A plague on all their houses?


This making up pathetic jokes to start blogs could become a habit. Not, dear reader, because you are guilty of giving me any encouragement at all,  but simply because it appeals to my trivial middle aged male brain….

I was offered a job as an office cleaner for a science magazine. But I turned it down because they insisted I sweep the carpets with a dustpan and brush. Apparently, Nature abhors a vacuum.       

There does seem to be quite a vacuum in British politics right now. We all know about the problems of the Liberal Democrats. The drift into cosy oppositionalism by the Labour Party continues apace. This leaves us with the Conservatives, who are not only having to cope with the backwash of no growth and spending cuts, but have this week apparently caved into to the LibDems on health, the Daily Mail on sentencing and, as I said earlier this week, look like they are bound to have to amend their student finance package. It’s no wonder that the public service white paper promised for January, then March, then May has still to be unveiled.

This has been the week when we have also been reminded that not only have large sections of the British workforce seen no improvement in their living stands in recent decades but the same group are bound to see a deterioration over the next year.

It looks like our topic for RSA Party conferences fringes – what happens when voters feel failed by the entire political establishment – may prove to be a prescient choice. 

I am a supporter of electoral reform (not that this will probably be relevant again in my lifetime) but I am rather relieved right now that our electoral system makes it hard for new populist or extremist parties to break through (as they have in so many other parts of Europe).

Not that, I have to admit, my fears seem to be reflected among the politicians themselves. I did a very jolly session this afternoon for the Labour Lords front bench (in case anyone wants to complain I did something very similar for new Downing Street special advisors a few weeks ago – it’s all part of trying to help all politicians do a good job for the nation).

It was slightly strange. They are a very nice group of people, some of whom I know well, but they also range in make-up from one of the most distinguished economists in the country to relatively recently ennobled trade union leaders (not that I am in anyway implying former trade union leaders can't be distinguished). I could tell some of the Peers were dismayed at how pedestrian I was, while others found me rather radical.  

Anyway,  I encouraged them inter alia to get into social media, pointing out that unlike the old media, in the new you don’t need to be commissioned you can just get out there and communicate (you can even force innocent digital by-standers to read your execrable jokes). They seemed interested although someone talked about ‘resisting the blogging habit’ in a way that made it sound a bit like drug abuse.

Anyway, and this is by way of ending the week positively, they did prick up their ears when I told them how much help I had with my annual lecture from people reading my blog and either leaving comments or contacting me directly.

The event seemed to go really well last night, something which owes a lot to Diane Coyle in the chair and Ian Cheshire (Kingfisher CEO) as my respondent. But, due to the input I have got from readers ever since Christmas when I first started talking about it (and when it was actually on a completely different topic), my speech was at least a third better than it would have been.

So thank you all and have great weekend

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