Saturday, 27 October 2012

Douglas Carswell - The End of Politics: A Review

“On the day the wall came down/The Ship of Fools had finally run aground…” Pink Floyd, A Great Day For Freedom (The Division Bell).

“Who can give them back their lives/And all those wasted years?/All those precious wasted years - Who will pay?” Rush, Heresy (Roll The Bones).

In the dying days of the last Labour government, Douglas Carswell MP invited his blog readers to suggest a subject for him to raise at Prime Minister’s Questions. To my pleasant surprise, he chose my question about ruling out UK participation in Greek bailouts. The PM fudged the answer, no doubt in the full knowledge that the political class would in due course contrive indirect UK participation whether the electorate liked it or not. Which just about said it all, so far as the attitude of Big Government towards the public at large is concerned.

It is therefore only right and proper that I return the favour with a review of “The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy”.

The first seven chapters cover “The End”. It is a fair portrayal of how and why our current political system is rotten to the core. To recall a phrase from the sixties, The Man in Whitehall still thinks he knows best. We are given many examples of how government grows by stealth, how it has to be seen to be doing something (think of projects like HS2, or NHSIT – beware of accidental transpositions with that one), and how it deliberately debauches the currency with quantitative easing and aims to inflate the ever growing debt away. Bad luck on savers and foreign travel lovers if your private pension turns out to be of Zimbabwean purchasing power and your holiday pound drops to parity with the Vietnamese Dong.

The political class are portrayed as knowing full well what they are doing, probably only wanting to be sure they see their time out before the consequences of their actions catch up. It is perhaps not surprising that one commentator has already suggested that in days gone by, someone from within who exposed the true nature of how we are overtaxed, overregulated, overgoverned, badly governed and governed by the wrong people (EU bureaucrats, the opinion forming elite etc) would probably have been burned at the stake.

So where are we to find hope? The second half, “The Birth”, suggests that the digital revolution will render the Big Government model obsolete, as choice displaces top down prescription. “A cultural revolution is coming that will unseat the constructivist elite”, it is suggested, where taxpayers decide to buy less prescribed government services, make more of their own decisions and keep more of their own money for this purpose, all aided by technology. Hmm. Without wishing to drift too deeply into a debate as to what state services are truly essential, we may wonder how much those taxpayers would voluntarily spend on some of the great functions of government that have emerged and then snowballed since the end of World War II. The health and safety industry? The discrimination industry? The financing of ambulance chasing claims handlers? The food and drink division of the nanny state?

It probably leads to a key issue not really addressed in the book, namely what if the political class refused to accept that the days of Big Government were over, that their system was wrecking not just wealth but lives too, and that they should give up and get out of the way, pausing only to start lowering taxes and deregulating. Would there be a soft landing or a crash, and how bad would any crash be? And would there be danger of a similar scenario from the two sets of rock lyrics with which I opened, whereby the initial euphoria at the collapse of East European communism quickly gave way to deep resentment at their former rulers after all those wasted years? Who would be burned at the stake (or even Ceausescued) then?

Hopefully the author’s conclusion, that our best days lie ahead and that we will be healthier, wealthier and happier in several generations’ time after Big Government has been laid to rest, will be borne out without too much of a crash. And perhaps the current Western political class would be spared the fate of many a former dictator, as long as they submitted to a course of Sackcloth, Ashes and Penance. Which provides me in conclusion with a neat way of promoting my own recent book, a political/legal suspense novel that probably has about as much underlying respect for the political class as The End Of Politics, expressed largely through the perception of an “ordinary person candidate” believing that the invitation to help clean up politics in the wake of the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal was meaningful and sincere…

Oh yes, before I forget. A resounding five stars for “The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy”.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Infernal Coalition: Despair

...Alex turned to his computer screen and called up the Seats and Candidates page of Conservative Home. He found the link to the A-List at the head of a list of constituencies and began his investigation.

Almost an hour later, he found himself in possession of far more information about the six shortlisted applicants than he could ever have expected to trace, but none the wiser as to how Susie could have found herself excluded in comparison to them all. He saved the summary that he had been typing and printed it off.

