Monday, April 24, 2006

"The people's voice is odd"

posted by k

Tony Blair is presenting himself as the voice of the people. Lawyers are wrong. Judges are wrong. Civil libertarians are wrong. Anyone who disagrees with Tony is wrong. He knows what the people of this country - the real people, the working class - really think.

It's a lie. Tony Blair may have picked up a few slogans, tabloid headlines and comments from focus groups but he is not in touch with the people of this country.

Leaving aside the question of money - and it's hard to leave it aside when the prime minister and his wife have taken on a mortgage debt of four million pounds - how would our prime minister know any longer what "the people" think?

Tony Blair lives behind security gates in Downing Street. His journeys are protected by armed police. He uses helicopters and the royal flight. He doesn't just go round the supermarket, pop out for a curry or to the chip shop, or have a quiet drink with friends in his local. He meets carefully selected individuals who have been vetted for security. And he meets a large number of people who defer to him.

How, from this experience, does Tony Blair begin to think of himself as "the voice of the people"?

"The people" are not the simple-minded mass that Tony Blair suggests. People - real people - have a range of views and a capacity for complex thought not imagined by our prime minister. People are varied and delightful and infuriating and stubborn and willing, when they think things through, to change their minds. They live in a more dangerous world than the prime minister's and they show a daily courage with which he is unfamiliar. Some people do dreadful things. Some people (sometimes they are the same people) perform startling acts of generosity.

Tony Blair seems to have an interest in calling on people's fear and intolerance. There is more to human beings than that.

One man cannot be "the voice of the people". The people's voices are too many and too various. It is time to think, speak, debate and listen to one another. There have been enough spin-doctors and focus groups. It is time to remake democracy.


Blogger areopagitica said...

from R
There is a name for Blair's principles; it is underused, but I didn't invent it, and it is very precisely what's wrong. Robespierrism: there are three important elements. Firstly, "I am the voice of the people." Second, "everyone accused is guilty." Thirdly "No Limits." Robesperre himself explicitly enunciated all these concepts in his lifetime, and Blair's government has expressed the some thoughts in slightly different words frequently.
Blair himself is obviously impatient of all the institutions and movements that attempt to express any opposition to his boundless power or open-ended personal portfolio. They are, to him, all "vested interests" and "out of touch." The actual people are wasting their time telling him what we really want, because he knows better. Blunkett, when Home Secretary, put it expressly: "The ordinary people haven't got these professional bodies and organised groups to speak up for them, there's only me to speak up for the ordinary people." Of course Thatcher and Howard said much the same from time to time. (Remember Howard announcing how he'd decided on an exercise of his judicial function by crowing how he was following a cut-out petition in 'The Sun".)
Blair only two weeks ago was boasting how he was going to "hound, hassle and harry" Suspect out of Britain. That's SUSPECTS! Also see the Lord Chancellor's paper 'Doing Law Differently' of April. It proposes massive powers for the police to impose restrictions, exclusions, financial and punitive sanctions, compulsory treatments and curfews on people not even charged, let alone convicted, of any offence. ("Hey, don't worry, we're decent blokes. And it isn't a breach of human rights because none of this counts as a criminal record.")And the Home Office is introducing legislation to allow police to seize bank accounts, houses and cars from - guess who? - supects! The justification is always that the human rights of The Ordinary People (a.k.a. The Silent Majority and Hardworkingfamilies)are more important than the rights of anyone accused.
Robespierre seems not to have operated from any formal office, not even the Committee of Public Safety particularly. He was on ALL the committees. No Limits. Joined-up government with a capital G.

10:28 am  

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