David Milliband is Right about something

My God, I know the end-times are approaching when this sort of thing happens. In recent years, this web log , sometimes via has compared her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who is 14, to a muppet, a hand-puppet, and various comedians. I have approvingly quoted Lord General the Commodore Sir Robert Marshall-Andrews QC PC DPhil and Bar, who has likened Mr Milliband to 'a pillock on a gap year'.

Yet, today, the Foreign and Commonweath Secretary has said something absolutely right.

One of the terrible things about British 'democracy' (in which twenty per cent of the electorate elected the government last time) is that parties control everything. These are invariably interest-groups mostly dominated by variant strains of the metropolitan middle classes leavened mostly by hacks, though a few decent people exist within them. They function as minor cults, bamboozling a few poor, confused followers whom they control via an internet hub on a helipad in Cyprus.

These parties control selection for office, and policy discussion, as rigorously as the other wings of the upper middle class control the law, the BBC, and accepted consensus. The generation of a self-regarding and utterly solipsistic class of political professionals has been one result.

Mr Milliband today wants to follow a conservative lead, and to introduce open primaries to the UK. Though expensive, these would allow ordinary voters to pick candidates. Added to a run-off ballot or alternative vote in the general election, this would be the single best reform that I could think of in Britain's political system.

Fishes rot from the head down. Parliament needs worthwhile people, not party-appointed hacks, representing real districts. Mirabile dictu, a muppet has put two and two together and realised this.

I'm glad of it.

N.B. 'Fishes rot from the head down is an American political metaphor'. It runs contrary to intuition, and what would seem to be scientific fact, since one would have thought that fishes rotted from the gastric and gut sections outwards. Perhaps it derives from a supposition in the now-defunct Fulton Fish market that the only substantial non-meat sections left on a fish after gutting were at the head. This blogger seems to agree.


Martin....it is the two party system in the USA which produces two false choices every two or four years. In the UK, a primary system would be controlled by the party organizations. The 'approved' candidates would have the backing of party organization and money. In the end, with only 20% of the citizens voting and most of them party regulars, you would end up with the same choices. Save a handful of mavericks in the USA such as Ron Paul and very few others, most politicians are or quickly become 'party hacks'.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Patrick

No one fix will sort everything out, of course. But what Milliband seems to be calling for is an open primary.

Actually, having researched more thoroughly, I realise that even if he is, his motives are suspect; that his call is likely to shield one to fund political parties with taxes and to register voters with id cards or something similar. I hope not.

I see your point about who would vote too--I know in the US you vote on Tuesdays, and that it's often difficult to do that.

I would say, though, that if you had a ban on big money, an open primary, freedom of information, an alternative vote at the end, and (would it were possible) secure postal or electronic voting--wouldn't this system be a good one?

It wouldn't cure the cultural malaise of the society producing the voters, but it would remove one block to doing so, and remove more of the professional political class than any other system that I can think of.

I'm thinking of a long post on America's systemic problems, so I should maybe leave some of what i want to say for there.

Thank you very much for your comment, though, and for your cautioning note, Patrick. The thing I can't really get--and it's always done this--is why a republic with citizens of the sort I know in the USA keeps producing demented or ludicrous 'representatives'.

Popular Posts