Wednesday, 9 July 2008

David Selbourne is seriously confused

You may never have heard of David Selbourne. He is an obscure social commentator now in his 70s of no great popular talent or public appeal. I'm not sure why the Times has given him a column today, but it has, and he uses the opportunity to write nonsense. He writes
We should pay attention. Coherent and strong parties are needed as the nation's condition deteriorates. Instead, political principles have become increasingly redundant, with policymaking subordinated to the needs of market “branding” (or “rebranding”). In consequence, the parties have withered and come to be perceived as little more than loose coalitions of competitors on the make.
There is precious little evidence - and Selbourne offers none - that the withering of the parties is due to their not having 'political principles'; the Tories saw a drop in membership of 1m between 1979 and 1997, a time when the principles of the party can hardly have been clearer. And Labour under Foot and Kinnock was still the 'Red Flag' party but nonetheless saw a plummeting of membership and loyalty. The 'rage' that Selbourne describes is more likely to be against remote centralist parties that are too dominant - indeed, all the evidence supports this rather than Selbourne's weak and unsupported contention. He continues
Britain's social crisis demands more public spending, not less; as the country falls into recession, more intervention is needed, not less. A small state and low taxes will not cure the ills that are daily increasing public alarm. Only a strong state can.
Here he makes the classic solecism of confusing 'strong' with 'big'. In fact, the Leviathan State is a weak state, not a strong one. The strength of the state comes from an engaged and empowered democracy at a local level, a state in which all collective functions are exercised at their lowest possible level. The big centralist state that alienates and disempowers the bulk of its citizens is inherently weak. Selbourne concludes
They are times when national self-repair is required, when the “free society” needs to be protected from itself, and when Islam is advancing into our moral void.
And here is the nub of our putative gerontocrat's argument. Selbourne has a bee in his bonnet about Islam. It scares him. And his reaction is to advocate an authoritarian central state. Again, there is no logical support for this; it's just the confused wandering of a mind rather past its sell by date.


Anonymous said...

I endured some of Selbournes writing as part of my History course. Is it painful on purpose?

Anonymous said...

Yes a typical right wing idiot full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.