Howard Bailey. Small business owner, Bristol. Runner up, Bristol South East, 2005. In final six for one safe seat last year, and Bristol South West this year – still ongoing? Has written a number of articles about deregulation for small businesses.

Martin Darby. A-Lister. PR & marketing consultant, London. In final six for one marginal late last year and two safe seats in 2007. Appears close to a couple of Shadow Cabinet members.

Adrian Swan. Councillor and teacher at independent school in Coventry. No sign of him in any other shortlists. Known Eurosceptic contributor to ConHome discussion threads. Another ordinary people candidate? 

Alexandra Holt. A-Lister. Barrister (matrimonial law), London. In final six in three safe seats since 2006. Vociferous for reform of family courts.

Janine Kendall. Management consultant, Hertford. Might be same as Jan Kendall who fought a safe Inner London Labour seat in 2005. No sign of shortlisting this time around.

Olwen Williams. Farmer, Shropshire. Stood in hopeless South Wales mining seat in 2006 by-election. In final six for a safe seat earlier this year.

Six candidates, he thought. None of them a household name, and not a local connection to proclaim between them. Bailey and Swan could probably make it to the constituency via the motorways in a couple of hours if they put their foot down, but that’s as far as it goes.

What a farce. Do those three women really have anything that Susie doesn’t? Was this call for new blood candidates nothing more than window dressing?

By now it was almost 2.30 and Alex was in no frame of mind to revert to client work. Picking up his briefcase, he waved a goodbye to Sawdon who was on the phone, told the other partner Geoff Stokes he was leaving early, and made his way downstairs to the car park. At least he could be sure of sharing the bad news with Susie before anyone might break it to her first. His promise to respond to Bob Gill later that afternoon on his prospects of suing CCK TelSol was long forgotten.

To his surprise, Susie was already home, sitting in the study at the computer. It was obvious that she had been upset and angry for some time, and most unusually she was struggling for words as well as fighting back tears. Alex’s consoling hug could not have prepared him for what she finally said.

“What a tactless, two-faced, arrogant bastard.”


“Nicholson.” She could hold back the tears no longer as she waved her hand towards the screen and hurried out of the study. “Just read that.”

Alex did so and found himself looking at a circular email that had evidently been sent to almost two hundred addressees.

‘Dear Applicant

The selection process for the new Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in East Worcestershire has now led to the drawing up of a shortlist of six applicants, to be submitted to the constituency’s executive committee in the immediate future.

Regrettably we were unable on this occasion to include you on this shortlist and will not therefore be taking your application any further.

I wish you well in your further applications.

Yours faithfully

Olivia Phillips
Organising Secretary
For and on behalf of Ashley Nicholson
Chairman, East Worcestershire Conservative Association.’ 

A wave of disbelief came over Alex as he opened his briefcase and extracted the copy email he had received from Nicholson earlier that day. He read the line ‘Reserve: Susan Harris’ again. And again. As Susie came back into the study, the tears almost gone but her anger no less obvious, he passed it over.

“I don’t understand. Why would you get a standard form brush off when I’ve just had this?”

Susie read it and shook her head in complete confusion when she reached the incongruous line that appeared to suggest that her new found ambitions had not been completely dashed.
“I can’t make it out either. I can’t work out whether it was an afterthought or something that was supposed to have been edited out...”

* * * * *
Previously posted: Hope. To follow: Disbelief, and Amazement - and Retaliation.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Infernal Coalition: Hope

Wednesday 2 December 2009

.....Hearing the phone replaced, Alex banished Gill and his dispute from his mind. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last time, when he would have had to disappoint a client for telling him what he needed to know rather than what he wanted to hear. Susie came into the kitchen and threw her arms around him.

“I’m on the approved list! They’ve even said I’m free to apply for any other Midlands seat!”

“That’s great. I’m really proud of you.” They chatted on for a few more minutes before it sunk in with Alex that their intentions need not remain secret any longer. “I suppose I’d better ring Ashley Nicholson and tell him there’s going to be a local candidate in the running.”

“And put your differences aside too?”
Susie’s question was as perceptive as ever. She had always suspected that the local party chairman, a lifelong resident of the county, had not been entirely pleased when Alex had become an officer in the association barely a year after they had moved from the Birmingham suburbs to a rural setting in the constituency. Although no other committee member had come forward to express any interest in taking on the role of Deputy Chairman Political ahead of Alex, Susie had long gained the impression that there was a needless element of factional strife between Nicholson’s closest allies and everyone else.

For his own part, Alex was aware that Nicholson had made a colossal amount of money from training and consultancy work in the fields of environmental health and hygiene, taking full advantage of the ever expanding consequences of European Union membership. Alex’s staunch belief that the UK would be better off out of the EU left him with little time or respect for those who profited from the European project at the expense of those burdened by its regulations.
“Up to a point, I guess. The day I become a Europhile will be the day hell freezes over.” Alex paused. “Of course, if you’re elected to Parliament, I’d better remember that a closed mouth gathers no foot.”

“That sounds just like Denis Thatcher.” Susie let the comment, laden with implication as she had intended, hang in the air as she headed upstairs. Having found the chairman’s number, Alex picked up the phone and made the call, and was soon through the inevitable opening round of small talk.

“OK, Ashley, that wasn’t why I rang. The reason for my call is to let you know that Susie has just been accepted onto the approved list of prospective Parliamentary candidates, and she’s put in her application to be shortlisted for East Worcestershire. “

“Has she now? That’s very interesting. I can’t think that there’s any other local candidate likely to apply.”

Nicholson did not expand. Alex noted with a brief touch of curiosity that he had expressed no obvious enthusiasm on hearing the news.
“So I think it’s only right and proper that I stand down as Deputy Chairman Political on a temporary basis after Friday’s meeting, until the selection procedure is over. Presumably there’s no problem then if we put the word around that Susie’s applying?”

“I think that you can leave that to me. You’ll have heard that CCHQ are sending a rep along to the meeting on Friday, to give us the complete low down on how the process works. One of the tasks we’ll be faced with then is forming a selection sub-committee of six. You’re welcome to come along to the meeting, but clearly you can’t properly be on the sub-committee, and it’s probably a good idea if you do stand down as DCP afterwards. Only temporarily, of course.”

“Not a problem.” There was something in Nicholson’s tone of voice that left Alex feeling patronised, but he let it ride. They soon finished their discussion.

“How did he take it?” Susie had returned, holding an Ordnance Survey map.

“Difficult to tell. Same as ever with him, of course. Still, I’d find it hard to believe that the local executive won’t give you their full support. Let’s hope he falls into line. They surely wouldn’t want a complete nobody ahead of a local. And most of the real stars from the A-List would surely have been selected for vacant seats by now.”

Susie spread the map out across the kitchen table. She was well aware of the party hierarchy’s decision to create an A-List, an elite group of preferred candidates whose entry into Parliament was considered to be particularly desirable, and how badly this had gone down with ordinary members once it had been uncovered. The recent call, in the face of the expenses scandal, for a new type of candidate to come forward had been a welcome contrast. 

“Right then, let’s start going over these towns and villages. We know the area and the local issues far better than London A-Listers who make the same pitch to every constituency they apply for....."

* * * * *

To follow: Despair, Disbelief, and Amazement - and Retaliation.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Now Available: Infernal Coalition

"Bloody hell."

"What's wrong?"

"The Warthog's had a change of mind. He's standing down."

It was only natural that the unexpected decision of Sir Walter Hough MP to retire from the House of Commons at the 2010 General Election, and to vacate the safe East Worcestershire seat he had held for 35 years, would lead to a great deal of interest from potential successors. Including Professor Susie Harris, inspired by the rallying call for ordinary voters to come forward as Tory candidates and help clean up politics in the aftermath of the expenses scandal.

But was her initial welcome only skin deep? And how far would her new found political interest be affected by a client of her solicitor husband Alex trying simultaneously to defraud his firm?

Infernal Coalition. A legal/political suspense. Available via Kindle Direct and Lulu (links on the right). Read the Prologue above.