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August 10, 2018



Very much so, and that is the greatest problem with inequality, it leads directly to this situation as the rich identify what is good for them with what is good for the country.


Well said.


We just know more about the duffers now, their every move is scrutinised, you can't move for people with smart phones recording your every word and action. George Brown anyone?


I think they spent the last quarter century testing #3 to destruction.

It's hard to claim "trust us, we're better than you" when they've just presided over an unmandated full-spectrum socioeconomic assault on the punters.

Dave Timoney

You've pre-empted the obvious criticism of your claim by stating that there was never a golden age of politics, but even so:

1. Mass-membership is no guarantee of more thoughtful selection. At its peak in the 50s, the Tory Party routinely selected on the basis of social deference rather than effectiveness, which culminated in the elevation of Lord Home to the leadership. Our contemporary selection issue is the increasingly narrow background of candidates, which is largely due to the emergence of a self-replicating political/media caste.

2. History is kind to over-promoted idiots because it tends to forget them, unless they spectacularly screw up. There were just as many brown-noses and fools in the past.

3. We've had 3 referendums at a UK level in 41 years. While this is more than the period before 1975, we should bear in mind that we've only had universal adult suffrage since 1928 and votes from 18 since 1969. That democracy is becoming slightly more direct/representative is not necessarily a bad thing.

4. Mill's claim for the superiority of debate as a selection mechanism was part of the liberal ideology of the market, and was advanced at a time of limited suffrage. It wasn't an argument for democracy but for bourgeois plurality: the participation of all those who made and managed markets.

5. This is your strongest point in that there appears to have been structural changes in the media that have led to a greater appetite for frauds and gobshites, but I suspect this has less to do with Twitter than the profusion of TV channels that started with cable in the 80s.

Also, Irving wasn't really "shut out of the public domain" in the 90s so much as he went out of fashion. His earlier profile must be seen in the context of the Cold War liberal market for ideas (Nazis not so bad, Soviets worse), while he failed to retain interest on the right because he didn't move on from antisemitism to Islamophobia.

More deliberative democracy is probably the answer, as you suggest, but the battle for this shouldn't be fought solely in the realm of organised politics but also in the workplace. Choose your battlefield is the best advice.


I've said for a long time, the way to get a better class of politician is to stop politics being a career a young person can practically aspire to. Its perfectly possible to get to be an MP by your early 30s (Blair was 30 when he was first elected, Cameron 35). This means that a career of university (Oxbridge natch) followed by think tank/Spad/prospective candidate/safe seat is a well worn path to power. We need to break that path, and put the levers of power out of the reach of the sort of people who are loony enough to want to get their hands on them, and dedicate a decade or more to do so. So I propose a minimum age limit of 40 for local government and 50 for any Parliament (Westminster or devolved). Then no-one on leaving university will be prepared to wait 30 years to get to be a candidate in an unwinnable seat, let alone a safe one. Thus they'll have to go off and have real careers, and real lives, and learn something about life before they get to try to climb the greasy pole of power. Hopefully many of the power mad maniacs and general slippery @rseholes will fall by the wayside in the intervening years, and we will be left with politics being something that people do when they have already had a life doing something else, not a career in itself.


Well, up to a point. The old system of selection by mass-membership parties gave us some memorably deplorable MPs: Horatio Bottomley, Tom Driberg, Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln, Robert Maxwell, Oswald Mosley, Noel Pemberton-Billing, Archibald Ramsay, John Stonehouse ... As you say, there never was a purely golden age.

I would particularly recommend a study of Trebitsch-Lincoln's career to anyone who thinks modern politicians are particularly awful.


Your article is very well-timed. The day before it was published, the government launched its Civil Society Strategy. Included is the announcement of the Innovation in Democracy Programme which provides funding and support for 8-10 local authorities to trial deliberative democracy through citizens’ assemblies, devolving decision-making to those most affected by the decisions. Deliberative, participatory democracy is most definitely the way forward.

Dave Timoney

@Jim, you're proposing gerontocracy, which in the current circumstances of young adults facing weak wage growth and unaffordable property costs is hardly likely to make matters better.

The problem with Blair and Cameron was not their youth but their privilege.

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