Friday, November 28, 2003

An Indymedia user has dubbed the current consultation exercise a ‘con-sulation’ and they are 100% right. It is. Make no mistake about it, the ‘Big Conversation’ is nothing more than a big scam, not only is it a big scam but it is profoundly anti-democratic and immoral. It’s spin in its purest and most cynical form. How do I know this? From the political landscape against which this idea emerged and a brief look at the recent history of Neo-Labour’s other con-sultations.

This is the third con-sulation of recent times. The other two notable con-sulations being the GM debate and ID Cards. Bristol has a strong anti-GM population and it was mobilised into the governments so-called consolation on the issue, GM Nation. On this major topic of national interest the government initially allotted a pathetic £500,000 of funding. Sounds a lot but when you consider this works out at less then 1p per person in the UK. One single penny to promote, co-ordinate, involve and collate the views of each citizen of the UK. Was Neo-Labour ever going to listen to the outcome of the results? No, it never mattered what the public said, Tony wanted GM and nothing was going to change that. Not even a con-sulation. So if it was never going to change policy, what was the point of it?

Next up was the con-sultation on ID cards. This was another sham. The majority of people who responded were against having ID cards. The government claimed the majority were in favour but only after they doctored the results removing half of the responses because they came from an organised campaign. Let me repeat that – THEY REMOVED HALF THE VOTES BECAUSE THEY CAME FROM A ORGANISED CAMPAGIN. What else is democracy based on but the organisation of like minded people? The government did not remove the votes that were organised by lobby groups who stand to gain from the contracts to be handed out – they removed the votes of citizens to took part in a legal, open and transparent political campaign. Then they commissioned their own research that purported to show that people wanted ID cards then made plans to introduce ID cards anyway. Con-sultation.

The idea of the big-conversation’ comes from political landscape of the US. But far more important is another US import – it comes form the mind of Republican master strategist Frank Luntz and I would bet that it is far more influential in government thinking than anything else. Luntz’s theory is simple – you don’t have to change policy at all to win votes – just change the way you present existing policy. So how does Neo-Labour change the presentation of policy (because as has been said time and time again, Blair won’t change the direction of policy)? Simple – get a huge state-sponsored focus group exercise going (aka ‘The Big Conversation’) then use the results to spin what you were going to do anyway in a better light. Welcome to politics Republican style. Welcome to politics Blair style. Welcome to politics empire style – a veneer of democracy with a core of fascism – and I mean that with the definition Mussolini used; "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."

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