Sunday, April 18, 2010

The X-Factorisation of Politics

Something happened this week which established beyond doubt the veracity of the observation made in the 1960s by Marshall McLuhan: the relationship between the media and information is symbiotic to the extent that the medium through which a person encounters a particular piece of content has an effect on the individual's understanding of the information received: the medium is the message.

And so now we have Cleggmania – a creation of televisual illusion which transcends all reason. As a result of just one 90-minute televised debate, Nick Clegg has experienced a surge in support which, apparently, makes him nearly as popular as Winston Churchill; sees his party leading for the first time in 104 years; and has seen him leap-frog over both Labour and the Conservatives into first place.

This really is quite unprecedented.

Unless you grasp the 'SuBo' factor.

Nick Clegg’s only disappointment is that he has been given Louis Walsh to mentor him.

David Cameron has got Simon Cowell and Gordon Brown has Cheryl Cole.

And, boy, does he need her.

For as long as he asserts that this election is ‘not about style and personality but about the big issues’, he establishes precisely why he leads the first party of government ever to poll third place during a general election campaign.

While the electorate yearns to see if Britain’s got political talent, he is wittering on interminably about bankers, Belize, securing growth and the dangers of a double-dip recession.


The fact is that politics now is as pre-packaged and comodified as any act which emerges from the X Factor. We have moved away from the politics of policy or the great arguments of philosophy: we are reduced to questions of charisma, fashion, body language and intuition. Politics has adapted for an age which yearns for complementary spiritual aesthetics more than the hollowness of arid policy, for patient persuasion more than assertions of power. Even when the party leaders are being authentic, they look as though they are acting; even when what they say is spontaneous, it sounds as though they are reading from a carefully-prepared script.

Nick Clegg promised heaven and earth last Thursday, and the electorate appears prepared to believe him. They will be profoundly disappointed, of course: a Liberal Democrat purgatory will be as depressing and damaging as another five years of socialist hell. But politics, like theology, has to embrace the vernacular, and the narrative has become that of illogic and unreason. It may not be right or good, or even conducive to the rational and reasonable, but it is real and it is relational. Politicians, like priests, either use it, or they cease to communicate and simply confirm their irrelevance to the discourse of society and the everyday concerns of ordinary people. And it no longer matters what politicians say, for their words are boring. It matters far more how they sound in the cadences and melodies and musical mists of mesmerising mysteries.

Nick Clegg sounds interesting. Sure, he is no Thatcher, no Blair and no Obama. But by playing the anti-politician card and cursing Labour and the Tories with a plague on both their houses, he is reaching the parts that neither David Cameron or Gordon Brown can reach.

And so, for the moment, he is soaring above the dirge of ‘the same old parties’. And he appropriates the sympathetic background of the condition of the people, who are sinking without hope into an economic and social morass of unemployment, inflation, house repossession, wars and rumours of wars.

In just 90 minutes, Nick Clegg has inspired trust, nurtured loyalty and fostered unity. He has not mentally motivated anyone, but he does not need to: he has emotionally moved more than could ever have been imagined.

Just like Susan Boyle.

All he needs to do now is to talk of feeling people’s pain and offer warm words and a compassionate embrace. And if he can cry your tears and feel your fears, his task will be done.

Will the audience fall for it?

Well, they always have.


Anonymous Tom Paine said...

Despair is a sin, your Grace. Pull yourself together man.

18 April 2010 at 10:43  
OpenID michaeltmerrick said...

I must say, I have a little more faith in the good sense of the British people, Cranny. Clegg is the apotheosis of metro-liberalism whose relative anonymity has meant that, up until now, he has been able to creep below the radars – people are rejecting the two main parties precisely because of this liberalism, and they’re yet to discover that Clegg is simply a more extreme example of the same. He’ll be shown for what he is.

And, were it not so very close to election day, I'd be tempted to say that all this extra attention might actually prove beneficial, by encouraging people to scrutinise the charlatans a little more closely. After all, LibDems always look better in the dark -

18 April 2010 at 10:45  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

Herod made a supper to his chief estates, all pre-packaged marketed claptrap your Grace from the fourth estate and most powerful of all, the press-gang. Hey presto.

