Politics in the noughties

Researching for my constituency applications, I revisited Carswell and Hannan’s The Plan, and rediscovered:

To put it starkly, the political party as an organism – a complex structure bringing together local branches, clubs, activists, sympathetic newspapers, professions, trade unions, churches and pressure groups – is dying. The modern political party will be protean: a series of ad hoc, issue-by-issue coalitions.

Curiously enough, one of the very few politicians to foresee the magnitude of the internet in the mid-1990s was Newt Gingrich, of whom more later. At the time, his tendency to bang on about the web was regarded as a sure sign of eccentricity and unsuitability for offce. Thee politics of his era punished those who were right before their time, favouring instead the cautious men, the careful men, the men who waited until everyone else had spoken before expressing their view. But the present era places a premium on quick reactions. That, too, will eventually impact on the political system.

How then is the big state to continue? Of course, it can’t.

As David Cameron has pointed out:

We are fortunate to be in politics at a time when technological innovation has – with astonishing speed – developed the opportunity to decentralise power in a way we’ve never seen before. For the first time, every citizen in their home can have access to exactly the same information as the most powerful bureaucrat in a ministry. The argument that has applied for well over a century – that in every area of life we need people at the centre to make sense of the world for us and to make wise decisions on our behalf – simply falls away, cut down by the invigorating, liberating power of the information revolution.

That’s what we mean by the post-bureaucratic age: the satisfying clunk-click of political philosophy matching contemporary reality to produce a genuinely historic shift in how we organise our affairs. That’s why the idea of the post-bureaucratic agenda is so central to all the changes we want to make, and why, on reflection, it makes those big myths about the current political situation seem so ridiculous.

With courage, there is every reason to believe a Conservative government will introduce the radical changes necessary to match government to a society which has outpaced it.

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