Number of the Month

October 2010

Triumph of the political class

Much has been made by the British media of the fact that the two leading candidates for leadership of the Labour Party were brothers, with dark hints of biblical sibling rivalry. They did, however, have something more in common, which has much greater significance in the political scene. They are members of a much wider and more powerful fraternity, Oxford graduates in PPE. Let’s call them Ogippes for short.

The list of Ogippes in the upper reaches of the British political and media establishment is of a length that is startling to anyone unfamiliar with the phenomenon. People like the Millibands segue gently from the political classroom to the political class, from the cloisters of Oxford to those of the Palace of Westminster , scarcely creating a ripple. They make this transition from cocoon to cocoon uncontaminated by contact with the defilements of work, survival, industry, science, technology and all the other distractions that plague the toilers in the field of a modern society and economy. Their heads are packed with theories that are untested and untestable. Evidently their syllabus did not include the British tradition of sceptical philosophy stretching from the Bacons to Popper, for they retain a capacity for belief, even in the presence of overwhelming contrary evidence, that transcends all reason.

The outstanding example can be seen in the alarums and excursions that arise from the modern fetish of carbophobia, for almost to a man the Ogippes are of the faithful, the honourable exception being Lord Lawson.

It looked as though debates between the senior front benches in the House of Commons would come to resemble an Oxford postgraduate seminar, but the aftershocks of the fissions within New Labour intervened and Ed Milliband chose for his Shadow Chancellor not, as expected, one of the Balls family but an amiable ex-postman who is not very good at sums.

Of course, the Ogippes are still a minority in the House, but where the shepherds lead the sheep will follow. On what is now celebrated as Climate Fools Day only five MPs opposed the “most expensive bill in history” (by a long, long way). If it were even partly implemented the bill would make inevitable the annihilation of the economy of a small overcrowded island, with the consequences of much suffering and death.

There has been a more recent example of the absurdities and contradictions of the effects of carbophobia on policy. In putting together the programme of “cuts” attempting to deal with the results of the disastrous profligacy of Gordon Brown, the Government claimed to be relying on industry to provide the compensating economic growth. It then imposed a carbophobic stealth tax of one billion pounds on that very same sector; and what is it going to do with all that money? In effect it is going to dig a big hole in the ground and bury it. Well, not exactly that, but it is going to use that sum to bury a wholly benign rare gas that does nothing but good to life on Earth, all under the aegis of arch-carbophobe and Ogippe, Chris Huhne. What adds to the absurdity is that, if the island of Great Britain sank into the ocean and its population emitted not one molecule more of carbon dioxide, the effect on the atmosphere (let alone the climate) would be immeasurably small (UK annual emissions are about 0.005% of total atmospheric CO2).

In politics, as in mechanics, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (though with some delay). The western world is now dominated by left of centre governments. Authoritarian Socialists, they think nothing of bypassing the workings of democracy (think of the promised and denied referendum on the EU constitution in the UK or the American Government’s use of the EPA to implement anti-industrial, carbophobic policies unacceptable to Congress). The response in the UK so far is apathy at the polls. In America it takes the more active form at present of the chaotic Tea Party phenomenon.

The requirements of television now dictate that candidates for high office must be young and pretty. They come into office at an age at which they have not yet made their great mistakes in life (and learned from them). Insulated from the real world of industry and commerce, they make authoritative statements and take draconian actions that wreck those activities. The capacity to win an election is uncorrelated with the ability to run a country; yet we elect people to run our countries that have never run anything, even a church bazaar, and then wonder why it all goes wrong. The political class and its party machines just roll along regardless.


Number of the month – 5

This is the total number of  MPs who opposed that insane bill on Climate Fools Day. Sanity is not entirely dead.


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