Welcome to my day: 22 January 2024 – so, about those Presidential primaries…

Well, that was unexpected. Ron DeSantis is gone, and has endorsed Donald Trump. And, unless Nikki Haley gets a respectable showing in New Hampshire, it’s surely all over in the absence of any other opponent. Biden versus Trump it is then…

Meanwhile, nearer to home, the Post Office Horizon scandal continues to unfold. For what it’s worth, I do wonder whether or not the various ministers involved were persuaded that there was nothing wrong by the evidently unwise presumption that public officials will tell you the truth when pressed. After all, the Civil Service Code has at its core the values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality and, in my personal experience, most of us live up to that every day – we tend to take a dim view of those that are found to have fallen short. And politicians should be able to take that for granted – they need civil servants to provide them with a picture of what’s going on in their departments and of the impacts of political decisions, both before and after the event, and should be able to rely upon the advice they give, even if they don’t accept it.

It certainly doesn’t look as though key figures didn’t adhere to the “integrity” and “honesty” bits and it would be nice if appropriate heads rolled, if only to show that such failings have consequences.

Torsten Bell has written an interesting, albeit quite short, piece for the Guardian about political activism. He notes, as I often do, that membership of political parties has fallen from one in ten of the population in the early 1950’s to less than 1% of the population now, which perhaps explains why politicians seem rather more removed from those they purport to represent. After all, the average member of the public is so much less likely to know someone who is active in any of the political parties.

Interestingly, he also points to research that suggests that being an “out” political activist is not necessarily good for your career prospects – employers have a rather negative view of politicians. If there’s any consolation to be taken from a liberal perspective, the effects are far worse for right-wing nationalists (like Conservative MPs, for example).

He does make a plea for more people to be active in support of political parties, and I agree with that (perhaps obviously). But, having engaged in “retail politics” at the very lowest level, political activists are one of the foundation stones of an informed electorate, and with much political messaging being delivered by media with their own agenda, the only way to deliver a message reliably is to have people on the ground to carry it, or money to pay for someone else to do it. The former is preferable.

And, on the subject of political activism, Tories are suddenly out there campaigning, which comes as much of a surprise to them as it does to me, I suspect. My former MP in Bury St Edmunds was out canvassing in Thurston this weekend, something that she’s very rarely done in the nine years since she was first elected. She’s stepped up her social media game too and been seen at public events she probably wouldn’t have bothered with up until now. Her notional majority from 2019? 22,019. They’re worried, my friends, they really are…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and lives in Ipswich (2019 majority 5,479).

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One Comment

  • Peter Hirst 26th Jan '24 - 2:15pm

    One of the issues is that politicians as well as relying on civil servants also have an army of political advisors so it is challenging for them to access their own knowledge of a situation. If you don’t have a firm baseline based on principles and values it is almost impossible to judge the varying viewpoints put forward by others. The best government ministers rely on their own insights to help them navigate the intense content war that surrounds them.

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