Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A look inside the sausage factory

There's an old line, attributed to Otto von Bismark, about how laws are like sausages, and its better not to see them being made. The same is true of politics as a whole: if you look under the hood, the compromises, deals and inauthenticity behind anything political is enough to put most people off the entire thing.

Thanks to 3 News, we have a reminder of this, in the form of Gareth Hughes' "Hey Clint" video:

Its embarrassing, I suppose, but shouldn't really be surprising. Politicians understand the value of "communications" (in its one-way, spin and marketing sense). Everything they say for public consumption is carefully crafted, designed to appeal to the maximum number of people while offending the minimum. They worry about, in Hughes' words, "how do I say this?" They worry so much about it that they pay people to tell them what to say. And, unless that advice sounds batshit insane, they listen to it. In modern politics, authentic, unspun comments are the exception, the product of media ambushes. Everything else is artifice. The talking head you see on your TV screen is just the face of a machine.

And yes, this applies even to the Greens. Politics is an arms race, and if you don't keep up, you get beaten. The Greens have been around more than long enough to realise this, and take steps accordingly. They hire spin-doctors, they learn their lines (well, except for Hughes), and they stick to them. This improvement in marketing has given them more success, but at the cost of the authenticity which is part of their appeal.

The problem is that professionalisation leads to capture. The spin doctors and advisers, the apparat, are interested in perpetuating their cosy, well-paid Parliamentary jobs more than they are in party policies, and will compromise the latter to protect the former. That happened long ago with Labour - so long ago that you need to look back to Norman Kirk to find a party whcih appeared to believe in anything beyond getting their claws on bigger offices and ministerial salaries. Will it happen to the Greens too? Unlike Labour, the Greens have a robust internal democracy, which vests the membership with real power; hopefully this will check the apparat and prevent them from turning into a soulless husk like the Labour Party. And if not, well, Labour is showing us right now what happens to a party which abandons its principles: their activists give up and find something better to do with their time, their (former) supporters stay at home rather than turning out to vote for liars. And if the Greens are captured by their apparat, the same will eventually happen to them in turn.