The triumph of the anti-political classes

Paul Staines points out that ConservativeHome have declared that Peter Oborne’s “The Triumph of the Political Classes” is their chosen book of the year. Not having read it, I don’t feel qualified to say something acerbic, like “Ho hum” or whatever.

Nevertheless, Oborne’s analysis is going to have to be responded to, for the sake of democracy. Because when journalists jump on this particular anti-politics bandwagon, they risk undermining not just the individual politicians they hate so much, but the very idea of representative democracy. When I hear right wing libertarians talking about how awful every politician is, how we’ve all got our snouts in the trough, that we’re not representative or – the worst possible accusation and the core theme of Osborne’s book (I think) – that some of us are ‘career politicians’ who have spent our whole working lives in politics – I assume that the phrase “The army could do a better job sorting out the country” is only a breath away.

This antipathy towards politicians itself isn’t new. In fact it’s been around for so long it’s positively passé. But the sheer invective, the bitterness, the utter contempt, the downright hatred of people they’ve (for the most part) never met is new and corrosive. What’s the end game? To drive the current generation of politicians out of the profession (and yes, it is a profession)? To be replaced by whom? By new politicians who will be different in every respect from what we already have? Or is the aim not to have us replaced at all after we’ve sloped off? A country run by Peter Oborne and Paul Staines? What a lovely thought.

I genuinely don’t care about the opinion of people like that. But if their destructive philosophy permeates the public consciousness to any degree, and voter turn out consequently falls to historic lows, what then? Mission accomplished as far as Staines & Oborne are concerned, I suppose.

To be continued.

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9 Comments

Filed under Media, Politics

9 responses to “The triumph of the anti-political classes

  1. The amateur psychologist in me says that a lot of such spite and nihilism derives from envy and under achievement. The same sort of things occurs in large companies where the senior management is derided by the lower ranks as a bunch of lucky chancers with no genuine ability. There was a comedy on the radio a while ago called “if you’re so clever, how come you’re not rich” or something of the sort. There’s a similar question to pose to the Mr Staines of this world…

  2. Well perhaps I am an under achiever. But in no way am I a nihilist.

    The idiocy of the assumption that libertarians want a military dictatorship is obvious.

    Underlying my antipathy to politicians is the fact that I am happy to govern myself. I would never want to steal your money to order you around with the threat of jail at the end of a loaded barrel.

    That is what politicians do.

    I don’t need you. You need me and all the other wealth creators. Politicians don’t create or produce anything, you tax. You never answered the question: why do people have such a low opinion of politicians?

    Are they stupid? Mislead?

  3. I think Mr Staines probably will be rich one of these days .. but that’s by the by.

    “the sheer invective, the bitterness, the utter contempt, the downright hatred of people they’ve (for the most part) never met is new and corrosive”

    Be fair. It was the Left who introduced this, 40 years back. You probably can’t remember university students chanting ‘disembowel Enoch Powell’, but I can. Only 25-odd years before that, Churchill could write about ‘the smiling goodwill of English public life’.

    The philosopher Hannah Arendt argued that the origins of totalitarianism lay ‘in one great unorganised mass of furious individuals” who had nothing in common except their apprehension that the most respected and representative articulators of the existing culture were fools, and the elected holders of public office were fraudulent.

    The problem is that the most respected and representative articulators of the existing (2008) culture ARE fools, and many of the elected holders of public office ARE fraudulent. Where does that leave us ?

    The death of deference was one of the key ‘gains’ of the cultural revolution. It’s a bit late to start complaining about the downside.

    http://ukcommentators.blogspot.com/2003/09/theyre-getting-it-but-theyll-get-it.html

  4. Pork Buster

    Truth hurts as they say. At least read the book, and at the very least get you snouts out of the trough!

  5. I think that we’re all pretty aware of this – righgt wingers seek to damage politics, because they want as muc hof life to be carried out in the private realm as possible. Further, democracy itself is an anathema to the libertarian, who thrive on a kind of anarchic utopia, run in a republican way; where enlightened rulers and consitutions protecting private rightts are the top authority, and the idea that sometimes we must make sacrifices for one another is banished.

    They have no problem with damaging politics. Their politics is that they oppose the political.

  6. I,m interested in this antipolitics and antipoliticians issue, as I,m in Indoneisa has been suck and sick of it for the long time since I know how the Politics and Politicians are just like robot without heart ( as indeed they are ).
    No matter what are they background , both military or civilians when they are turn into practical politics and politician they are turn into manimals , acting based on their strength and weakness analysis, attacking another or defense against another for the sake of selfish and egoism as a person or narrow nationalism. Lets discuss.

  7. huntingdonpost

    We’re better off reading Max Weber, who thought seriously and brilliantly about issues of politics and mass democracy, than hacks who have an agenda. Weber is still prescient: we are seeing the rise of another charismatic leader.

  8. Forget destructive philosophies, what permeates the public consciousness is Ministers who seem to inhabit a parallel universe. Tom’s recent letter in the FT is a case in point.

  9. Mark C

    Has anyone above actually read the book? The majority of it is a criticism of the centralisation of power and the sidelining of institutional representative democracy, the judiciary, the commons, the civil service, by a political class who prefer to rule through the media, aided by unelected advisors with blatant party loyalties. The party and the state need to be separate.
    The criticism of “professional” politicians is very relevant. There was a time when politicians were in politics to represent the interests of constituents. They earned very little money from politics and Oborne’s concern is that living in politics and earning your income from politics with no stake in civil society, leads to an elevation of the political above all other spheres of life.
    People seem to have assumed that because it’s Peter Oborne it’s some kind of stab at liberals. But the criticisms in this book are of interest to anyone who wants the system of representative democracy to be improved. With politicians who are committed chiefly to improvement of the country rather than the perpetuation of their income.
    This is not ‘anti-politicians’. This would be clear to someone who had read it. It is critical of a particular type of politician, and the system of “manipulative populism” in which no good can be achieved, just endless press.
    Really, how can you expect to be taken seriously when you open with an admission you haven’t read it?

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