The current issue of bullying in Gordon Brown's office, whatever the resolution - and I doubt there will be one - is another step in the (self) discrediting of politics in this country. Smear and counter-smear alternate, the spin spins ever faster, and the centrifugal force is likely to throw a good many people off whatever mechanism we picture doing the spinning.
National Bullying Helpline's Christine Pratt rushes to deny the denials of the Prime Minister's office, as a result of which Anne Snelgrove, of the Prime Minister's office, sends a batch of emails making serious allegations about Christine Pratt to the Today programme. Pratt denies having claimed that Brown has physically bullied people and denies having refused a meeting with Snelgrove to discuss the allegations about her. She denies insisting on having lawyers present. Snelgrove says she resigned as patron of the charity not because of the allegations but because she didn't want a meeting with lawyers present. Pratt denies having asked for lawyers to be present but asserts that it was necessary to have trustees (not lawyers) because that's what the constitution of the charity says. Snelgrove denies having turned down further invitations to meet, denies that Brown is a bully, though Pratt denies having said he was. Perceived smear, counter-smear. And the facts?
Either one or the other is lying, or - more likely - both are being a little liberal in their interpretations of what actually happened. That is what, I think, may safely be called spin. The fact that Snelgrove is spinning in mud, and that Pratt might or might not have her own mud to spin in, is irrelevant. The point is the mud. The point is the spinning. Whether Gordon Brown ever grabbed anyone by the collar or not does not seem to me an issue of national significance.
On the other hand the sound of Gordon Brown's office wanting to appeal to the 'submerged optimism' in people sounds less like mud than a desperate wallow in unadulterated shit. It's not a question of whether the economic policy is right or wrong, whether it is better to make severe cuts so as to reduce the massive debt or to allow the economy to somehow reflate itself. I don't know. I know my 'submerged optimism' would prefer the latter simply because, by definition, optimism would choose the more pleasant course. I don't want to know about my 'submerged optimism'. It is the submerged optimism of the government that is at issue. Do they actually believe in their cure or is it just for public consumption? The fact that a general election is rushing towards them at great speed suggests to me that 'submerged optimism' is, like patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel. 'Look,' they cry, 'just think of nice things and vote us in again!'
We've already been through months of MPs' perks. I want politics to work. I want debate and I want a modicum of straight dealing - not saintliness or even a collection of figures entirely beyond reproach - but a necessary modicum, let's say 80% or so - without which politics is just a private casino. For the first time in a long time I have serious doubts where to cast my vote. God knows, I might go Green, but for the fact that an essentially one-issue party seems unsatisfactory to me. There is a slow collapse in process and something has to be built out of the ruins.
In Hungary on the other hand everything is crystal clear. The rise of the extreme right party, Jobbik, that polled 15% in the European Parliament elections and is polling at 10% now, that is to say well over the 5% barrier required to get seats in parliament, is, apparently, all the fault of the liberal-left, according to the 'centre right' think tank, Budapest Analyses (I get emails so can't link directly). The liberals and the left are corrupt and they keep blaming right wing extremism on, er, the right. In this way they drive people to the, er, right.
As they say:
while many delve into the role of the right-wing media and intellectuals in the growth of Jobbik, the responsibilities of leftist-liberal politics and intellectuals for this development is little discussed.
The result of left-wing governance in Hungary has been a marked degradation in the social and economic situation. Part of this trend is the attitude popular among youth that identifying with far right ideas is a way of rebelling against the political establishment. In reality, this means that the self-sytled leftist and liberal intellectual community – probably as a result of its unquestioning support for the extremely unpopular Gyurcsány-Bajnai line – lost its credibility and can no longer be attractive among youth. One contributing factor in terms of the territorial aspects of Jobbik’s surge was mounting tensions among the Hungarian and Roma population due to growing poverty across the society.
while weakening the Hungarian state administration they degraded the police’s efficiency, which in turn strengthened the perception of flagging public security.
Clearly what is wanted is a stronger police, with greater powers.
And, the trump card:
In Central Europe, and so in Hungary, the strategy of continuing to raise the specter of Fascism as the alternative of the left is a legacy of Communism. In practice, this means trying to blur the distinction between the centre-right and the far right.
In other words the act of describing fascist parties as, er, fascist, leads more people to become fascists.
Bad mistake, thinks Budapest Analyses. Not half enough submerged optimism there. Look, they're not really fascists and they are not really murdering Roma - and we have no sympathy with them, that's just a smear, and anyone who thinks different is a Communist.