Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Major tells it like it is

As is probably obvious from the last but one post, I always had a sneaking admiration for Sir John Major, and certainly nothing became him in the office of Prime Minister like the leaving of it ten years ago today. He has been as good as his word too - unlike his own predecessor he has resisted the temptation to meddle and has genuinely "left the stage."

That said, he has never been afraid to express his view that New Labour has demeaned politics far beneath the level achieved by his own administration and that, in this respect, his treatment at the hands of the spin machine in the run up to May 1997 constituted a fairly major personal injustice.

Sir John's views on spin are worth listening to because he correctly identifies this as the defining characteristic of the Blair government - and the main reason why the hope and expectation that marked that bright morning a decade ago has turned to cynicism and loss of trust.

His article in today's Times is pretty much on the money, and I will quote part of it here - my italics.

"I view politics now through the eyes of an outsider. And much of what I see is uncomfortable. Political promises ring hollow. The political parties seem isolated and remote. In the last two general elections the turnout dropped from a healthy 80 per cent to a modest 60 per cent. Public disaffection is widespread.

"All parties bear some blame but the culpability of the present Government is clear. When Labour came to power, they brought with them all the black arts of sharp practice and spin that they had perfected in opposition. One of the most dismal legacies of the new Labour mission has been to turn government into a marketing exercise. The electorate now know they were sold a pup.

"I am not naive about politics. Spin – putting a gloss on events – is as old as politics itself...but it’s gone too far. Spin today is often downright deceit. For all its faults, old Labour had a soul; new Labour only has sound-bites and apparatchiks, careless of constitutional proprieties, who will use any unscrupulous trick to benefit the Government.

"This downward spiral began when Labour trashed the Government Information Service and politicised news management. Until then, no one doubted the No 10 spokesman. Now, if No 10 tells you Friday follows Thursday, wise men check the calendar. The consequence of this sophistry is profound and damaging. If, tomorrow, this Government told Parliament that our nation was under threat and we must go to war, would Parliament or the public rally behind it without independent corroboration? I think not – and that is unprecedented."
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stalin's gran said...

John Major was always a much maligned, and actually quite misunderstood, character. It was Black Whenever it was which did for him obviously. You and I both know Paul he was really a complete bastard and not the bumbling fool he was portrayed as. However, many acquiesced in the portrait painted of him by the New Labour spin machine - and how it later bit them in the arse! Good stuff - mthe distance between that "bright new morning" and the reality now just shows that cynicism should be the natural state of man. Good stuff Paul!

skipper said...

I posted on Major recently after hearing last Saturday on radio 4. I fear he is indeed spot on re Blair's over-use of spin and it is to be hoped Gordon has learnt the lesson. Spin has always been with us but its degree of use and abuse by New Labour has been appalling.