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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Coalition Politics, Awash With Vanity, Pride & Ignorance

For some individuals, going into politics has never been about that relatively old-fashioned idea of committing oneself to public service, for the wider public good; simply because, for certain people, politics is all about access to and the acquisition of power; power to influence people, events or the existing environment. In other words, for some people, the entire point of their being involved in politics, be it at a local, national, or even international level, is purely in order for them to have some form of personal involvement in the big issues of the day, to possibly help frame the debate, to gain some individual kudos from the decisions that are ultimately reached; and possibly helping to create a long term legacy for themselves, if only by association. If that were the true motivation behind most politician's decision to stand for office, then shouldn't we be worried by the fact that a significant number of our legislators, be they in local council chambers, the Palace of Westminster, or in Brussels, are not really there to represent us, the electorate, but are there to achieve their own self aggrandisement, their own enrichment, to satisfy their own personal vanity and to establish their own individual legacy, rather than having anything to do with us, the voter?

Given that it's a well established fact that most of our national legislators are independently wealthy people before they even enter Parliament, one can only speculate as to why each and every Member of the Commons ultimately decides to stand for selection in the first place. No doubt a small number of candidates will see it as a purely financial move, no different than any other job of work, only cleaner and with much more influence attached, but a relatively well paid job nonetheless. The vast majority though, the former lawyers, businessmen, journalists, trade unionists, stockbrokers, teachers, actors and the idle sons of millionaires, will undoubtedly sit in Parliament for any number of reasons, including the yearning desire to give something back, to shape the future of our country, because they're bored and are incapable of holding down a proper job, or often because they're wealthy enough and vain enough to believe that they have all the solutions to our country's many and varied problems.

How else would one explain the likes of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne holding the levers of power in our country, when between the three of them they have nearly zero work-life experience, but bags of money. In addition to these three, our daily lives are also directly affected by the likes of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Danny Alexander, three more perennial underachievers who now wield significant influence as Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; and Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Outside of having worked as a Management Consultant for Mckinsey and Company, one of the firms directly responsible for the remodelling and reorganisation of the NHS, William Hague is yet another one of those professional politician's who has sought to build his personal legacy through his political career, although not always successfully. As leader of the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2001, he was reported to be a disaster, trying to unite a divided Tory Party, concentrating on issues that held little interest for the wider electorate; and publicly participating in stunts that simply made him look foolish in the public's eyes, including his infamous log flume picture that many of his fellow MP's later described as "juvenile".

For his part, Iain Duncan Smith inadvertently set himself up for public derision by describing himself as the "Quiet Man" of British politics, as a result of his natural way of speaking. He previously served as a Lieutenant in the British Army; and unlike some of his cabinet colleagues is not the wealthiest of men, but is fortunate enough to have married the daughter of a fairly wealthy man, so it pretty much amounts to the same thing. Reported to have held a specific interest in Welfare Issues, research indicates that Mr Duncan Smith has been largely informed on that particular subject by what might commonly be referred to as "right wing" policy sources, which would clearly explain his generally insensitive and obdurate approach to welfare matters since taking office as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the current Coalition government.

As for Mr Alexander's elevation to High Office, well one can only assume that this is related to the comparatively small number of MP's that the Liberal Democrats got elected into Parliament, allied to the fact that he has previously worked closely with both Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg, so was almost certainly appointed to his current post because of his political connections, rather than on the strength of his own natural gifts. Along with his party leader, Mr Alexander would never in his wildest dreams have envisioned the day when he might have had the opportunity to place his sticky fingers on the levers of power; and it has become abundantly clear over time that he has allowed himself to become completely infatuated with his once-in-a-lifetime chance to be on the centre stage of Britain's political establishment. One wonders what he'll do when his 15-minutes-of-fame is over?

Although these three individuals only play a small part in the coalition government; and the political legacy that it will inevitably leave to our country, always assuming of course that any subsequent political administration doesn't sweep it all away, which seems highly unlikely, it still begs the question as to whether or not their current implementation of coalition policies are based on their own personal socio-economic principles, those that they would try and sell to their local electorates, or are they simply part of a much larger Liberal Democrat / Conservative vanity project that they hope to be revered for by the masses in the future.

Big, far reaching and time enduring political projects seem to have become very much the norm nowadays, just as private home ownership, commercial privatisation and de-industrialisation did in the UK during the Thatcher era, thus creating an almost endless series of social and economic legacies that we can all still point to as significant moments in our nation's history. The question still remains though, were those fundamental and often traumatic changes to our society brought about by Mrs Thatcher's ideological principles, or because of her personal vanity? If vanity is defined as an excessive belief in one's own abilities (and consequently one's own ideas) then is it possible that the wholesale sell off of Britain's social housing stocks, the privatisation of the various national utilities and the widespread de-industrialisation of Britain's main manufacturing centres, were simply a part of Mrs Thatcher's own personal vanity project, rather than the vitally necessary socio-economic measure it was described as at the time?

Where Mrs Thatcher justified the sell off of the country's housing stock, publicly owned utilities and manufacturing centres, she did so by pointing to the purported yearning of the aspirational classes, the inefficiencies of publicly owned businesses, the militancy of the unionised workforces and the promise that things would be much improved in the future. She and her government then spent the next decade or more, spending billions of pounds of North Sea oil and gas revenues, having to secure those promises, as the much vaunted private sector struggled to fill the vacuum that those lost homes and industries left behind them, some of which continue to exist through to today, some thirty years later. Fast forward to 2010 and we have a similar situation with David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their own version of a personal vanity project, only this one involves much more vital services like the NHS, Public Welfare, Railways, the Royal Mail and of course Europe. We have no money for more Nurses, Doctors, or life saving Medicines, but we can find £100 million for Syria. We have no spare public money for Extra Bedrooms or our most disabled citizens, but we can find £12 billion per year for Overseas Aid. We can find £50 billion for the planned HS2, but we can't afford to maintain our military forces. Royal Mail is publicly owned, but that still hasn't prevented the Coalition from selling it off to the private sector for an estimated £3 billion, yet we're still paying £53 million per day to the EU.

Going back to the definition of vanity; as in an excessive belief in one's own abilities (and therefore in one's own beliefs and ideas), it surely must be the height of vanity for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their cohorts to believe that they know better than a majority of the British public, half of whom would likely vote for a British exit from the financial, political and social constraints of the European Union. How arrogant they are to believe that they know so much more than we do; that they are better informed than we are; or that only they are qualified to make any judgement regarding our country's future direction. According to Samuel Butler "The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, pride and arrogance", a description that well befits a number of our elected representatives, most especially the few dozen Conservative and Liberal Democrat MP's who have been charged with taking care of our country's fortunes at this present moment in time. Perhaps they all might do well to remember another well known expression regarding one of the Seven Deadly Sins; that of Pride, which is said to come before a fall. Roll on 2015!!

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