Condescending? Moi?

John Harris has written his most balanced article for the Guardian for some time

To translate for you:

John Harris has finally written an article for the Guardian that I agree with

And then:

It is the suggestion that people want to secure the leadership of a political party and then try to work out why they might do that which intrigues me. I simply do not share the view that this is how party politics should, or even does, work.

Isn’t that just cute? He really believes that they’re not all just power mad things in it for the paycheque greater than any other occupation would give them.

14 thoughts on “Condescending? Moi?”

  1. You don’t even need to subscribe to the view that they’re power-mad and greedy for the same outcome to emerge. Imagine a noble & principled politician, one whose desire for tax reform knows no bounds. He knows perfectly well that if he panders to the electorate on every other issue, he can slip in his unpopular reform along the way. That’s how we get government by opinion poll, plus the occasional stupid idea (most green stuff, the EU…).

    Much criticism of the Tories runs along similar lines. “They’re just fobbing you off with good jobs and material wealth, while selling off the NHS, the forests, the libraries, the railways, etc. to their rich Eton classmates.”

  2. He’s being gracious, not condescending.

    He sits under his bo tree, enlightened and all-knowing. Those that manage, however dimly, to perceive his truths (and agree with him) he smiles upon.

    Those others who carp and question, he swats aside like disputatious flies.

  3. Meissen Bison: The horrific image of The Dick as Buddha–sitting under the socialist Body-Tree in a “Dear” Park takes blasphemy to stunning new heights.

    It is lucky for you that Buddhists believe in neither blasphemy nor fatwas or you would have to spend the rest of your life meditating with one eye open and being ever on the lookout for rustling orange robes charging to the attack.

  4. Agreeing with anything written in the Guardian is the first step on a slippery slope to perdition. Be Strong, Tim.

  5. I see his superfan Simon thinks we should all be ‘educated’ that Murph and his mates are right & the rest of the world is wrong.

    Maybe they could open some camps so that we can all be ‘educated’ together.

  6. “in it for the paycheque greater than any other occupation would give them” is a dangerous illusion. They are in it for power. Some also get the higher pay, some don’t. But they all want power.

  7. Dearieme


    It is like the distinction between northern and southern Italians: the northern Italians want power so they can have money and the southern Italians want money so they can have power.

  8. dearieme,

    I really think it’s about the paycheque nowadays.

    One of the things that Harris complains about is how everything got privatised, but some of that is just the effects of some technologies. Opening up the phone network to competition was partly about the fact that we got the sort of technology that meant we could. Transaction costs have fallen to near zero, and transportation has gotten easier, meaning that patient choice in healthcare is more feasible than it used to be.

    The Last Psychiatrist (who is fascinating) wrote a thing about how Congress now has more women than ever and asked why. And suggested that where men like actual power, women like the trappings of power. That men not fighting for those jobs tells you that the power has gone elsewhere.

    And if you compare say, today with the mid-70s in Britain and look at how much power politicians have, it’s a very different story. They used to run the trains, planes, car making, water, coal mining, electricity, gas, phones. Oh, and had a ton more geopolitical shit going on like the Cold War.

    I mean, who’d want Cam’s job for what he gets to do today? He has journalists asking him about if Tyson Fury should be on Sports Personality. He has to go and spend a miserable week in the pissing rain with his family in Cornwall, just to show support for the Tourism industry. And what can he actually change, when so much law is decided by Brussels or subject to various international treaties? Who’d prefer his job over running Dyson, Virgin or an F1 team?

    Look at how few MPs take a pay cut for the job. My Labour MP was pretty much unemployed for a year after she got kicked out. Her successor is a barrister (Con), but he was mostly doing low grade legal aid stuff. Osborne had few marketable skills when he got the job. It’s noticeable how few rich people, or people taking a big pay cut are now in parliament.

  9. Interesting stuff, Stigler. I particularly enjoyed “where men like actual power, women like the trappings of power.”

    I knew Gordon Brown in student days. Back then, before the acid of frustrated ambition had corroded him, he was a capable chap. Hence, no doubt, part of his horror at the grinning jackanapes beating him to be Labour leader. Brown could easily have earned more money elsewhere than he can have expected to earn in politics. It was power he wanted, even if it finally seemed to be unclear exactly what he wanted it for. As an end in itself, I suppose.

    Still, I see no reason to doubt your guesses about Cameron, Osborne, and others. After all, if power was what they wanted they’d lead us out of the EU.

  10. “they’re not all just power mad things in it for the paycheque greater than any other occupation would give them.”

    This is obviously false. Look at the likes of Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws, Alan Duncan, all doing well in other areas with bigger paychecks. Cameron was well up the PR pole at an early age, and with family money as well, so he hardly needed to into politics to make money. Osbourne, whatever you think of his skills, had the family money, and connections from Oxford and his family to be making a lot more. Many others I could mention (eg. Shaun Woodward is filthy rich).

    Sure there are some who do it for the money, but generally people do it for the power, the personal prestige, the need to gratify their ego, and to impress others. The money does come it into it. of course, but it’s a mix of all those things, plus, in some cases, ideology.

  11. I seem to be a lot older – I remember when MPs expenses exceeded their income (my father came back from a political meeting where the MP was heckled about his pay and he replied that being an MP cost him £3,000 pa – ten times the pay in my first job) and most, not all but most, politicians went intoi it because they wanted to do something. One drawback was that would-be politicians needed either to be rich, self-financing (or have a rich husband/wife) or be funded by a Trade Union. So Wilson and successive Labour leaders jacked up MP salaries and as an unintended consequence we have MPs in it for the money.
    Not all MPs, and none of the leaders of the Conservative Party, but far too many.

  12. dearieme,

    I think Brown would have come into politics at a time when politics still did matter a great deal more, when there were still big debates about where things were going.

    Tel: I’ll give you things like ego and position, but where’s the power? What’s Cameron done? Cut the rate of increase of spending a little? Sent a couple of planes to Syria?

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