UK Election 2010

A blog following the UK general election 2010, as part of the Institute of Ideas election intervention, 21 Pledges for Progress.

Thursday 20 May 2010

The politics of aspiration

What is politics for?

It is one thing to point out that individuals acting on their own cannot realistically hope to triumph over deeper social realities, quite another to suggest that the desire to do so is immoral or antisocial. Solidarity ought to mean shared aspirations for a better society, not mutual self-sacrifice in a zero sum game. Affirming individual aspirations and asking how they might be met collectively would cut against many assumptions and prejudices that are deeply entrenched in contemporary British politics.

The politics of the new

What is the ‘new politics’?

This is a cynical and expedient attempt to discredit ideologically driven politics and politicians, by accusing them of acting in their own narrow self interest, as though believing passionately in certain values and ideas is backward and reactionary, and has no place in political discourse.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Unscientific voters?

Science and democracy

It is striking and informative that there has been such concern over just how many scientists there are in Parliament. There has been precisely zero concern as to how many MPs have backgrounds in Fine Art or English or even, and perhaps more to the point, how many economists there are, let alone people who have much, if any, experience of the real world outside the Westminster Village full stop.

Thursday 6 May 2010

No justice without the public

Why jury trials should be a political issue

The public’s role in the administration of justice is simply not an issue at this election. However, it is important to recognise that the absence of discussion around the jury trial is only indicative of a wider gap in political discourse. It is not only the jury trial that is being ignored at this election: it is freedom itself.

IoI Social Policy Forum: Election Statement

Rethinking social care, education, health and housing

The task of reforming the welfare state should not be treated as an accounting exercise, but an opportunity to reassess what the state is for. For instance, ‘welfare’ in its narrowest sense is widely understood to be failing. While we need a benefits system that helps people to live their lives as independently as possible, we don’t one that imposes conditions on people claiming benefits, blames them for their predicament and society’s problems, or fails to provide them with the jobs they need.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Arts funding: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Public funding of the arts has not been an issue in the general election. It should be.

What is important is to foreground the public aspect of arts institutions, to think about what is good for the wider society. It is this that has real potential to go beyond the empty form of many political ideas and realities and fill things out with real content. And even, to maybe break free of the stifling managerialism that tempers most political discussion and social realities elsewhere.

Monday 3 May 2010

The taboo subject everyone’s talking about

Immigration and the election campaign

There is something charade-like about the whole business of talking tough on immigration. The ‘debate’ is fundamentally dishonest. The fact is that when politicians discuss immigration, they are not engaging in a political debate, but trying to pre-empt debate.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Huggable, cuddly voters

Angus Kennedy asks: what’s good any more?

Yet a model of change simply for the sake of it, and vague betterment to infinity and beyond, speaks more to a profound loss of any sense of what the good looks like.

There is an elephant in the room, and it’s not immigration

Understanding the appeal of the BNP

The phenomenon of the BNP is not due to people suddenly becoming racists, but more to do with the human need to understand the world around us, to get answers about why things are the way they are. Some communities feel that they are separate from wider society, they do not know where they fit, everything that used to give their lives meaning has been broken down, they have no hope, and they need an explanation for this, somebody to blame.

Problems in the prop cupboard

Robin Walsh reflects on the rise and damaging effects of evidence-based policy, following his speech on the subject at the IoI's Battle for Politics conference last month

Whilst the old division between left and right implicitly validated a difference of opinion and allowed for conflict, evidence-based policy removes this equality of opinion.

Friday 23 April 2010

The white working class: a race apart?

Barking and Dagenham local authority's mind games with the electorate

I am nervous about this focus on residents’ alleged ‘world view’. It is a thinly veiled reference to the notion that the white working class think differently to everyone else because – damn it – they keep voting the wrong way.

Free speech: yes, it really is that simple

Libel, free speech and the election

In advocating reform of the libel laws rather than their repeal, all the speakers at the free speech hustings missed an opportunity to stand up for free speech. At best, they are vainly seeking to ‘democratise’ censorship, so that libel laws are not so transparently stacked in favour of powerful interests.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Counting the subaltern generation?

Do You Feel Counted? weekend on young people and political participation, 17-18 April, the Roundhouse, London

Whilst the oldies moan that us young’uns don’t do politics anymore, I find myself moaning that the only thing on offer for those who at least want to try is patronising congratulations for ‘having a go’. If events like ‘Counted?’ continue to pass for youthful politics, that subaltern voice will stay subaltern, turned off and uninspired; As was displayed in their performances, their contributions will remain atomised and self-involved.

Friday 16 April 2010

The leaders’ debate and the imaginary public

On the first televised UK party leaders' election debate

Last night’s debate was excruciatingly boring, and surely impossible to watch in good faith as a simple voter wondering which party to vote for. We all become commentators if only for our own entertainment, and we should not make the mistake of thinking there is a ‘real’ public out there made up of less sophisticated souls hanging on the party leaders’ every word.

Thursday 15 April 2010

What we must do better

A London school teacher on what should be on the election agenda when it comes to education

The political imperative to use schools to make society look fairer without doing anything to change real social inequality is turning education into an Orwellian nightmare for pupils, teachers and parents.

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