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August 31, 2019


Dave Timoney

It's also the case that in treating politics as "theatre" (or "showbusiness for ugly people") the media are defining it as divorced from real life and ultimately inconsequential: if you don't like the current production, there will be another one along shortly.

In other words, this frivolous and cynical attitude is essentially saying "Don't worry about it", which ultimately means don't get involved.

dilbert dogbert

What celebrations of remembrance will be on tap in England tomorrow?
80the anniversary of the invasion of Poland:
September 1, 1939


I would be very careful about linking Brexit to fiscal austerity. Do i have to say that correlation is not causation. An even bigger danger is that you are repeating what mainstream economists and neo-liberals (particularly New Labour) say in that if it was not for austerity everything would be fine and we can just go and doing what we did before the Tories came along with their austerity policy.

You would probably find that a bigger cause of Brexit was the impression by many of exactly this type of hubris in the elite.

Dangerous, dangerous, stuff. Please, please avoid it. Econometric studies are also best kept out of this - they also arguably have contributed to the very problem.

Have you read Applebaum's piece in the NYT?

In short, the problems that led to Trump and Brexit are deeply imbedded in capitalism, and predated austerity.


The overriding competence an elected politician needs is electoral. No other type of competence matters if you fail at that. FDR was only able to be competent in government because he was very good at winning elections.

The reason Theresa May is no longer PM is because the Conservatives slumped to 9% in the last European elections - their worst performance in any UK-wide election ever. This happened because large numbers of traditional Conservative voters deserted to the Brexit Party. Johnson is not as popular with Conservative MPs as he is with Conservative party members, but the MPs decided he was the candidate most likely to entice those lost Conservative voters back.

Maybe he’ll fail at that. But which other Conservative candidate was more likely to pull votes away from the Brexit Party?


Perhaps we are seeing the natural result of adversarial politics. An end game of two parties slogging it out, the rest unable to summon the backer's cash or the cheerleaders' support.

Go back to the days of Cicero, their system was more obviously corrupt, support was rigged and voters bribed with wine and cash. Cicero's citizens had little idea what they were voting for or what the inside deals were, they just followed the rich. We are in much the same boat. That things ended badly for Cicero is no guide to our present problem.

Seems to me that politics is about acting and creating an impression. The media - owned by the rich are the modern cheerleaders. This approach will always tend to a political monoculture, a kind of Punch and Judy politics, a two party system like the UK and the USA. By and large the French and Germans and the Scandinavians seem to go for a more deliberative, less adversarial approach. Italy gave us Berlusconi, a sort of Boris on steroids, look where it got them.

The acting analogy is not to trivialise politics but to recognise what it really is, a necessary part of adversarial politics. Any manual on courtroom oratory will emphasise that the whole business depends on creating an impression in the jury's mind. Adversarial politics and law are based on acting.

Unfortunately now is not a good time to speak politically of changing the UK's politics to a more European model.....


There's something else. Drama turns on character; protagonists reveal whether they are worthy or unworthy, noble or ignoble (etc) by the way they respond to challenges. Consider this sequence of questions and answers:

"Are you going to do anything about X?"
- No, I'm going to wait.
"Is that your solution, just sitting around waiting?"
- No, I haven't got a solution.
"You don't know what you're doing?"
- I'm not *doing* anything. I don't understand the situation well enough yet.
"But people are saying we need to do something now!"
- If people are saying that, they're wrong.

Played out as drama, that would demonstrate some very bad character traits; it's the portrait of a Bad Leader - Richard III, or Coriolanus at a pinch. But in certain circumstances - actually, in quite a lot of circumstances - all of those responses are absolutely appropriate: thinking like that in business would be seen as wise and prudent. Because real life isn't about watching heroes prove their character; it's not *about* anything. Dramatising isn't just unhelpful, it actively impedes understanding.

David Martin

Wow, Great Post. Keep posting the good stuff. Highly appreciated!



Actually if we compare like-with-like (comparing the 2019 European Parliament election with the 2014 European Parliament election, not with Westminster elections where the traditional big two do better as protest-voting is seen as far riskier) the Conservatives lost more voters to Remain parties than to the Brexit Party.

The overwhelming majority of 2019 Brexit Party voters voted UKIP in 2014.


Taking the theatrical elements of politics seriously would probably be a very good idea, but I am afraid hardly anyone actually does that. The lesson that purely performative rituals, linguistic tropes, and style statements are actually important got transmuted into a doctrine that there was nothing else. Anyway, take a cookie good for one TYR blog post.

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