Monday, September 24, 2007

Oborne tells it like it is

I was sadly unable to make last Monday's launch party at the Spectator offices for Peter Oborne's new book The Triumph of the Political Class, but he did send me a copy in the post, for which I was very grateful.

I have not yet had a chance to read it from cover to cover, and when I have done, I will post a full review here, but on opening the book, the following passage from the introduction immediately caught my eye.

"This book is based on my fifteen years' day-to-day experience as a reporter, and more recently political columnist, in the press gallery and lobby of the House of Commons. This is an incomparably privileged job, giving one front-row seats in the great political theatre of the day, as well as intimate access to politicians and their senior staff, many of whom I have come to know extremely well.

"After I had been doing this job for a number of years I started to gain a sense that something was wrong. I noticed that the reports of political events put out to the public through newspapers and the broadcasting media were in large part either meaningless or untrue. As I probed further, I gradually became aware that the conventional narrative structure which is used to give sense and meaning to British politics was extremely misleading.

"Though the public is always told that Tory and Labour are in opposition, that is not really the case. They are led to believe that the Liberal Democrats are an insurgent third party, but that is not the case either. It has come to seem to me that their strongest loyalties are to each other.

"For the greatest part of my time as a political reporter, the most bitter rivalries at Westminster have involved factional conflicts within individual parties rather than collisions of ideology and belief."

This is so close to my own experience of British politics during my time in the lobby as to be uncanny, but then again I have long shared Oborne's general analysis of the state of politics - and political journalism - today.

Although I do not quite buy Oborne's contention that Gordon Brown is as much a member of the "political class" as Tony Blair and David Cameron, I suspect that this, far more so than Alastair Campbell's self-serving Diaries, is the must-read volume for anyone who really wants to know how Britain is governed today.

free web site hit counter

1 comment:

paul b - melbourne said...

Certainly seems an interesting book having read his article in The Spectator. Follow the UK political scene closely. Can give some parallel in Australia. Back in 2004 the then loose cannon Federal Labor Leader Mark Latham had John Howard on the run in the polls with a mixture of new kid on the block and some fairly innovative well targetted initiatives. Against some opposition from his own, Latham won a lot of support for his policy to dramatically curtail the very generous parliamentary superannuation scheme. It worked so well that Howard backed into a corner and behind in the polls actually supported the policy and it passed both houses of parliament. Following the 2004 election when Latham was consigned to the Labor party file marked "embarrassment best never mentioned again", Howard rescinded his super reforms. Lathams successor Kim Beazley and his fellow MPs supported Howards first year of his term reforms rousing much cynicism and opposition from the public. In Australia this was a good example of the political class uniting against the people.
One more thing abt Oborne's article. He seemed to have some nostalgia for the old style establishment and their high moral and religious foundations. I wonder about that. There was a speech from Wilson in the Commons circa 1961 in which he lambasted MacMillans cabinet as an oligarchy full of aristocrats, some variously related to each other. I dont see how that set up which kept Britain in empire mode as superior to whatever exists today.