The elite’s contempt for ordinary people


10:45 am - February 23rd 2010

by Don Paskini    


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There was a good example of the open contempt which the media have for ordinary people and for democracy in the Times recently. Mourning the “profoundly depressing”, “colossal loss” of James Purnell standing down from Parliament, their leader included a spoof recruitment advert:

Wanted: a highly intelligent, experienced person to kick his heels for at least five years. Travelling to and fro from some of the most inconvenient places in the country, you will have the opportunity to work seven days a week. On Sundays you will be able to enjoy attending civic events.

We promise to select your immediate boss from among your worst enemies. In return we will pay you less than half of what you might earn elsewhere. You will have to shoulder your own expenses. We are seeking a candidate willing to endure repeated insults from customers.

This is a window into the minds of a sneering, out of touch, hard to reach elite.

Thanks to journalists and Tories for the fake concern about what a devastating blow Purnell’s departure from parliament is for the centre left, but somehow I think we will cope.

What Purnell realised, even though his fans haven’t, is that their approach doesn’t work.

Labour has tested absolutely to destruction the idea of oligarchic politics, that all that matters is winning over the media and other opinion-formers in London, pandering to what newspaper editors think is the “political centre”, and drawing ideas from a few thousand politically engaged people in think tanks, pressure groups and suchlike, all from very similar social backgrounds, while making sure to use marketing techniques to win over more customers than the next leading brand.

Purnell has spent all his working life in or about Westminster and mastered this approach, which was why the media love him. However, his limited life experience helps to explain why he was an extremely ineffective government minister, who came up with ideas such as charging interest of up to 27% on crisis loans for the very poorest people.

This week, he is learning about a whole new approach to doing politics, called broad-based community organising. Rather than trying to win over the approval of a few well-connected insiders, he will learn that social change comes from organising ordinary people, and that the best policies are those that are developed by people meeting together in all those “inconvenient places”, and, indeed, at civic events, and talking about what the main problems that they, their friends and their families are facing and what needs to be done.

It’s just a shame that Purnell sees this as an alternative to being an MP. I think that the principles behind broad-based community organising are ones which every Labour MP should know about, and building these relationships is the number one task for the centre left over the next few years.

The Times argues that “in politics, individuals matter. Time and again, political parties have been changed for the better by clear-sighted individuals who seize the helm. Mr Purnell represented one of the best hopes that this might happen on the Centre Left.”

But the future of centre left politics is not going to come from a “clear-sighted” great leader, anointed by the media, who can lead us to the promised centre ground and market his political brand successfully to the customers.

It is going to come from a new generation of leaders, from all those inconvenient parts of the country, whose power comes from the support and active involvement of all those millions of people who our lords and masters sneer at and despise.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Might be missing a slash in your closing blockquote – it’s gone double quote

Excellent piece.

(Unlike the EDL piece which seems to support physical intimidation of those with whom you disagree…!

cjcjc have you gone off your meds? youre supposed to attack any article which criticises the tory press, like The Times? nurse, the screens!

5. Alisdair Cameron

Well put, Don (asides from the block quotes slip, and I can’t throw stones with reagrd to that).
This (very Fabian, sorry Sunder, but it is*: all ‘benevolent’ elite administrators and all) approach is the biggest betrayal by the New Lab project. I recall back in ’97 a very active (old) Labour activist in the co Durham area being pushed aside physically by one of the self-chosen new elite, whose words were “We don’t need you any more, don’t get in the way”. A vile attitude.Meet the new masters, pretty much like the old ones,just with a thin, pinker, coat of paint. It’s not ‘merely’ been a disconnect with the grass-roots and the masses, it’s been a deliberate closing of the door to them/us, a rigid command-and-control top-down capture of the political process.

*Too much of what the Fabians do at times amounts to a bourgeois talking shop for how to manage the capitalist system. They’ve patronised other organs of the British labour movement.It can come perilously close to the attitude ‘We know and we’re the bright ones.Don’t you plebs bother yourselves with thinking too much,we’ll do that for you,and you you follow what we say”. Now thought and intelligent debate is necessary, but that debate cannot be a closed-shop, and must encompass a very wide spectrum,including views contrary to those of the technocratic,managerialist,neo-liberal self-serving elites.

The fuss about bullying disguises the almost as worrying revelation about Gordon Brown – that the dour misanthrope can’t be arsed even to learn the names of the staff who attend him. Not even, by some accounts, that of the bodyguard trained to take a bullet for the ill-mannered grump.

