Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The right sort of populism...

Couple more thoughts on populism, sparked by some of today's news. In the first place, Nick Robinson seems to hint at what we all know, that Brown's bid for 42 days is populism of the worst sort:

The prime minister's hope is that the argument which will dominate politics for the next 10 days will show that he is "taking the right long term decisions in difficult times" and is "on the side" of voters many of whom would instinctively back locking up terrorist suspects for 42 weeks without charge.

If he loses, however, people will be reminded that this is a battle he chose to fight despite having been warned as long ago as last November that:

• there was no consensus for change (he met Liberty's Shami Chakrabati twice in one day in order to find a deal)
• that he faced parliamentary defeat
• that the director of public prosecutions, the former attorney general and former justice secretary did not support the need for change
• that MI5 would not back his arguments either privately or publicly - the spooks have let it be known that they are "neutral" on the issue
• and that many of his own ministers - not least the man he brought into government to deal with terrorism, Lord West - had had real doubts about whether this was the right priority.

A suggestion for a much more useful sort of populism comes from Union leader Derek Simpson:

“How popular do you think it would be, given that oil companies are raking in billions, if he imposed a windfall tax on them and distributed it through something like a council tax cut?” said Derek Simpson, co-head of the Unite union, Labour’s largest contributor with 1.9m members. Mr Simpson said this was the type of policy that would chime with the electorate, in contrast to more esoteric measures such as increasing terror suspect detention or giving workers more flexible working. “Neither addresses the concerns of real-life people,” he said.

This seems to me to be right on the money, although I'd personally like to see at least some of that money put towards sustainable energy. One of the silver linings to skyrocketing oil price cloud is that less harmful sorts of energy production are now starting to make a lot more economic sense. Combine that with the justifiable rage that people are feeling against oil companies, and you have what looks, at least to my untrained eyes, like a chance for a really substantial push towards both meeting some of our climate change obligations,and becoming a more long-term competitive economy. A smart politician would be making the (populist) case for that. Instead we just the same nonsense about terrorism.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Support the Open Rights Group Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.