Well David (Miliband), "racket" was not so far off after all

Last month OK's editor told the Foreign Secretary that the public viewed politics as a "racket" and he disagreed, what would he say today?
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
23 March 2010

An open letter to the Foreign Secretary:

Dear David,

Back in late February I went to hear you speak at Demos. You tried to assume that we were back into politics as usual and gave a polished display of how to attack the Tories. This is part of what I wrote about it here in OK:

As knockabout with the Tories it wasn't bad. But I questioned the premise of this kind of exercise, which assumes we are facing a 'normal' election in a two party system - whereas the issue of the day is that voters despise both parties, see the system as a racket, and it is this that needs to be addressed. His call for a "Reset Referendum", a term I'd not heard before, suggested that the country faced a software problem whereas the public, rightly, are fed up with the hardware.

The Foreign Secretary was generous enough to reply "I'm with you 90 per cent of the way". He just did not accept the term "racket" was appropriate. Otherwise he agreed that there were huge problems with our Victorian institutions like parliament and announced that, "We are a third of the way through a revolution".

Most of my short post went on to discuss your embrace of the idea of a revolution which we are somehow undergoing thanks to Labour. You sort of claimed the credit without actually putting yourself forward as a revolutionary.

I didn't write about how when I said politics is seen as a "racket" you screwed up your nose, and firmly rejected any such description.

Well, David, surely now you have to concede that racket it is. It is not all that politics is, of course. But it is inescapably scandalous and the public is right to see it as such.

Nor is it very convincing to scapegoat the big three ex-ministers, Byers, Hewitt and Hoone. Jack Straw said this morning that his Blairite colleagues were "increduleous" as well as cross. Their disbelief was not, he implied, that it happened but that it was done in such a slovenly way! After all Hewitt was Minister for Health and is now a paid advisor to Boots. It must be her connections and knowledge of government that are valuable. So something bigger has been confirmed. If it is not an insult to taxi drivers, New Labour itself has been a cab for hire. Take this from yesterday's Mail:

Tony Blair waged an extraordinary two-year battle to keep secret a lucrative deal with a multinational oil giant which has extensive interests in Iraq. The former Prime Minister tried to keep the public in the dark over his dealings with South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation. Mr Blair - who has made at least £20million since leaving Downing Street in June 2007 - also went to great efforts to keep hidden a £1 million deal advising the ruling royal family in Iraq's neighbour Kuwait.

According to the Guardian you were very prompt to condemn the three ex-ministers telling Sky news,

"There is absolutely no room for anyone to trade on their ministerial office. People come into politics ‑ whether Labour, Tory or Lib Dem – because of what they want to do for the country. And I believe that's true for MPs across all parties, I don't think this is a partisan point.

"Anything which sullies that reputation or gets in the way of that public service is completely inimical. I think it's right that we have tightened up the rules already ... but the Labour manifesto is going to say more about the need for a statutory register of the lobbying industry, because there is absolutely no room for the sort of innuendo or promises that seem to have been floated in this case."

But when you referred to "this case" you were not referring to Tony Blair. But surely his behaviour is far worse? Isn't the public right to think that if any one person could be said to be more responsible than anyone else for the collapse in standards and the culture of greed and entitlement, it is your old boss? You say "Anything that sullies that reputation... is inimical". Will you be as robust on your condemnation of his sullying?

Or will you welcome the rogue premier onto your re-election team?

With my warmest regards


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