Neither neoliberalism nor Putin. Democracy has a bigger problem.

This is a short post that is intended to introduce a theme. I won’t develop it too much here (though I’ve filled it with links to posts that I, and others, have written that flesh out specific parts of the argument). I will be publishing something a lot more substantial on this shortly.

We are going through a period of political polarisation at the moment. The organised left may think that this is a good thing, but I have argued previously that this is a game that we are always going to lose at.

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Labour and Leninism

In the 1980s, Labour faced an existential threat.

For most of its existence, it had managed to fight off a particularly awkward challenge from Leninists of one kind or another. Initially, in the post-wat years, it came from The Communist Party, and it was awkward because Leninists were always been able to present themselves as the expression of Labour’s soul – socialism of an uncompromising and pure type.

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Why brexit may not happen

This has been my ‘pinned tweet’ for a while.


Here’s how I think it may work.

Imagine you had been offered a cake. It will be the most fantastic cake that you will ever taste. It’s like nothing you have ever imagined before.

Eating it will be so good it will have a transformative effect on you. It will change your life forever. It’s not so much a cake as a whole new culinary paradigm.

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I’m anti-Brexit but I’m more frightened of living in a country that uses referendums

What an awful week this is turning out to be. For perhaps the first time in my life, I’m dreading news bulletins as much as I’ve always dreaded opinion-TV.

Where the BBC’s Question Time has always caused me to snatch up the remote control, now ordinary reportage has the same effect, coloured by this wretched polarising referendum and a wider revolt of the political fanatics from all over Europe and in the US against a more measured and deliberative democracy.

The question that appears to need settling is this: which of the following will lead to a certain catastrophe?

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Light at the end of the tunnel?

Some observations following (the first?) 2017 election from a Corb-sceptic Labour Party member.

1) Labour didn’t win the election, but…

The Tories may have been humiliated and hobbled, but Labour has a lot to apologise for today. Not only were we defeated, we created the conditions that allowed the Tories to damage the country quite badly. Oppositions have to take responsibility for their failures, and Labour has played very carelessly over the past two years. The point of democratic politics is to make the country a better place, not to lose surprisingly well.

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Some “micro-targeting” bookmarks

A while ago, I posted something here about micro-targeting;

This has been explained in some detail here for anyone who wants a full practical understanding of what it is with a detailed case study of the way that the Tories are using it here from The Guardian. My friend Peter Geoghegan has outlined what we can call “The PAC problem”—of “unincorporated organisations” that filter money into political communications in a targeted way.

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Is this the holy grail of politics?

This fascinating paper in Nature makes a case that is, I think, instantly persuasive. That the quest for “equality” is hugely problematic, and that humans are more attached to “fairness” as an aspiration.

I’d go further than that. This is something that everyone who is active in electoral politics has known all along. The public don’t completely buy the version of equality that the different political tribes are selling, and, for a politician, success depends on an ability to steer a battle-cruiser through the holes in the version that is promoted by their rivals.

The solution to this also seems obvious to me, to the point at which I wonder of I’m not missing something.

It can’t be this simple, surely?

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Time to deselect Labour MPs

I write here as an avid defender of representative democracy. The most important constitutional checks and balances that we have in the UK exist because of the rights (and duties) MPs have to place their own good judgement ahead of the opinions of their constituents.

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Schrödinger’s PM

Referendums can often give a government an instruction that its ministers believe will be difficult to carry out. There is advice on how to handle this from a former Danish minister—here. [Shorter version: you can do what is in the country’s interests once you’ve exhausted every other acceptable possibility].

I don’t believe that any serious observer doesn’t at least suspect that Brexit will be a disaster for the UK and there may come a point where the downsides are so obvious and vast that the UK will try to throw the engine into reverse.

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Micro-targeting

This post about micro-targeting is worth a look, whether or not you accept that it was a really decisive factor in Trump’s electoral success last November or not. We’re hearing similar, possibly overhyped claims about Brexit.

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