Because they are elected

By skepticlawyer

The Murdoch empire was fundamentally hostile to British history and institutions, and intrinsically opposed to the rule of law. It pressed for a powerful republican agenda and effectively occupied a great deal of the public space which previously belonged to Parliament. It became normal for ministers to make important announcements through the press, bypassing the House of Commons and causing it to lose its historic role as the forum where governments first made information known. Even the date of the 2001 election was leaked by Downing Street to the Sun.

This system of government encouraged the rise of a certain type of politician: obsessed with image, unable to see beyond the short term, too often expert at the dark arts, structurally compliant with the wishes of the Murdoch regime. It also helps to account for one of the most characteristic phenomena of modern public life: the rise of a class of politicians who achieve sky-high reputations without obvious talent, achievement or basic purpose. Such politicians tend not to have risen through brain or talent, but rather through subterranean means: namely attending the right parties, cultivating powerful people and saying the right things.

Peter Oborne, in the Daily Telegraph.

Once again, my suspicion is that he’s being too optimistic (this comes clear if you read the piece entire), but the point about the rule of law is well made.


  1. TerjeP
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    We need a senate appointed through a process of sortition to check the professionals. In terms of the media I’m optimistic that new media is providing a corrective of sorts. YouTube is great at holding politicians to account for what they said. And it can make sensations of those with actual character. Witness the “no carbon tax” videos of Gillard and the star power of Ron Paul.

  2. kvd
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the full piece yet, but am struck by the past tense of this exerpt. Hope he’s right.

  3. kvd
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Well I won’t gush, but I must say that is a fine piece.

  4. Dave Bath
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] is right about the politicians, and it isn’t sufficient for the politicians to blame the monster they helped create. In The Economist (Policy failure on a massive scale) they are talking about the economic, politicians blaming it on admittedly flawed institutions:

    But it’s no longer sufficient to blame inadequate policy responses on institutions alone. America and Europe are flailing because their leaders are failing. They seem to be too small for the tasks at hand, too petty, and too myopic

    Murdoch is one of a long line of too-influential press barons, even if he does pump out the worst ever, but he won’t be the last. Getting the MSM cleaned up is only a temporary fix if our politicians remain just as greasy.

    And no… I’m not optimistic. This will get a little better for a little time, but the careerists and their back-room buddies will just pull their heads in for a while and weather the storm – unless we hit the jackpot and the whole scandal blows open, across 3 continents, and starts hurting those careerists.

    To my mind, the columnist has taken too big a dose of Pollyannamine – might feel could for a while but when reality hits the next day – what a downer.

    (LE – your other half could probably have a good guess at drawing pollyannamine.)

  5. Patrick
    Posted July 30, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Just make a rule that any candidate for Parliament must be 40 and must have lived independently (i.e. not on a political party or government salary) for at least 10 years.

  6. Posted July 30, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Go the whole Swiss hog, and don’t pay your pollies except a small attendance fee.

  7. Patrick
    Posted July 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Actually I think the money is something of a red herring. The party structure will always find ways of supporting its own (i.e. union organiser!). the trick is to make sure that only older people with some other experience can make it at all.

  8. Posted July 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I think Patrick’s point about avoiding ‘staffers’ and ‘party hacks’ or whatever you call them is well made. I have a nasty feeling that the last British PM who had a substantial and productive prior life before entering politics was Margaret Thatcher. It showed, and it would be nice to get back to that.

  9. Posted July 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    The government salary thing of patrick’s is pretty tough on real people like salaried doctors, nurses, engineers, traindrivers (and IT guys)… While privately-paid party hacks in party-funded “institutes” are still party hacks, and according to patrick’s rule if I interpret it correctly, not excluded.

    If you are going to do something, only allow them to vote on topics where they’d pass a year 11 exam in that topic. Hell, year 10.

    Don’t know the difference between a nucleus and a neutron? Anything to do with nuclear safety and you should abstain.

    Actually, a few years ago, a science group gave questionnaires to anglosphere politicians and from those who dared respond, the answers were depressing, esp for the US where I think the average was year 10 science bare pass. Oz was better, but I don’t know about now… What with the mad “carbon dioxide is weightless” monk running around.

    But that’s imperfect. Perhaps “never earnt a cent from a political donation donor or recipient”? Holes in that too.

  10. Posted August 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Well, Oz federal MPs give better value for money than UK MPs (and much better value than members of Congress).

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