He’s not alone. It’s what generally happens when socialists gain power or authority. Robert Maxwell was a bastard to work for too. In his later years he took against lavatory paper, finding even the puppy softest variety too abrasive in his over-sensitive crack. He began to use white hand towels to wipe his arese, and instead of binning the used ones, he’d toss them on the floor for the maid to pick up.

That’s the abiding problem of the Left: no sense of noblesse oblige.

Flowerpower – did you mean to put that comment in response to this article? It is off topic and trolling.

‘But the future of centre left politics is not going to come from a “clear-sighted” great leader, anointed by the media, who can lead us to the promised centre ground and market his political brand successfully to the customers.’

I think you’ve wandered onto the wrong site. Don’tcha know it’s all about selling a successful ‘narrative’ these days and that the ‘narrative’ need not relate to reality?

7

Sorry you think so, Don. Your article seemed to me to be about the contempt for ordinary people demonstrated by today’s political and media grandees. And in particular by members of this Labour government whom you rightly censure for their ‘oligarchic politics’. I think the de haut en bas manner many of them adopt towards underlings and servants provides concrete proof that you are onto something here. The question is whether it is remediable by shifting towards a more popular, bottom-up style of politics, or is incurable – symptomatic of a moral/psychological morbidity brought about by jettisoning traditional values. You (and, indeed, David Cameron), I suspect, plump for the former. I believe the latter is more likely.

I’m unclear as to why the pilloried elite is limited to those working in the meeja?

“Public funds totalling £500 million a year are being spent on an army of at least 29,000 professional politicians in the UK, according to new figures.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/8605308

That compares with an electorate in Britain of about 44 millions.

There is nothing especially new about the public’s low and diminishing regard for politicians. This news report is from 2002, long before the recent hiatus over MPs’ expenses:

“Doctors and nurses are among the most respected of professions, according to a BBC poll.

“Being an MP is the least respected profession in the country. MPs ranked just below estate agents, government ministers, lawyers and journalists, according to the poll by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2014128.stm

….he will learn that social change comes from organising ordinary people.

No. Social change comes from giving people the conditions to organise themselves, and trusting them to do so.

All in favour of removing career politicians with no life experience from politics, by the way.

12. J Alfred Prufrock

@11

All in favour of removing career politicians with no life experience from politics, by the way.

Best say goodbye to the future Conservative frontbench then…

@12

Best say goodbye to the future Conservative frontbench then…

I wish.

The Times is simply lamenting the loss of man who would have given the BBC to the Murdochs.

“Labour has tested absolutely to destruction the idea of oligarchic politics, that all that matters is winning over the media and other opinion-formers in London, pandering to what newspaper editors think is the “political centre”, and drawing ideas from a few thousand politically engaged people in think tanks, pressure groups and suchlike, all from very similar social backgrounds, while making sure to use marketing techniques to win over more customers than the next leading brand.”

I dunno, it seems to be working for D. Cameron

@12 – haha – yes, good point

Best say goodbye to the future Conservative frontbench then…

As some of you will already be aware, few of them would be my personal choice for a Tory front bench.

I’m sure you’re every word will be heeded!

@17

Argh! Grammar school. “Your,” not “you’re”.

Its like a tick sometimes.

I like this thread.

Can we look further and suddenly find that the country has been run for the benefit of the same few wealthy and influential groups for ever and ever? Please?

I was so surprised I had another cup of tea and watched some more crap telly.

By elite, do we include every white collar worker employed by the state or quango on £35k a year or more , 37.5 hr working week( or even less ), 25 days holiday a year ( or even more with over-time/flexi-time), flexi -time, index linked pension , 11 days a year on average taken sick. Then most self employed tradesmen, craftsmen, charge hand, shop-keepers and foremen would be happy with this deal.

@Charlie2

Bullseye.

@18 and Yurrzem!

A genuine mistake, pointing it out just makes you look bad.

@ 20

Nope.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The elite's contempt for ordinary people http://bit.ly/9jdOeB

  2. Elly M

    RT @libcon: The elite's contempt for ordinary people http://bit.ly/9jdOeB

  3. sunny hundal

  4. James Cowley

  5. Joshua Fenton-Glynn

    the thing that impressed me about intrning 4 @SadiqKhan was hw much part of his comm he is maybe JP will learn http://tinyurl.com/yec9tg4

  6. Tanzeel Akhtar

    RT @pickledpolitics: 'The elite's contempt for ordinary people' – criticising the media hysteria over @jimpurnell: http://bit.ly/9jdOeB

  7. Platform 10 » Blog Archive » Lamenting Purnell’s Departure. Is Radical Thinking Incompatible With Parliament?

    […] the protestations of the likes of Liberal Conspiracy (and quite a few left wing friends of mine) who still seem to detest Purnell, we should all be sad […]





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