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  • seandodson 6:26 pm on March 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: andy becket, , labour, personality in politics, political profile, , , the guardian   

    Ed Unplugged: The rise of private man 

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Richard Sennett lately and his book, The Fall of Public Man. Specifically, Sennett’s idea that we now live in an “intimate society” where social relationships of all kinds are only seen as real, believable, and authentic “the closer they approach the inner psychological concerns of each person”. In other words how private lives are increasingly played out in public.

    Now, all politicians feel it necessary to reveal their private lives to us and Ed Milliband, leader of the opposition, is no different. This Saturday the Guardian’s Weekend section delivered a 4000 word interview with the Labour Leader. It was written by Andy Beckett, one of the finest feature writers around, and the content of the interview/profile is actually as serious as you would hope for in the Saturday supplement of a broadsheet newspaper. But it’s the way that the profile is packaged that will most interest any disciples of Sennett.

    For a start there’s the cover (above right). Ed Unplugged. Unplugged from what exactly? It gives the idea that this is an authentic “accoustic” set, more personal and private and therefore more intimate account than you might otherwise expect. Note that is is Ed Unplugged and not Ed Milliband Unplugged or even Edward Milliband Unplugged. Imagine if Clement Attlee had been around today then it would it have been Clem Unplugged. But of course it wouldn’t, because that would be a nonsense.

    To be fair, the piece is detailed and meaningful, although Beckett clearly feels an obligation to conduct a psychological investigation of his subject (which is exactly what Sennett was writing about). We learn that Mr Milliband, I have to call him that now, likes Curb Your Enthusiasm; we are reminded that he and brother David (not Dave, note) went to comprehensive school and while the profile discusses future policy, it eventually pivots on the axis of his personality. Beckett writes: “His leadership, in short, is an experiment. Are empathy and thoughtfulness, plus awkwardness, the ingredients of a realistic Downing Street contender? Or is it now an unbreakable rule of politics that only shallower but slicker politicians become prime minister?”

    The dichotomy isn’t between policy and personality. It is between two different types of personality.

    Which is why the Guardian is packaging Milliband in this way. It’s all about personality. In order to attract lots of people who don’t read the Guardian proper to read its Ed Milliband interview, the Weekend section knows that, in an intimate society, the only way to portray a serious interview by a talented profiler is to offer an intimate insight into the private life of your subject. This, in my opinion, signals something of a defeat for high-minded journalism and that, by extension, actually helps create the idea that only “shallower and slicker politicians can become prime minister”.

    The idea, if you project it toward its logical conclusion, is that the only way serious journalism can package such an interview is to borrow something of the techniques of Hello!. This through-the-keyhole journalism, here a picture of the leader buttering some toast, there he is relaxing on the sofa with his child, is part of a machine that tries to sell a politician to the public though the use of an intimate lens. Although we all know that the images are as carefully constructed as any speech.

    Of course, in writing so, I just show how out of time I am with the contemporary print media. They’re all doing it. The Guardian Weekend example is instructive, but its not even a severe case. All the media behaves in this way. Of course, In the Fall of Public Man, Sennett was writing about 1977, but the process that drives ever more personality into politics shows zero sign of abating.

    Here is what he wrote in the Fall of Public Man:

    “The electronic media play a crucial role in this deflection, by simultaneously overexposing the leader’s personal life and obscuring his work in office. The incivility which this modern charismatic figure embodies is that his followers are burdened with making sense of him as a person in order to understand what he is doing once in power … Leadership on these terms is a form of seduction. The structures of domination especially remain unchallenged when people are led into electing politician who sound angry, as if ready to change things; these politicians are, by the alchemy of personality, freed from translating angry impulses into actions.”

    • Liz Yeomans 9:55 pm on March 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      The question is: who is Ed trying to appeal to? Not pictured in this blog, but in The Guardian Weekend magazine, is the slightly unflattering image of Ed in his kitchen. Here, he is surrounded by standard kit and appliances with giveaway sterilising equipment on the shelf denoting the new and demanding addition to the Miliband household. Not quite the dimmed lighting Aga-and-Le-Creuset set of Nick (or Dave) with corkscrew in one hand and a nice bottle of red in the other.

      In Ed’s “unplugged” world there are echoes of the early Blair years, with domestic life portrayed as slightly chaotic; toddler toys strewn around the carpet. Authentic, or a simulacrum of authenticity? And who is Ed trying to win over?

