british democracy

Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 20:23:03 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Cash for peerages - Newsnight
To: peter.barron@bbc.co.uk

Dear Peter,
last night's Newsnight programme investigated new details surrounding the cash-for-peerages scandal - in which it's alleged that Blair traded peerages to secure funding for his election campaign. I'm surprised that you felt that you could cover this subject, and the £60 million in undisclosed loans by the "main" political parties, without identifying to your viewers what the money was needed for in the "free and fair" elections of British "democracy."

You also managed to overlook the fact that the "main" political parties are already subsidised to the tune of over £30 million of taxpayers' cash, through Cranborne money and Short money, and the fact that they're facing bankruptcy because they lack popular support; combined, the three "main" parties have less than a million members from a voting population of over 42 million people.

Speaking to the Institute of Directors in 1998, Peter Mandelson clarifies why such huge amounts of money are needed to buy power in British "democracy": "It had been the job of New Labour’s architects to translate their understanding of the customer into offerings he or she was willing to pay for. And then, and only then, to convey to potential customers the attributes of that offering through all the different components that make up a successful brand – product positioning, packaging, advertising and communications."[1]

According to Peter Oborne the main parties used the same American software programme 'mosaic' to target those few hundred thousand swing voters in "key" marginals with surgical precision. Our political system is so moribund that only the key marginals are likely to change hands at election time. Through "focus groups" the parties identify what the voters in each key marginal like then offer them six "key pledges," which are somewhat anodyne that nobody would object to, in an effort to galvanise the vote in these key seats. These "local inducements" in the form of key pledges were considered necessary because, as Oborne noted, all three main parties' policies on several key issues - taxation, law and order, health, education - were so similar as to render any concept of "democratic choice" meaningless.

Party leaders and other senior politicians did their best to avoid the public, concentrating on stage-managed private rallies, photo sessions and events. This kind of posturing in front of adulating supporters is thought to provide a more positive "media image" and has been commonplace in America for some time. It's also quite expensive. Oborne noted that with an ever higher number of ideologically bereft 'career politicians' and dwindling grass-roots party membership, presentation is content. Policies are product lines, voters are sized up by the latest marketing methods, resulting in policies of "stupefying banality."

As Jeremy Paxman discovered during BBC election coverage New Labour also conducted trend analysis on actual postal ballot votes, before the main ballot, and altered their key propaganda messages based on this information. Even after this hugely expensive stage-managed media "campaign" and public relations exercise they still only managed to secure twenty percent of the popular vote - the lowest level of support since the 1832 parliament Act, in fact, the lowest level ever in a British election.

Don't you think you should have brought some of your more obvious related factual omissions to the attention of your viewers?

Yours sincerely,

Peter Fainton

[1] Market Driven Politics, by Colin Leys, p.68

peter Fainton's blog generally interested in british democracy...

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