I got sent a graph this morning, which I am trying to find the original for. It is an electoral commission graph. It showed how party memberships have gone down, and party donations have gone up. If you are paying £250k to eat lasagne with the Prime Minister, you are not paying that for the fancy lasagne sheets cook uses, or because it’s from the finest range not value. You are buying social influence. Social influence within parties is bought, not recordable accountable democratic interest.
Sofa government, lasagne government. Maintained by a well connected network of wonks, spads and a media which luckily fills the same social network. A small social network. Selling a narrative that is decided long in advance. Sold through the newspapers and media figures you claim as your own. Influence is social and cannot be recorded in minutes. Unless someone has the minutes of Rupert Murodoch’s parties or the Islington parties where groups of 6 or 7 friends are co-ordinated to cover all the bases to create appearance of wider debate. Somewhere along the line political consultancy, trading in social influence became a ‘profession‘.
When the direct route to the centre of each party is via Oxford and Cambridge, and most other avenues have been shut down, this is a good way of managing things. At some point this social network got so used to only hearing the conversation they manufactured, they forgot it was mostly utter bollocks. The social aspect of this network, means that even those who know this is wrong, will not challenge the structures that uphold it. Because it is their er…social and professional network…
The power of local democracy has been systematically dismantled, and relationships are now between those who can buy influence and the government of the day. Local Councillors arguing over who can wear the baubles and provide the front for policies and budgets decided centrally and subject to consensus. The ones who aren’t exploiting this for a hand up the greasy pole. Policy decided by think tank, not evidence, in an industry where opinion polling is considered ‘research’. While the private companies hoovering up the market that is democracy being dismantled, enjoy access to Downing Street that local elected officials could never expect. Regardless of election outcomes.
Policy conferences pretending to find solutions are covered by the media and attended by the concerned. Conferences used by these companies to divvy up the market, charging hundreds of pounds for entry, and keeping the discussion of consequences outside closed doors. The media sells the message it needs to to justify this, with ambitious guppies not knowing or caring this is the case. In the absence of difference in policy, tribalism has to be manufactured. And political parties turn idealists into tribalists, willing to do almost anything to protect their tribe. They only have to convince themselves and their tribe. Wheels within wheels.
Labour will not challenge this too loudly. their finances are fucked and they need to attract the donations required to win an election….besides, they perfected it.