Politics gotta have soul!

Did you hear Kezia Dugdale’s statement announcing her departure from ‘front-line’ politics to become a name on the letterhead of the John Smith Centre for Public Service? Did you manage to hold on to your breakfast?

Her career having suffered a catalogue of self-inflicted setbacks and evidently weary of being just another British politician squatting in the Scottish Parliament on the seats nominally reserved for an effective opposition, Ms Dugdale informs us that she is now off to “lead” the organisation which bears the name of a Labour politician who, being dead and therefore immune to scandal, has been elevated to almost mythical status. If Kezia Dugdale’s role as director is more than a sinecure then I fear we may be about to discover that the name of John Smith is not as impervious to tarnish as some suppose. Where she leads, embarrassment and disgrace tends to follow.

With apologies to those of a delicate disposition, I offer Dugdale’s statement in full.

I have devoted my working life to public service, and this is an incredibly exciting new opportunity for me to lead the work of the John Smith Centre.

Throughout my career I have taken on tough and challenging tasks, and my next task is to help rebuild faith in our politics.

Disruptive events and the rise of populism has led to increasingly polarised and emotional politics where rational, evidence-based thinking has lost its standing.

Faith in public service, politics and the political process has to be restored and that progress must be sustainable.

Once we’ve waded through the cloying smugness and got past the self-congratulatory pomposity, perhaps we can see what is actually being said here. Kevin McKenna, writing in The National, has helpfully translated it into “no-bullshit English”.

Let’s all calm down and stop being nasty to each other. You won’t solve multi-deprivation, child poverty and health inequality by going on protest marches and shouting. These sorts of things will always be with us. Best to keep your voice down and train for a nice job in politics to ensure that Britain is protected from radical change. That way we all get to keep our nice second houses and find fancy non-jobs in places such as this.

Superficially, this just another of those exercises in self-righteous virtue-signalling bemoaning the asserted fact that politics has become too polarised and confrontational and aggressive. Typically, such utterances lament ‘division’ as if division wasn’t an essential characteristic of politics and deplore “disruptive events”, such as referendums, as if they weren’t a vital part of the democratic process by which we manage those divisions.

But listen more closely to the rhetoric of politicians and public figures who trundle themselves onto the media stage riding a bandwagon whose passengers are all trying to outdo one another in the shrill condemnation of ‘abuse’ and what you hear is a desperate desire to dictate the terms of debate and ‘manage’ political debate. It’s not about improving political discourse. It’s about controlling it.

It is surely no coincidence that the thinly disguised language of control over the political process used by Kezia Dugdale is also to be found on the website of her new employer.

Politics has become a discredited and disrespected process. This acts as a huge disincentive to talented people choosing to enter politics. People passionate to effect change will go elsewhere, and we will all suffer as a result. We need to act now: it is critical to the social and economic wellbeing of our country that the most able and willing to serve represent us.


The John Smith Centre

It may be my understandable distrust of anything associated with the British political system, but I cannot be comfortable with the thought of public policy being in in the hands of people who are being ‘prepared’ for this role by an organisation with a very particular idea of what public service means and how politics should be done. To the extent that “politics has become discredited and disrespected” not the least of the reasons for this is the rise of the professional politician. People who know much about political theory, and precious little of political ideals. People thoroughly trained in the method of politics, and little grasp of its fundamental purpose. People who are who are more concerned that politics is done in a particular way than than it is done for the right reasons.

Will political discourse be improved by being constrained by arbitrary rules contrived by people for whom political passion is anathema? Will political representation be improved by making it the exclusive province of people with degrees rather than people with dreams? Doesn’t it all seem desperately, depressingly soulless?


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2 thoughts on “Politics gotta have soul!

  1. I was rather surprised… well actually,. very,… that the “Leader ” of the Scots tories, sits on the Board of this Smith thing.
    So, we would like to know, just what it is, this Smith thing, sees in Ruth Davidson, it likes to have her around, and doing what, and paid what?
    And I’d hate to think, folks across the river, at BBC, will now start giving us quotes from this lot, as there are now deemed worthy enough.
    The fact is, Dugdale did nothing for Scotland, but help give Theresa May a bunch of equally inept and useless tory MPs from Scotland. She did her best to destroy what was left of Labour, in this country, and now, having so destroyed it, all it seems to have left there, is the likes of Richard Leonard, and one of their better politicians, and actually ore of their most committed, Anas Sawar, (with whom I do disagree with on Scotland, regards Independence) is treated abysmally, by them. And if Sawar really had any sense, would just abandon them altogether.
    Now we also wonder, where are all those, who rushed to defend Dugdalle, over her comments about voting tory in 2017?
    “She didn’t say that”. they tell us. They insist we got it wrong, and the context has to be studied. Yeah, sure! We would take a lot of studying, to find the right context. In fact, perhaps some political course at University, could do that for us over the 4 years, and still, they would conclude, she meant what we all say she meant. Even the extreme right wing London media knew what she meant, and said so, at the time.
    So, these idiots who followed her every word, now having been duped into giving us, yet another tory regime, and she claims she doesn’t want to leave EU, but has helped make sure it happens anyway, saunders off into the bright well paid, and in her desires, never to fade from the air waves, comfy slot, while the rest of us,sit back and wonder, whatever happened to Labour’s vision for a better society!
    If I were Stu Cmpbell, I’ be appealing that recent Judgement. She can’t be allowed to get away with this.
    Dugdale, will in due course, indeed, fade away. Bu so too, will Labour!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter

    We are drowning in ever increasing examples of the disconnect between politics of the powerful -vs- politics of the general public.

    It is now so systemic that I fear:
    – People’s Vote (Remain) will fail.
    – Scotland Indy is doomed.

    People’s Vote are playing politics like children. Its like watching middle class dinner party taking on a crazed monied mafia. They have not made their actions count or forcing any moral hazard on politicians who would do such a damaging policy. They are left hoping for scraps from Westminster in a system that is winner take all.
    They are all arm waving and wailing but no impact on the process.

    SNP (and YES) tying themselves to the People’s Vote disaster….WTAF.
    – It burns capital,
    – It gives Westminster time to regroup
    – It confuses “Remain” and “YES”.

    Scotland’s case is not about Brexit….Its about Westminster showing Scotland the back of its hand.

    Liked by 1 person

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