Signed: Illumi Nations

18 April 2010 at 11:30  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...

Your Grace is unfortunately only partially correct in drawing a whimsical similarity to the debate X Factor. The emergence of Nick Clegg as TV's new nations sweetheart. I think that this is on the whole a good thing for politics in general if it alerts the population's interest in something that actually gets them out to vote.

After the exposure of the dis-hounourable activities of the last parliamentary incumbents' attempts to hide their nefarious scams, frauds and outright lying democracy needs opening up.

Uncomfortable as may be to the two old carthorses of politics to behold, Britain is at last taking politics into the home, via TV and modern communications media and engaging with a much wider audience.

This I hope is only the first step in resuscitating a gasping democracy. Admittedly, had from necessity to be a sanitised, scripted attempt designed to attract an audience usually too lazy or dumb to read a manifesto; but it was a major step forward in how we engage in domestic politics.

Politicians will now have to be prepared to be scrutinised and prepared to have their performances committed to digital record and available for review in truth and consistency.

Next step should be open debate for establishing levels of public support for controversial topics.

The Lines are now open!could be the catch-phrase of the Monarch (only joking)

18 April 2010 at 11:37  
Blogger Gnostic said...

More like XXXX Factor, Your Grace. Common sense, coupled with political cynicism and the fall-out from the expenses scandal, should limit the outbreak of yellow fever. Yes, the "meejah" and the politically lazy and naive might have fallen profoundly for Cleggy's bilge. It doesn't mean than anyone capable of original and independent thought will get sucked into the black hole of stupidity too.

18 April 2010 at 11:52  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

I don’t buy your argument Cranmer. For decades the LibDems and the Liberals before them have suffered from the wasted vote syndrome. All they needed was and an opportunity like the other night to convert that that negative attitude into a positive promise of support. Clegg did well, he has to do so again and the LibDems opposition to the Iraq War should continue their momentum in the next debate which is about foreign policy.

Don’t bleat about the demise of conservatism, it is an idea, like socialism whose time has past. Let’s look forward to sober German style political consensus via a hung parliament, it won’t sell newspapers or encourage bloggers but it might lead to country more equipped for the 21st century rather than the 19th.

18 April 2010 at 11:58  
OpenID michaeltmerrick said...

@Graham Davis - we've embraced the Germanic political consensus before, not least in that 19th century you like to bleat about. I'd be interested to know why you think doing the same this time round would prove any more beneficial.

18 April 2010 at 12:12  
Blogger Dizzy Ringo said...

The approbation being given to Clegg has distinct similarities to the Obamamania in 2008 - and look what has happened there.

18 April 2010 at 12:13  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...

Gnostic said:- doesn't mean than anyone capable of original and independent thought will get sucked into the black hole of stupidity too...

No, but do well to remember MrG the vote of an 18yo just out of jail (or in it, if Europe has it's sway) Chav, is equal in potency to that of the wisest and informed person in Britain - it's number that count - that is Democracy.

18 April 2010 at 12:30  
Anonymous Thuthseeker said...

Has your Grace seen the "We got Rage Against the Machine to #1 we can make Nick Clegg PM"? It now has 70,000 members!/group.php?gid=113749985304255&v=wall&ref=mf

18 April 2010 at 12:30  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

The people reject Cameron and Brown and it is only by default that people are turning to Clegg.

This is not a General Election but a 'general rejection' of the main parties.

18 April 2010 at 13:49  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Thanks for the link Truthseeker. Extraordinary, get them to register before Tuesday. Was this spontaneous or very astute politicking?

Poor Singhy, conservatism and Christianity going down the drain together. Is this a new dawn I see or just volcanic ash?

18 April 2010 at 13:59  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Davis

It's the start of a new dawn. After this General Election the man who wil rule this country with a rod of iron will emerge.

It's the chapter titled 'Urgent Prophecy'.

