach the public. In this model the media are handed enormous power which of course they can and do misuse. A public more engaged in politics at a grassroots level seems a much healthier model.

Bob

The Labour Right are obsessed with polls and market segmentation, rather than a genuine vision for the future people can get behind.

BTW please think twice about "libertarians" of any stripe. The natural consequence of extreme individualism:

https://mathbabe.org/2016/07/16/review-the-wellness-syndrome/

Salientwork

Fascinating post and rather agree with the centralise/decentralise axis. But you are being a bit naughty in putting Corbyn as a decentraliser. My reading is that theC'ista's through Monementum are heavily centralised...national lines to take; sudden emergence of prescribed strategies decided in small central groups etc. The decentralised tendency ( may I call it that?) would be pitching for a heavily federal UK ( devo ultra max?) with empowered cities and counties running utilities and a Lab party structure that prefigured that. Corbyn and those around him are from a different tradition and sooner or later will disappoint their decentralising supporters. that will be the crack in the dam

gastro george

That would be John McTernan who was so successful in leading Labour's campaign in Scotland last year .

Sam

If you think that something is a right, then I don't think you can be de-central about it. You may temporarily yield to localism as a kind of pragmatism, but you can't accept that some other locality can decide that your rights aren't rights.

Consider for example the campaign for marriage for gay couples in the US. As a matter of strategy, it served to fight on a state-by-state basis, and as a matter of pragmatism it was better to start with some states allowing same-sex marriage than no states allowing it, but nobody was going to tell some conservative southern state that it was just fine that they didn't want gay couples to marry - that was their choice and we're going to respect it.

Similarly, the division between slave states and free states in the antebellum US was obviously not sustainable in the long term, and was not acceptable as an end goal by anyone campaigning against slavery.

When we leave the arena of "rights" and move on to things which are collective choices, localism becomes possible. Speed limits, for example, are a choice. They're a balance between safety and utility, and reasonable people can prefer different answers. It doesn't work for each person to set their own speed limit, though, so some set of "we" has to collectively agree a number.

Deviation From The Mean

Without wishing to sound like a Blairite, I would have them all rotting in Jail for the Iraq crime, the centralize-decentralize dichotomy is a false one.

We can think rail nationalisation, land nationalisation is a good thing but also believe political institutions should be decentralized, or some form of market control applies to the consumer goods sector (or some other mix).

The libertarian position cannot handle this mix because libertarians believe in a fantasy, that order can be achieved spontaneously. Every capitalist economy proves that without massive and colossal and repeated government intervention the system simply wouldn't function.

To keep espousing this fantasy is extremely reactionary.

We should denounce the anarchy of market capitalism and the authoritarianism of mixed economy capitalism and argue for a more rational and democratic approach to the questions of centralize and decentralize.

The issue is one of what democracy actually means.

As for the media we need a thorough revolution in what we designate as being the press. For example, The Sun is clearly not a newspaper but some form of comic. It should not be subject to the press regulation laws and should be forced to print all its articles in the comic format. I would probably say any newspaper that employs a 'columnists' giving their 'opinions' should be considered as not being part of the press and therefore not subject to press regulation but should be subjected to a much more restrictive set of laws.

The more 'free the press' the less the press are actually free. I will give an analogy using football, as this site likes to do that now and again. Some 1970's defender will often say the art of tackling has gone out of the game because if you miss the ball you get booked or even worse. But in the 1970's there was no art to tackling because you could go round just kicking people in the air and here was no need to be a good technical tackler. The more they tightened up the rules the more we see the art of tackling. Same with freedom of the press, the more rigidly the press is defined the more freedom of press we will have.

From Arse To Elbow

"Supporters of a citizens income come from left and right, but are decentralizers. Those who favour conditional or needs-based forms of welfare, on the other hand, are centralizers". I'm not sure that's true. Some (not all) right-wing advocates of a BI talk about empowering the individual, but their objective is to cap or slowly reduce welfare spending in aggregate.

Perhaps a better way of distinguishing centralisers vs decentralisers is to ask whether they envisage an outcome that is predictable, this being a characteristic of the former. Advocates of a one-size-fits-all safety-net (e.g. negative income tax) consider predictability important. Advocates of needs-based systems (assuming they aren't constrained by an aggregate cap) consider unpredictability to be a feature rather than a bug (e.g. counter-cyclical stabilisers).

gastro george

@FATE - Excellent point. Fundamentally, it's about control.

Igor Belanov

"But in the 1970's there was no art to tackling because you could go round just kicking people in the air and here was no need to be a good technical tackler. The more they tightened up the rules the more we see the art of tackling."

