The demise of statecraft goes hand in hand with the rise of neoliberalism, and its creed that whatever can be done by the private sector should. The political implications of that belief were best summed up by Ronald Reagan in his quip that the nine most terrifying words in the English language were: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Modern politicians have internalised that lesson – and the result is a would-be governing class out of practice at deploying power. Sure, they can still fuss and fiddle over small things. But as the current crop of crises demonstrates, when it comes to tackling really big problems, today’s ministers haven’t had the training. They lack the muscle memory for government.
No, I wouldn’t say that it’s the rise of neoliberalism here. Rather, the rise of information technology.
We’re all rather better informed than we used to be. No, not just the nerds on the blogs, not just as a result of increasing age and wisdom, but we all really are better informed about politics and politicians.
Thus more of us are aware of the truth: that almost all politicians are entire fuckwits incapable, either en masse or individually, of figuring a way out of a wet paper bag.
The decline of politics as a solution is nothing to do with any political movement or ideal. It’s simply a reflection of our new found knowledge of politicians. They’re idiots.
Who you wish to cite in support of this contention will depend very much on which side of the aisle your prejudices lie but I offer you Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown, George Osborne, Chris Huhne and Caroline Spellman: absolutely everyone in the country is absolutely convinced that at least one of those is a complete, entire and total fuckwit who should have had no power over our lives at all.
Opinions differ as to which one of course but it’s hardly a list to make you proud of the political process, is it?