18 April 2010 at 14:13  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I am still observing the cleggmania outbreak , your grace frames it well. Quite if the UK needs a government based on whatever it was that Mr Clegg uttered (I cant recall the deft polices ) is another matter .
There is cleary somthing oppertune about his style and words , very akin to a brand of house hold cleansing chemical , quick spray and a wipe and all clean and fragrant . I cant really blame him for his move, as all are in the business of garnering votes , but I have a feeling that he is repeating the methods and mantra that got us into all this trouble.

I cant hekp but wonder if he has been coached by Labour because if you close your eyes and try not to hear the accent it may be Tony Blair . New and better do not tell you anything about , what it actually is , not like the other parties equally so .

Do we want a pro EU socialist government (which Mr Cleggs party do) . I couldnt help but notice that his break caused as much joy/unease with his own party , who are now also being swept along with his bravado . This non answer approach which Gordon Brown has used in the commons as an enchantment . The key factor for the mania was probebly that the Lib dems are somehow percieved not to have lied and have no record of government and there fore is grounded in the politics of assumption in a situation where MPs have so lowered thereown standing .
The TV debates have perhaps succeeded in crowding the centre ground and made the case that we should place our vote on how these TV debates , work there questions with like or dislike being grown in the mind or perhaps even the more subltle , nothing to dislike.

The vote on the performance on TV is very like X factor or perhaps even weakest link and we do not seem to be getting the sort of poltics that adressess the voter , more the delivery of a mood .

The thoughtfull polices of Mr Cameron and conservatism seem to be being missed or masked , by the optomistic , better if you dont chose them soundbites .

Better if you dont vote Lib dem whilst posing policy questions may find him in the situation of contempt of the electorate , for trying Blairism on them once again .

I have an odd feeling that glossy cleggmania , is akin to a cheap fix/lick of paint that looks good but des not remedy the rot underneath the surface application , even though for a short while it looks like somthing has been done .

We shall see as he has now thrown his hat into the big game and I doubt , novel political beauty treatments will be anything other than an expensive quack cure.

18 April 2010 at 14:35  
Anonymous Oswin said...

With nods to Dreadnaught; not a machine; and, shakes a stick a Graham Davis (so nothing new there): Your Grace, the X-Factorisation of Politics is dependant upon viewing figures. Admittedly, the second debate may well throw-up higher figures; and if the contestants (sorry - the debaters!) tell a few sad stories...shed a few tears...and/or jab around a bit with a pointy stick; they might just enliven the proceedings sufficient to generate the necessary comparison for the final no-holds-barred wrangle. That is, always supposing that they aren't shadowed, on the night, by 'Strictly Come Dancing'; we may then witness Your Grace's prediction and dreaded apotheosis.

We are in uncharted waters here, as any comparison to recent American politics surely founders for want of both personality and, significant difference?

Hopefully it won't be a case of the one-eyed man leading the purblind and, the newly bedazzled?

It's politics Your Grace, but not as we know it!

18 April 2010 at 15:46  
Blogger Preacher said...

Do we really need more debates by the 'big' three. Clegg was in the position of the second division footy club playing a premiership side, everybody expects you to lose so you can relax & enjoy the game. The second round may be a different story, But what will it prove? When will UKIP & the rest go into the draw? Last of the summer wine is history & the Cleggy in that was a well intentioned bumbling nut whose ideas to improve life never got off the ground, I wonder if they could be related?

18 April 2010 at 16:20  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Mr. Dreadnought, I wouldn't number the demographic you mentioned as being particularly willing to get out of bed to vote. Unless, of course, the polling station lies conveniently between their sink estate abodes and the nearest offie, gyro cashier, pub, tobacconist, dealer, crack house, mugging or burglary victim.

BTW, it's Mrs. G.

18 April 2010 at 16:30  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

YG I agree with every thing you say, but only as far as it goes. Which is not very far at all. You could have written 10 times more, and still not at all got close to the crux of the matter.

