Sunday, December 16, 2007

Two legs good, four legs bad, one eye: hopeless

George Orwell's 1984 is more frequently wheeled out as an allegory for modern life than Animal Farm, but TMP believes that pretty much the entire story of 1984 has been played out to an extent that even Orwell would find surprising, and there is nothing left to intrigue and shock as far the invasion of the state's growing legion of mind and body snatchers is now concerned. The UK has clearly become a surveillance state where the political elite do pretty much what they want in terms of prying into the private affairs of anyone, under the ever thinner guise of "anti terrorism".

Never mind the tawdry affair of Labour's dodgy donors exposing crass naivety in high places, public money is regularly used to fund advertising campaigns from the Central Office of Information with a specific political purpose, attempting to associate the nation's "moral agenda" with the notion of a certain political party's own nannying dogma. The invasion of rampant political spin advisers to twist the agendas of supposedly neutral civil servants in Whitehall has reached an unprecedented level, yet the result is a growing shambles.

Just how many wheels has this wretched government got left to come off?

In Animal Farm, Orwell explores the notion that power corrupts. A pliant electorate imagines (for a while) that it has been liberated from some previous tyranny, dutifully obeying their liberators, until the ruling class decides that it knows a better way to run the show than boring old democracy. After all, you can't trust the people to do the right thing, so why take a chance? The recent railroading of the EU constitution/treaty is the crowning achievement of Gordon Brown's Stalinist tendencies, and it is a big mistake to try and soften his image as an unreconstructed authoritarian centralist socialist monster, by comparison with the bumbling antics of Mr Bean.

Gordon is busily tipping an entire nation and its economy over on its side, not just a Reliant Robin. By any measure of honesty and competence, Brown's administration is mired in duplicity and stupidity. The inability of ministers to know what is going on in their chaotic departments is endemic - the notion of accepting responsibility and following through with a resignation is now unheard of.

But the bigger issue lurking under the systemic stupidity and sleaze is the question of the government's fitness to have and control so much data on every subject in the land. Browns' baseball cap wearing YTS staff at HM Customs and Revenue apparently now wield more power to pry and gather data than the Gestapo, Stazi and KGB put together. But this situation will not be undone unless we, the people, specifically set out to undo it.

The instant availability of so much information - anywhere at any time - is far more important and significant than most people dreamed possible 10 years ago. Smug talk of Britain's leading role in the "knowledge economy" has evaporated as more politicians are realising that Google and its kin are empowering more than just the City of London. Moreover, in the UK in particular, the information technology revolution has not been used very effectively for the good of the people, instead it has been and is being used to suppress the people.

TMP asks its ardent followers to ensure that this time around when the government changes, to watch carefully for the tendency of oppositions that get elected to gratefully accept the various tax and liberty impositions their predecessors have foisted on the electorate, and avoid returning any cash or the many aspects of liberty and freedom of choice that have been eroded and ceded during preceding administrations.

This time round, when Gordon and his B-Team are sent trundling down Whitehall in the tumbrels, we will need a lot of the past 10 years to be rolled back, and in some cases beyond, and the misappropriated freedoms and individual choices returned to the people.

We live under a regime where almost all forms of individual discretion have been replaced by some witless process that has been devised and enforced by a legion of civil servants for whom initiative and discretion are alien concepts. In determining what information is extracted, stored , manipulated and then lost in the post - the watch phrase has become "because we can", not "because it is necessary".

It's time that all government information gathering was restrained by a strict need to know policy, and that access to the data was managed in such a way that anyone can find out just who has looked at what information, at what time and for what purpose. This is technically possible with very little extra effort or cost, so don't believe any suggestion to the contrary.

Crucially, at fantastically important and formative times like these, we need an inspirational leader who will listen to and answer questions - and connect with the people. Yet at every press conference and interview, Gordon Brown still displays a complete indifference (bordering on autism) to answering questions. Instead he continues to attempt to ram home an agenda which is becoming less relevant by the day, and suggests a dangerous degree of denial. His stage-managed and contrived efforts at connecting with the people are at best, cringe-making. His flunkies must be near suicide by now.

Brown now faces very real prospect of being hounded out of office with the sort of ignominy that he could never live down in a thousand years. There are even sufficient question marks about his stability to cause some us to wonder if he really should be left in charge of the big red button.

However, your consciences are probably clear. Only very few of you in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath actually voted for him; and only the 350 or so members of the Parliamentary Labour Party actually voted for him to become our PM.

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