Paying for mediocrity

Heading in the wrong direction

Denis MacShaneDenis MacShane
"I wouldn't start out from here" is, so we are told, a typical Irishism. The term may have been heard once a long time ago deep in rural Ireland spoken by a native to a lost visitor, or might not and instead be wholly fabricated. So it is a matter of speculation what destination Denis MacShane had in mind when he set out on his journey, the one in an article in the New Statesman, see HERE.

The article sets off with MacShane being in philosophical mood about left wing parties in Europe changing their leaders to regain lost ground. There is welter of foreign name dropping but not one name from the UK in general and Nulabour in particular. So at first you might think that MacShane is feeling sorry for these Continentals as, here in the UK, all is well and not just Nulabour but the whole country are happy with the current Prime Minister. Later, after reading on, you might think that MacShane is too much of a wimp to say that Gordon Brown is awful and we should copy the Continental lead and find a new leader. That would be wrong as well. For although MacShane set off in this Continental direction it is obvious that, close to the end of his article, he wavers and swerves off line; for he ends up giving a homily on the funding of political parties.

Here it is -

"Are there lessons for Labour to learn from the turmoil on the European democratic left? One common strand appears to be the cost of giving up political education as part of the centre left's work. Political leaders who cannot explain the world to their own followers do not create followers who can then explain the world to voters. Britain's Electoral Commission has an annual bonanza of £27m of taxpayers' money, yet there is not a single MP or councillor who knows what this money is spent on. Giving that cash to political parties for policy education would be a start, but after 11 years in power Labour has still not understood that democracy has to be paid for by the democracy, not by outside funders".

A new leader for a German political party is, like public funding for politics, a subject in its own right and I have to say that, personally, if I were to offer directions here, I would not start out on the funding issue by going via Germany - if you see what I mean. But then this is a typical McShaneism. I would hazard a guess that even the good readers of the New Statesman find this, funding and Germany, an odd mixture. If Nulabour is running out of funds then MacShane should say so.

Ignoring the bulk of MacShane's article, as I fancy many New Statesman readers will do, we see the best bits are in the quote above. The notion of -

"political education as part of the centre left's work" - is so pompous. Had Nulabour spent less time 'educating' and more time governing they might not have 'lost ground'. And the last 10 years have been an education in itself for many voters.

Then MacShane claims that of the £27m cost of the Electoral Commission there is -

"not a single MP or councillor who knows what this money is spent on".

Is this man mad? The fact is as an MP he employs staff, well we assume he does, who on his behalf could do a little research and find out what happened to this money. A little research would also show that the Electoral Commission has been critical of the present government on several occasions, so is this the root of the problem that MacShane has with the Electoral Commission?

MacShane also says that -

Labour has still not understood that democracy has to be paid for by the democracy, not by outside funders.

This misses so much, the public who are the bedrock of the democratic process, 'pay' for the process whether they participate by voting or not. In fact in terms of value the public pay a lot out but get very little back and it was Nulabour who promised the public a vote on the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution but then withdrew the offer. As for outside funders, one can only assume that the Trade Unions are either content to be taken for suckers by Nulabour or are threatening to stop funding the party. If it is the latter then it is not before time that the unions are more careful with their members' money; so no wonder MacShane is bleating about public funding for political parties. We started with an Irishism and we will end with an Americanism: "if it ain't broke don't fix it". Denis MacShane should realise that Nulabour is more than broke, it's ruined and money,from either the public or outside funders, won't fix it.