The problem is democracy itself, or more succinctly our particular form of democracy bereft of any form of written in cast iron constitution designed to protect our individual property rights.

We elect dictatorships. If we allow ourselves to elect a hung parliament we have in reality elected a 1 party dictatorship.

The thing to remember is that all 3 of our main party's are fighting over almost exactly the same 'middle-ground,' agenda.

Therefore WHO exactly defines the middle ground? Because it certainly is not the electorate.

The simple answer is the establishment.

The so called left/right wing MSM set the opposing agendas. The establishments BBC pick the bits the establishment actually wants, then define this to be the middle. they do this however extreme the middle actually is or turns out to be.

The BBC are proud of this role in British society. They see it as essentially their job to decide what the British people want and are thinking.

Not difficult because it is almost entirely establishment owned and run corporations such as The Associated Press, The BBC and Reuters that have long since utterly controlled what the majority think, by controlling what they see and hear, and far more importantly what they do not see, do not ever hear under any circumstances yet imaginable.

18 April 2010 at 16:31  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...


Graham Davis

It is unbelievable that in the 21st Century people are still arguing the right to patches of land that have been disputed for millennia. Get a grip. Most of what you collectively believe, never happened, it is simply myth and magic passed on through centuries of ignorance. That most of you here, evidently educated and articulate, believe any of this stuff amazes me. Virgin birth, miracles, resurrection and the rest is so absurd; add to that some of the Old Testament stuff and the absurd becomes the insane.

I will not and try very hard not to answer for the precise beliefs of other people.

However judging by your own comments I must say it is yourself that is displaying classic signs of profound ignorance, not so much those that you so rudely attack.

Do you not think that things such as mobile phones, jet aircraft, nuclear or quantum physics would seem very close to miracles to people born only 90 years ago, never mind those born many thousands of years before?

Do you indeed actually understand any of the above, or have you not even so much as fully understood yet how to properly use your own micro-wave timer or cell phone?

Quite frankly it matters not a lot whether you actually design cellular phones yourself, because your true understanding of how they actually work or how to construct every part of one, all by yourself is in effect no more usefully extensive then the average tea-lady.

As for quantum physics. Well all I can say about that little baby is that it makes anything in the Bible look more like a copy of Janet and John go Riding, written in extra large script.

Only the TRULY ignorant would state what you have, the way that you have. If Einstein thought the way you obviously do he would never have left his patent office.

Virgin births whether they happen every day or not matters not at all. For they certainly could happen. Creating a Virgin birth was easier then falling off a log, even 2000 years ago.

As for Quantum physics.

These fine chaps have recently claimed to have discovered how to rapidly change or indeed instantly evolve human/animal DNA simply by using powerful forms light energy. The same forms of light energy that periodically seem to appear every 25,000 years or so from unknown and un-knowable cosmic sources.

Some may call this an Act of God, I on the other hand could not possibly comment. Perhaps it may be best you don't either, especially if you can not keep a civil tong in your head.

18 April 2010 at 17:14  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Atlas shrugged - thank you for mentioning the miracle of DNA.

'"There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a 'lucky chance'. If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion..."

The late 'Atheist' Prof Anthony Flew

18 April 2010 at 17:27  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Nick certainly appeals to the younger generation, 84,600 of them and rising fast on that facebook site. His good looking twinkly eyed smile at you down the lens of the camera drawing the naïve and foolish people in as did his Tony Blair like mannerisms and charm confidently rebutting Gordon's desperate pleas to hang on to power at all costs.

Dave needs a bit of support and a crash course on connecting to the wider audience via the camera Practice drawing people in to the circle with his eyes and expressions, in his mind he has to put himself in the position of the voters. Those good examples he stated of state waste could have been delivered at a slower pace with better eye contact to the camera to connect with people. And does Dave have as good a knowledge of the competitors' policies as well as his own to be able to overcome the obstacles of an awkward questioners' negative perceptions of a Tory government. What Nick did was get on that stage and sell his policies with a belief that Britain really would be a better place if they got in.