I'm sorry, but that's rubbish. You seem to have been watching Sky, for whom football began in 1992 and anything before that was the equivalent of a Shrove Tuesday street match. I'd wager that the standard of tackling was actually better back then- it certainly was back in the 1980s when I started playing and the technique was actually taught a lot more. Just because there were some thugs in the game is no reason to tar all players with the same brush.

Igor Belanov

So much depends on context, and on whether it is power or merely function that is being decentralised. All the talk of devolution for Northern cities effectively localises responsibility while leaving control over finance and power with central government. Creating regional government with no redistribution of wealth from the South-East (or within some regions) would institutionalise inequalities. The introduction of Cameron's 'big society' idea would have involved local people taking up under-or unfunded public services just to keep them going, etc....

Deviation From The Mean

I disagree Igor, I think you are talking rubbish. I have been a season ticket holder since the late 70's. In every single game without any exception the centre half would early on recklessly crash into the back of the centre forwards ankles and would get away with it time and again. Elsewhere on the pitch players would brutally hack down skillful wingers. I was there when Pyscho Pearce finished Pat Nevin's career. This was standard back then, thuggery masquerading as tackling. Not that Pearce wasn't a great player, he was.

The overall pint is that the more you allow a free for all the less you will get artful tackling, all you get is thuggery masquerading as tackling.

Igor Belanov

"I was there when Pyscho Pearce finished Pat Nevin's career."

Pat Nevin? The man who finished his career at the age of 36 in 2000 playing for Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League? I guess your memory must be a bit weak. I'd hazard a guess that as many people receive career-ending injuries due to bad tackles now as did in the 1970s.

Miguel Madeira

«There is, though, a more pressing example of my axis: the split in the Labour party. There are two different visions of the party. One – that of the centralizers – sees it as primarily a Westminster party. This was expressed by John McTernan’s quip: “who cares about the grassroots?” The other vision is that of the party as a social movement which aims to change politics from the bottom-up. »

This is really a centralized-descentralized axis or is more an oligarchy-democracy axis (a different thing, I think - an organization can be dominated by local oligarchs)?

rj

"We can think rail nationalisation, land nationalisation is a good thing but also believe political institutions should be decentralized."

If they're nationalized, their control would be centralized underneath a political appointee, whose power owes to a single group or individual. That's the epitome of centralized control.

GSo

The problem with decentralization is that there is no logical end to it. In its extreme you decentralize down to the single individual, and ends up in exactly the same spot as the utopian libertarians. Demand for decentralization is most of the time just a fancy way to say that "I don't want them to decide over me", "them" being whoever at the time makes decisions.

Blissex

«only makes sense if they don't value their membership at all. In their view they only need the media to reach the public.»

That's a very good observation that I will treasure. It seems an important aspect of the general notion that "people" see themselves as consumers who want to buy a "product".

And of course the "product" as advertised on TV or whatever. Berlusconianism is the glorification of that.

Therefore perhaps the new labourists see themselves, as the conservatives certainly already do, as "products", and the costs of "advertising" to be funded by rich sponsors. That seems to be the merge of the thought of P Gould, A Campbell and P Mandelson.

«A public more engaged in politics at a grassroots level seems a much healthier model.»

Sure, but what if the conservative and new labourist politicians are right? What if in a contemporaneous first-world "society of spectacle" democracy the voters who can return a parliamentary majority just want to buy a political "product" as advertised on TV or whatever thanks to some wealthy sponsor? What if voters see politics as a spectator sport and elections as a long running "big brother" series?

My impression is that this is indeed the case, and that the voters very broadly speaking are not stupid: they are buying the politician "products" that deliver what they want.

Would ««A public more engaged in politics at a grassroots level» have delivered siignificantly different election results? I think not: the voters who could deliver a parliamentary majority have gotten what they wanted for 30 years.

That's how democracy works: the majority wins, the minority loses.

What more grassroots involvement might have delivered is politics less skewed towards the winning property and business rentier interests, as the working-class Labour grassroots could have restrained a bit the upper-middle class targeting New Labour leadership. This would have been worthwhile, but not a game changer.

DavidM

"All the talk of devolution for Northern cities effectively localises responsibility while leaving control over finance and power with central government."

This is very important. The axis may be centralised-decentralised, but the actual implementation details of any position in that axis are the reason of success or failure.

A perfect example: Spain has one of the most decentralised states of all the rich countries, but the precise design of that decentralisation has proven catastrophic. To summarize, the regions can spend money, but they can't raise too much money: they depend on transfers decided by the central state, which are neither systematic nor predictable. So every regional government has big incentives to spend too much and promise even more to voters (much of it in unproductive vanity projects or sustaining vast client networks), and then complain that the evil central government is not financing them. The result has been that many regions are bankrupt or close.

This is not to discourage decentralisation: I want to point that the boring, practical, non-ideological, technical implementation details may be the most important thing.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad