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The Politics of Lowered Expectations

December 15, 2011

Never mind the budget deficit. Never mind the Euro. We are in the middle of a much more serious crisis. A crisis of ideas; a deficit of thought.

I find everything about David Cameron and his posse absolutely odious. Everything. The personality and behaviour of alpha males who torment weaker kids in school; the idolatry of style over substance; the inappropriate jokes when dealing with serious subjects; his condescending attitude to women; his sense of entitlement; his incredibly weak grasp of facts squarely within his portfolio; his circle of friends and neighbours – Brooks, Murdoch, Clarkson, Coulson et al; his capitalizing of his poor boy’s illness and death.

This does not make me a blind follower of the Labour Party or an Ed Miliband groupie. Don’t get me wrong – the fact that we are experiencing a period of particularly weak opposition complicates matters considerably. Certainly, it increases my levels of frustration.

But I am entitled to find Cameron offensive as a specimen of humanity, regardless of the alternatives. And the fact that he points to the alternatives with derision in order to inflate his own ego, only makes him more so.

Let me give you an example. The debate on Europe in the last few days has been characterised by the laziest, the most jejune of narratives: That dissatisfaction with Cameron’s performance at last weeks summit is implied support for the deal on offer; implied support for Merkozy’s drive for austerity and centralisation.

I am Greek. Believe me, I feel the pain of the current Franco-German oppression acutely. I understand that the deal on offer has a good chance of actually making things worse. But the fact that this is a bad proposal makes it much more, not less, important to participate constructively. It makes it vital that politicians of all ideological hues, from all member states put their egos aside and try to find a workable solution. Because there are people’s lives at stake.

And yet to suggest this, draws the inevitable response “would you rather Cameron signed?” No, I would not. But as Hungary, Ireland, Sweden and others have demonstrated, there is considerable political space between signing and shouting “screw you, Johnny Foreigner” while flinging faeces.

“Well, Ed Miliband will not tell us what he would have done, so what’s your point?”, the hecklers heckle.

Suppose I went for a haircut (and I use the metaphor because of its debt-related connotations) and the stylist washed my hair with bleach, causing it to fall out. A defence along the lines of there’s-a-barber-down-the-road-that’s-even-worse, would probably result in serious bodily harm. “Found on the linoleum floor” the tabloids would report “violated with a BaByliss hair-iron, in ways too terrible to describe”.

So, this is my point: Only the government is in a position to act. Only the executive is actually in charge. The suggestion that a citizen cannot be critical of the Prime Minister’s conduct and results, unless a viable alternative has been put forward by the opposition, is intellectually indefensible. I can have an opinion. I can put forward alternatives without anyone’s help. I can disapprove of the Government’s policies without reference to some other hypothetical, parallel universe.

I have the right to demand the highest standards of the people who lead the country I call home. I have the right to ask the Government to aim higher than “not as bad as them”.

There was a time when politicians included great men and women. Thinkers. Visionaries. We still quote them with reverence fifty, one hundred, two thousand years later. I wouldn’t quote the current party leaders even if I were their biographer. Except perhaps with disdain and sadness.

“We have among us a class of mammon worshippers, whose one test of conservatism or radicalism is the attitude one takes with respect to accumulated wealth. Whatever tends to preserve the wealth of the wealthy is called conservatism, and whatever favors anything else, no matter what, is called socialism.” R. T. Ely said that more than a century ago. What has changed? Nothing.

Would you vote for a politician who insisted on communicating with smoke signals? How about one that sent troops to battle, armed with branches and slings? A Prime Minister who wanted to abolish the internet and the printing press? “Of course not – don’t be silly”, you say. And yet we are happy to vote for people who try to govern the country armed with hundred-year-old economic models; models which have failed spectacularly. Who try to improve our lives by applying dusty, antiquated philosophies. Who have been talking about money for so long, they lack the vocabulary to talk about anything else.

Scientists – brilliant minds, way beyond mine – crash nutrinos into each other, with unimaginable speed, in tunnels that we have dug under vast mountain-ranges. Astronauts observe the particles’ minute effects from space stations. And yet when it comes to the things that matter most, the best we can do is a group of people who bicker, crack jokes, shrug their shoulders and mutter “dunno”. People who are content to say to future generations: “We were planning to save the planet, but we ran out of money. Sorry.”

And it is a very explosive cocktail, that. To gallop away with innovation in every facet of our lives and give the power to wield it to the most impenetrably stupid. And unless we stop marginalising and start listening to the few that have new ideas, fresh ideas, naive, impossible ideas, we shall find ourselves not just broke. But truly bankrupt.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2011 5:32 am

    It is to heave great sighs to see our ‘leaders’, in almost every (not every) country performing more like actors than real people. A career politician knows only that he must get re-elected through any means possible in order to exercise the power he craves and values more than anything else.

  2. December 15, 2011 6:50 am

    Excellent post.

    First time I see someone else remarking the fact that crisis like this, take lives away.
    Instead of its’ cyclical pattern, or synchronic feature and all other “technical” considerations, the truth is that people who are left aside by this crisis may not be exactly the same who might deserve it, not the same that took debts and mortgages beyond their income capacity. From that point of view, there’s a terrible and growing lack of solidarity and empathy, in our societies as a whole.

    We feel committed and sensitive to try to protect wild life and endangered species, while we care nothing about our neighbours, witnessing how the structure of our society is becoming the summit of liberalism, and the perfect example of the “jungle law”.

    “And yet we are happy to vote for people who try to govern the country armed with hundred-year-old economic models; models which have failed spectacularly.”
    If you let me, I would add that we are also living under two hundred year-old democracies (by the way, how can there possibly co-exist democracy with Kingdoms in the same nations?), which have been “design” under the structure of vast territories, transportation by train and carriages, in the best cases, and small and scattered population. With new technologies, that system MUST change, and be turned into a true MODERN DEMOCRACY, where people will definitely have a saying.

  3. Sean permalink
    December 15, 2011 7:10 am

    Absolutely spot on Alex well done. I was watching Pmq’s yesterday thinking very much along the same lines. What is really worrying is that there are people out there that actually support these buffoons, what dangerous times in which we live.

  4. marina permalink
    December 15, 2011 7:40 am

    I am sure there are more solutions available than the ones given to us… We deserve better leaders and better citizens. Once we will become better citizens and decide that we want more than mediocre solutions we will see more options coming up.

  5. December 15, 2011 8:47 am

    Well done. I’ve posted this comment before.

    “The world is tired of statesmen who have degraded democracy to politics and politics to profit.”

    Perhaps ‘threatened by’ should be inserted in place of tired of?

  6. December 15, 2011 9:00 am

    A blistering attack. I don’t go along with all your pretty personal attacks on Cameron – don’t have the evidence myself. But I very much like your haircutting analogy -“violated with a Babybliss hair iron In ways too terrible to contemplate.” Good point well made on the paucity of arguments between the extremes.
    More please.

  7. December 15, 2011 9:11 am

    yes, idea deficit appears to be an essential component of the Mammonite way 😦

  8. Tom permalink
    December 15, 2011 10:17 am

    Great post, sums up my views entirely. Hate Cameron’s bully-boy tactics at PMQs and how well they seem to go down, when essentially he is just avoiding the questions. The whole theatre of it all has overtaken the substance

  9. December 15, 2011 11:25 am

    yeh… the politics of lowered expectations *of* politicians is one thing but i also detect a politics of lowered expectations *for* ourselves.

    obviously we won’t be able to have decent pensions, adult social services can’t be as generous, we clearly won’t be building any new schools…

    look at the way the NHS changes are represented: not “ok then, implement your plan but we still expect excellence and you’ll pay if you don’t deliver it”, but, “they’re going to ruin it aren’t they? oh well…”

    it’s not good.

  10. December 15, 2011 11:32 am

    not good at all but there is also a prevalence of expectation management using all the usual suspects 😦

  11. December 15, 2011 12:25 pm

    Thank you for this you have expressed my thoughts on Cameron and crew precisely. Enjoy your blog immensely – keep up the good work.

  12. December 15, 2011 1:10 pm

    Excellent piece. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Out of touch… couldn’t care less politicians.

  13. Clear Voice permalink
    December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

    Brilliant! Thank you.

    Have just been listening to DC on the lunchtime news and finding it all so depressing.

    Instead of looking for imaginative or even radical ways out of this mess, the best he can come up with is to compile more detailed data on all our “problem” families. Rather than looking at unemployment, access to education, wealth distribution, extortionate rates of debt repayment, poor diet and healthcare, POVERTY and discrimination and tackling some of the root causes of family implosion, he’s going to build up a dossier so that when trouble strikes we’ll know exactly where to find it. (He’s already said he’d like to remove these families from their subsidised accommodation.) And it’s down to the cash-strapped local authorities who are closing day centres and family support units to find over half the money for this great “new” idea, under the kindly gaze of Eric Pickles!

    Er, and the homelessness?

    And the worse thing is that we have been down this road before – John Major’s belief in family values, and Maggie blaming it all on single mums. So now we can once again claim that the ills of our society are the fault of a few disfunctional chavs (as opposed to disfunctional toffs…?) Divide and rule.

    You are so right about their stupidity, but what about ours? What IS to be done?

    • December 15, 2011 4:50 pm

      What is to be done indeed? Let us all hope that writings such as Tom’s and the ensuing commentary will at least help people understand that many wrongs (will)need to be stopped and righted before even more damage is done.

  14. Taffys permalink
    December 15, 2011 5:19 pm

    You say you can have an opinion, but in your country Greece of course your opinion counts for absolutely nothing. The politicians you elected have been removed and replaced by unelected gauleiters appointed by a foreign unaccountable bureaucracy.

    The same bureaucracy that the elected British Prime Minister quite rightly defied in defence of those who elected him.

    Some people wail about a lack of ideas simply because they do not share the ideas of the government of the time. They feel there’s a lack of democracy when they do not share the views of the party that has been fairly elected.

    That may or may not be you, I don;t know. But in your country, you may as well talk to a brick wall. This blog is a totally wasted effort. Your fate is being decided outside your country, without any recourse to you whatsoever.

    Good luck with that.

    • December 15, 2011 6:00 pm

      The “ideas of the government of the time” are variations on the same ideas that have been tried and tested for decades. And we all know how badly they have turned out.

      You read my blog above and your response is precisely to tell me not to bitch because it is much worse in “my country”. As if the standards I expect of the British Government are somehow to be judged by reference to how much worse things are in Greece.

      I live in the UK – have done for the last 20-odd years. I left Greece before I could even vote. So, I think I have a stake in what happens here, without being patronised about “my country”.

      Indeed, you provide a perfect illustration of the small-mindedness that blights us. I, like millions of other people in this country, have family, friends, a partner, a sense of identity, which span more than one class; more than one race; more than the narrow borders of one state.

      Wake up.

    • hawkeye permalink
      December 18, 2011 6:24 pm

      I totally agree, taffys, now that we are getting results at last, it seems all the socialists are sulking – i just feel that if anyone else was in power we would be sold down the river-lock-stock-and barrell.

      • December 18, 2011 7:41 pm

        results!! ?? pray share your sources

  15. December 15, 2011 6:15 pm

    The problem is to get the right people to read this. I can’t believe the number of otherwise intelligent people ,who blindly believe the smokescreens and xenophobic reporting in newspapers

  16. December 15, 2011 6:16 pm

    BTW Excellent Alex.

  17. December 15, 2011 8:05 pm

    Your personal view of Cameron is your own affair I wont comment on it. You may hold an opinion without an alternative of course but you don’t you have already indicated that you would of lied, pretended to sign then tried to wriggle your way out of the treaty or amend it. I prefer the honest approach myself. The UK is not interested in fiscal union and there was no deal forthcoming on financial services why sign? As far as I can see Cameron has never asked what you would of done but what our prospective alternative government would of done and if they don’t provide an answer they will convince no one outside their core support their choice.

    On the idea of our politicians being substandard compared to the past the truth no one wants to face is our politicians reflect us and the great politicians of yesteryear were no different. Cameron models himself on Disraeli and you hate him, you would of hated the original as well. The man you find so odorous is the most popular politician in England seen as strong decisive and doing what he believes in, I’m quoting Yougov polling here its not a personal opinion, the only way to beat him is to offer a better alternative stop looking backwards and find your modern day Gladstone/Atlee/Churchill/Lloyd George and make your argument, I promise you there out there somewhere.

  18. Kris permalink
    December 15, 2011 11:55 pm

    Great Blog as usual.

    people don’t seem to understand how spectacularly badly Cameron messed up those negotiations – even by his own measure (protecting the city). Is this because it was not really explained well by the media or because people don’t want to engage with the issues or because they are too busy— or stupid?? Or worse maybe do people get it but think well there’s nothing that can be done?

    The man is clearly incompetant even if you agreed with his aims all he did was throw his toys out the pram and now he has nothing to play with.

    • December 16, 2011 12:18 am

      Quite, it is all about a second, unhindered term so anything he does will be to keep The Fail and Sun readers[sic] on message

  19. Rob McD permalink
    December 20, 2011 7:53 pm

    What interesting, slightly humorous and, at the same time, depressing reading. I love this blog. I lost confidence in all three main political parties years ago – Duck houses, dodgy dossier/Prudence and University fees, need I say any more?

    Like most sensible fair minded people of this country, I am all for trading and having great relations with our neighbours, even the French! But, I draw the line when I see unaccountable and dark forces at work that have, over time, been slowly but irreversibly eating away at my democracy and liberty.

    This whole, no one voted for, EU experiment is out of control and is gobbling up the rights of member counties (and not member states as they like to call them) to determine their own destiny. As you rightly highlight, we now have non-elected Technocrats (dictators) in control of two of Europe’s oldest democracies, this is absolutely shocking. Didn’t Hitler teach Europe anything?

    On top of all this, we now have to deal with EU directives (posh word for extra laws). Again, these are slowly replacing all our long established (envied the world over) legal traditions, civil torts and criminal legislation.

    We now have tier upon tier of government (x7 = Parish, District, County, Quangos, Assemblies, Central and Brussels) all working in opposite directions telling us what to do, and all with their noses in the trough. Is there any wonder there is no money left and people are rioting on our streets?

    An example of how modern and twenty first century we have all become. Let’s look at the humble cabbage. Other than soil pollutant levels, one would think there isn’t much one can say about a Brassica oleracea. Well, not when it comes to the EU and their rules!
    Here is a fine example of what this all means for us trying to earn a simple wage. All you need to know about the waste-of-space and money pit we call the EU:

    Pythagorean theorem: = 24 words Important
    Lord’s prayer: = 66 words Important
    Archimedes’ Principle: = 67 words Important
    10 Commandments: = 179 words Important
    Gettysburg address: = 286 words Important
    Declaration of Independence: = 1,300 words Important
    US Constitution with all 27 Amendts: = 7,818 words Important
    EU regulations on the sale of cabbage: = 26,911 words Crap

    Do I care what happens with the Euro? Of cause I do. Do I want to pay to save the EU and the Euro – an emphatic NO. This whole exercise was forced upon us without our consent and now it must go. Or, as the Greeks, Italians and Irish are finding, it will keep on costing us/them more, and more, and more (in debt) to keep it going. Better we suffer the pain now than allow it to escalate to such an extent that we all become prisoners to a financial system we have no control over, except, that is, if you’re a banker, technocrat or Eurocrat.

    • December 20, 2011 8:05 pm


      It is important, if we are to debate constructively and make a difference, to think original thoughts. Although I accept that you offer the cabbage regulations story in good faith and you use it to illustrate a point, it is utter tosh, I’m afraid.

      It has been around for many decades. It originated as a French story about the sale of duck eggs, moved to the US as a law about the sale of fruit and eventually travelled back to Europe with a cabbage theme. The only detail which persists throughout is the number 26,911 – it just sounds too good to drop, I guess.

      Here is an interesting article on its history:

      • Rob McD permalink
        December 21, 2011 11:41 pm


        I wasn’t aware “original thoughts” were a prerequisite to commenting on your blogs. If it is, then we’re all stymied. I’d hope its main aim was to be a free and open forum where your readers and supporters (I’m the latter) alike could share their thoughts and emotions about our national political environment.

        My use of this well-known cabbage allegory was simply to stress a point. The facts surrounding its validity are not, in this instance, that important. The point I was making was, like the banks, the EU is becoming an unstoppable force almost too big to fail. After years of connived small tweaks to the charter, globalisation and political inaction, countries (people) are now finding themselves being steamrollered into sacrificing more of their democracy and way of life simply to save a flawed, bureaucratic, expensive and increasingly corrupt folly.

        I love all things Europe, but I don’t want to be ruled by it. This is not me being a little Englander either. I find it wearisome constantly being told by unelected Europhiles we’re drinking in the last chance salon if we all don’t instantly sign up to yet another dodgy treaty designed to allow Brussels to take more of our self determination away.

        As for the sale of cabbage! Just to set the record straight, should you ever wish to regularly sell cabbage for human consumption in the UK, then the following EU regulations would most definitely apply:

        The European Communities Act 1972 = 15714 words
        Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 = 16699 words
        Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 = 9832 words
        Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 = 17107 words
        Total = 59352 words

        And God forbid should you ever consider putting your cabbage into Cornish pasties and selling them, you would need then to add another 28018 words.

        Don’t stop writing

  20. February 26, 2012 2:23 pm

    “I wouldn’t quote the current party leaders even if I were their biographer.” Genius!


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