18 April 2010 at 17:56  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Mr. Atlas shrugged 17.14 - a most excellent riposte!

It always amuses/amazes me, that these pro-active non-believers/scoffers will always have the God they don't believe in, opperating solely on their own terms!

One might think that merely remaining open to all possibilities, would better serve, than the narrow-minded crowing of the 'already decided'?

18 April 2010 at 18:01  
Blogger D. Singh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 April 2010 at 18:08  
Anonymous len said...

I think we have moved from the manifesto to the man.
People no longer believe manifestos so now they examine the man.
This is a dangerous time for politics because the electorate are going to vote for the most plausible, the most persuasive not necessarily the one who has the best interests of the country at heart.
Politicians have bought this on themselves when the expenses fiasco destroyed their credibility.

18 April 2010 at 18:14  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Marie 1797.....that's all very well but, will anyone remember Cleggs face the following day? I've tried, but it just does NOT register!

18 April 2010 at 18:24  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

"David Cameron has got Simon Cowell and Gordon Brown has Cheryl Cole."

What's the difference between Cheryl Cole and The Volcano?

The Volcano is still blowing Ash!

18 April 2010 at 18:52  
Blogger Marie1797 said...


Apparently they do! And now with the media furore they will even more. He appeals to the young 18 to 25/30's. You and I know that the Lib Dem policies are fantasy but the young and enthusiastic who go forth into the world don't realise or think about the realities of implementing such policies too much, nor do a lot of people who only hear sound bites anyway. 86,392 now on the facebook site

18 April 2010 at 19:07  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Sorry, reply was meant for Oswin

18 April 2010 at 19:13  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

Much to the dismay of my friends, I have joined the Facebook site. If the Libdems win with an overall majority I will urinate my pants with laughter. Depending on what is happening in the media on the day, I might even vote for them out of sheer spite.

18 April 2010 at 19:28  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The political parties are all fronts for financial interests. The three major parties have hedge-fund money. Obama was funded by Goldman Sachs - the largest single source of contributions; Merkels' CDU and FDP coalition was funded by Deutsche Bank and Allianz SE.

These politicians are front-men to dance and sing to the public so the deals can be cut to access public funds for private gain.

The biggest financial collapse since 1931 is not discussed or debated. The public cannot get mortgages or working capital because banks and government are in conspiracy against the public - both as consumers and as taxpayers - to transfer real wealth from households to banks, and through banks monetizing debt, into government spending which is socialising the economy.

The great larceny in British history since Henry VIII took the monasteries for his personal wealth, has not been addressed nor any banker arraigned. HBOS was a scandal, Northern Rock too, Lloyds deceived its shareholders and violated LSE Rules and Companies Acts - and Bradford && Bingley had no internal controls and was defrauded.

No bank is technically solvent - all are using fake collateral such as deferred taxes as assets to support dodgy loans they dare not write down to market because their equity base is too small.

Greece is looking for taxpayer support so banks do not need to write off bad loans to the PIIGS. The whole system is at risk as in 1931 and Gordon Brown has done what Labour feared most - re-run 1931.

Read Skidlesky's book on the disaster Labour left in 1931 - but Cameron is no Baldwin, nowhere near as scheming or astute. Brown is getting away with this in a way Major could not over the EMS debacle.

This election is marked by another duff Tory leader - like Hague - they should be given knighthoods by grateful Labour leaders for their incompetence as professional politicians.

BTW...Baldwin gave part of his personal wealth to pay down the National Debt...which of The Three Stooges on TV last week will offer to do the same ?

18 April 2010 at 20:24  
Blogger Weekend Yachtsman said...

This it not politics, but show-business.

And given that the actual political power resides elsehwere (Brussels) it's entirely appropriate that our local little parliament should turn itself into a branch of the entertainment industry.

What else is there for them to do?

19 April 2010 at 10:21  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Jared Gaites.....I hadn't considered the 'Spite' vote until's altogether different from the recognised 'protest''s all very worrying; especially so if it entails the wearing of incontinence pads!

19 April 2010 at 17:10  

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