  • seandodson 1:22 am on March 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: jarvis cocker, labour, michael foot, ,   

    “We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer ‘To hell with them.’ The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.” – Michael Foot

    (heard on Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service)
  • seandodson 12:58 pm on January 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 1922 committee, , , harriet harman, labour, MPS, , , , , westminster   

    Don’t let our MPs conceal their expenses 

    London Calling !

    Originally uploaded by rAmmoRRison

    Members of Parliament will vote on Thursday to change the law in an attempt to keep details of their expenses a secret. The vote comes just days before the publication of their expenses is due to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The move will make MPs and peers the only paid public officials who do not have to disclose the full details of their expenses and allowances.

    Harriet Harman, leader of the House, is understood to have pressed for the change in the law after being lobbied by the Tory 1922 backbench committee who argued that MPs have already been embarrassed by disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act about their expenses. Scottish MSPs are already required to make a full disclosure.

    MPs have argued that tougher rules on how MPs audit their expenses will police MPs. I disagree. My view is that if you have nothing to hide, why try to hide it?

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    • seandodson 7:42 pm on January 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Look like we won. The power of the internet, eh.

    • Make money on the Internet for Real 1:26 am on January 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      It is odd how the political staff always try to keep secrets… we vote for them at the following second they’re already seeking a way to keep us out of all the informations, the truth or whatever we call it!

      IMO this is essential to keep an eye (private eye) on money spent to know how reasonable they are(‘nt). There’s no reason why only us have to declare everything.


  • seandodson 2:23 pm on July 21, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , compass, , , labour, magaret hodge, , press, progress, progressive left, social democracy   

    What would Labour have to do to win a fourth term? 

    Labour is bereft of ideas and the Conservatives full of hot air. That’s the overwhelming view presented by the political press in this country. For a long time I’ve been worried by how consensual this view has been and wondered if it is really so impossible for Labour to win a fourth successive term. So this weekend I did what I haven’t done for a long time. I got up early and attended a political meeting. This Saturday I walked over to the Brighthelm Centre over in the North Laines and listened to a panel of speakers discuss what ideas could help Labour win again. I was pleasantly surprised how many good ideas abounded.

    Neil Lawson, of the pressure group Compass, suggested a long list of things that could help Labour reconnect with its electorate (he barely pauses for breath this man): the introduction of a living wage; a tax on land; ban advertising to children; control media ownership; a switch ot proportional representation; universal free school meals; scrapping ID cards and regulating the buses outside London.

    Margaret Hodge, meanwhile, advocated a mass build of council houses, which could be donated to the tenants after years of good stewardship. The MP for Barking (who voted strongly in favour of US-style Foundation Hospitals) also spoke of smaller secondary schools and more localised police forces.

    But perhaps Chris Leslie, the former MP for Shipley and now a leading light in the Progress movement, came up with the best idea: limit the amount of money MPs can earn outside parliament to 15% of their earnings. It would certainly help clean the image of politicians with the electorate and limit the reach of big business into parliamentary affairs. He said that this would be bot popular with voters and likely to cause the Tories problems as most of their front bench are currently “coining it in”.

    In other words there is still hope for those who wish to see Britain develop a fairer society.

    • Bruce 7:30 pm on July 21, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      I’d rather hack my own knob off with a teaspoon than vote Tory but Labour winning a fourth election seems a more drawn out and painful experience. There again, I already voted Tory in 1997 when they were called ‘new’ Labour. Brilliant marketing, eh? Fooled me anyway.

  • seandodson 11:27 am on May 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , environmentalism, GLA, , labour, , London Mayor, ,   

    Was a vote for Boris a vote against combating climate change? 

    Like many people of the left I was dismayed to see the election of Boris Johnson as London Mayor. I haven’t lived in London for over three years, but I still work there and to my mind Ken Livingstone had done a reasonable job. Flicking through the Sunday papers yesterday most commentators seemed to agree that two things had done it for Ken. Firstly, his plan to extend the congestion charge, especially for large petrol-consuming four-wheel drives. The second was the issue of recycling (which actually had more to do with local councils than the Greater London Authority). Both of these issues are climate change issues and it seemed to me that Ken Livingstone was addressing them and Boris Johnson isn’t really. So was the vote for Boris part of a climate change backlash?

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