The Nether-World

November 19, 2006

Git of the Week #1 (of an occasional series)

Filed under: Bliar, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Media, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 10:23 pm

I meant to comment on this earlier so by now it’s already all over the blogosphere, but this story does need to be recorded here too. Actually “git” is probably too polite a word to describe Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser who has decided that the reason people are turned off by politics is not the lies and corruption of the politicians but the people who have the audacity to comment on them, particularly bloggers. Talk about shooting the messenger. Anyway, judging by the reaction from the blogs I’ve read so far there is a rare (but unsurprising in this case) show of unanimity, with everyone having pretty much the same message for this patronising idiot. Let’s have a closer look at the comments he made at an e-democracy conference in central London.

Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a “crisis” in the relationship between politicians and voters.

If by “crisis” you mean that more people are able to scrutinse and debate Government policy Matthew, that’s not a crisis but a very positive development, one you should be encouraging rather than criticising.

Matthew Taylor – who stressed he was speaking as a “citizen” not a government spokesman – said the web could be “fantastic” for democracy.

But it was too often used to encourage the “shrill discourse of demands” that dominated modern politics.

He was speaking on the day Mr Blair carried out an online interview.

I thought we were all citizens in a democracy, whether we are a part of the Government or not. Are you suggesting that if you were speaking in your capacity of a government spokesman you would have a different set of views? Yes, the web could be “fantastic” for democracy if only you lot would stop meddling with it and trying to impose unnecessary restrictions on it.

Mr Taylor said Mr Blair’s online grilling from voters – and other initiatives such as environment secretary David Miliband’s blog and Downing Street’s new online petition service – showed the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable.

But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to “solve problems” rather than simply abuse politicians or make “incommensurate” demands on them.

The Government is slowly waking up to the power of the internet and I applaud some of those initiatives, but I hardly think it’s making the Government more accountable. Mr Blair answered only a small handful of questions selected by the journalists conducting the interview. It wasn’t exactly a “grilling” was it? David Miliband’s blog is the laughing stock of the blogosphere. Has it ever veered off message? As for the petition service on the Downing Street website, well the jury is still out. We don’t know if the Government will take any more notice of the petitions than it does of the votes at the Labour Party Conference.

One of the problems the web community is trying to solve is the undemocratic, mendacious and illiberal actions of this government, I’m afraid that requires a little criticism… deal with it! Politicians are servants of the people, so the people are quite right to make demands on them. If Politicians don’t like that then they should be in another line of work.

Speaking at an e-democracy conference in central London, he said modern politics was all about “quality of life” and that voters had a “very complex set of needs”.

The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.

Voters do have a “very complex set of needs” and it is the job of the politicians to try and address those needs. Many of those needs are being expressed on the internet. Because there are so many people on-line, there are obviously going to be a lot of differing opinions. Rather than complain about it, look at what people are saying. The end of deference is a good thing, as you say Matthew, but you don’t really mean that do you, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying this:

“We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government,” Mr Taylor told the audience.

Like “teenagers”, people were demanding, but “conflicted” about what they actually wanted, he argued.

They wanted “sustainability”, for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.

I’ve been trying to avoid expletives up until now but … Fuck right off you arrogant, patronising, condescending twat. Yes, we are increasingly unwilling to be governed by a bunch of lying, corrupt, greedy hypocrites like yourself and the rest of the NuLabour junta who are not held to account for their actions. Democracy is supposed to be self-government you idiot. Look it up in a dictionary. Of course people are demanding, and they have different views. Your generalisations of the “conflicted” people are offensive in the extreme which is exactly why you should expect some reciprocation. The examples you give show nothing new. It’s up to governments to balance those conflicts as best they can. If you can’t do that or complain about having to do it then piss off and we’ll find people who can.

But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or “mendacious” by the media, which he described as “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage”.

Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that “leaders are out there to shaft you”.

Now where would we get the insane idea that our leaders are corrupt, mendacious and out there to shaft us? The media reporting on the cash for honours investigation, the lies we were told in the run up to the war with Iraq…? Calling the media “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage” is a little disingenuous when what it does is report on your actions, and anyway, what about NuLaour’s conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of fear?

He went on: “At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.

“It seems to me this is something which is worth calling a crisis.”

Yes Matthew it is a crisis, one entirely of the Government’s making. The impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens you lament is because of the dishonesty and lack of accountability. The richer relationship you want is partly possible because of a vibrant media and on-line community.

The internet, he told the conference, was part of that “crisis”.

“The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.

“If you look at the way in which citizens are using technology and the way that is growing up, there are worrying signs that that is the case.

No, the internet is part of the solution. What you call a “shrill discourse of demands” is in fact citizens discussing, debating, arguing and informing. What is wrong with that, and why shouldn’t they use technology to do those things more effectively?

“What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It’s basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

“The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government.”

Yes, blogs like the mainstream media, can be hostile and if they expose how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are then they are doing a valuable service. If you don’t like it, why not try being less venal, stupid and mendacious? Anyway not all blogs provide this service, you’ve already mentioned David Miliband’s blog, and there are other blogs which will happily praise your illiberal policies, gloss over your dishonesty and be the deferential compliant citizens you obviously want. I seem to remember you wanting an official blogger for the recent Labour Party Conference. And what about Hazel Blears’ blog? You seem to complain about blogs when they dare to disagree with you, but are quite happy to use them to spread your message.

He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for “people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face”.

In other words to shut up and get with the programme… No chance, if it’s all the same to you we’ll just carry on exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious you are. It’s more fun anyway.

“I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens,” Mr Taylor told delegates.

The last thing you want is for us to have more power which is why your government has put so much effort into removing as many of our liberties as possible. If you want responsible citizens then lead by example and empower people.

Part of the problem, he added, was the “net-head” culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and “anti-establishment” attitudes.

Oh dear! What on earth, may I ask, is wrong with libertarianism? Are you saying that you are opposed to liberty and free will? Judging by NuLabour policies, I suppose the answer is “yes” but that isn’t specified in the rhetoric is it? As for “anti-establishment” attitudes, well Britain has a rich tradition in “anti-establishment” attitudes. It is not a new phenomenon that grew out of the internet, rather a continuation of an old tradition using the internet.

He told delegates: “You have to be part of changing that culture. It’s important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.”

Technology should be used to encourage elected representatives to communicate better with voters, he told delegates.

Why exactly should users of technology not challenge their leaders and ask pertinent questions?

Government also needed to “develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved.”

And there should be more effort to make communities “work together to solve problems,” said Mr Taylor.

This government has shown no trust in its citizens and should therefore expect no trust from its citizens. “Work together to solve problems,” is a NuLabour euphemism for “keep quiet and do as your told”. After ten years in power that has become fairly apparent to many people.

Mr Taylor is Tony Blair’s chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

He is leaving Downing Street next week, after three years, to become the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA).

I’m glad you’re leaving Downing Street Mr Taylor. Hopefully you’ll do less harm working in the RSA, but be warned, artists can be notoriously anti-establishment. I doubt they will be any more deferential and compliant than the numerous bloggers who have such a low opinion of you.

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