The big dipper of manipulative populism

7 October 2007

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I think it is important to take a step back from the Cameron/Osborne triumph in facing down Gordon Brown and ask what is going on behind the the febrile swings of opinion. As recent readers will know I'm reading Peter Oborne's The Triumph of the Political Class. One of his theses is that the,

fusion between the media and political domains has come to define British politics today. In a stunningly short space of time it has come to produce a new system of government, which has been beautifully christened 'manipulative populism'.

(I'm embarrassed but also delighted to say that he acknowledges me as the priest at this baptism.) The critical point here is that all parties - Cameron is singled out as well as Brown - and the media are part of a singular 'political class' who conduct politics in this manner. In his conclusion, Osborne argues that,

the Political Class has turned on the institutions of civil society and attempted to destroy them. In doing so it has confounded the British system of representative democracy, and replaced it with a direct method of communication with the people, mediated mainly through a client media. This methodology of government - manipulative populism - is full of peril, and profoundly unstable.

I suspect we have witnessed this instability over the last few weeks.

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