Monday, 5 May 2008

To top off a rubbish week...

Ipswich Town failed to sneak into the play-offs despite beating Hull. It was only an outside chance, but you always hope don't you. As well as being a thoroughly depressing period politically this has been a pretty disappointing season on the football front. Time to regroup...

Back in the real world I see that Warren Buffett reckons that the worst is over in terms of the credit crisis, though there is stil pain to come for some homeowners. That follows the Bank of England suggesting last week that the fallout might not be as bad as predicted. I still feel like the crisis is a bit of a phoney war so far. Although there are obvious knock-on effects such as it being harder to get mortgages or other forms of credit, it doesn't seem like serious economic damage is being done. For example I've just read Anatole Kaletsky's piece in the Times where he seems to have reversed himself again. First he suggested the credit crisis was no big deal, then it was very serious, now it is not so bad again. Despite the phoney war Labour is taking a shoeing currently. We could be in the situation in a couple of years where the economy has picked up again, but Labour is still turfed out.

I'd better wash my mouth out after I've said this, but I guess this all about - my favourite - narratives. In the clear abscene of the Government developing its own, external events and the opposition have built one for it and pretty it ain't. As I have bleated on about many times before, once a narrative is in place we typically interpret new information through it, meaning we can put a very different spin on the same information (ie Marcus Bent not converting a chance). I think people have a very gloomy conception of the economic situation because the narrative of a failing government enables them to read any economic news in a very (overly?) negative way.

This is problematic because narratives seem to be pretty sticky. It's an effort for us to revise our interpretive frameworks so we will often seek to ignore or minimise any information that might cause us to do so, and focus on information that confirms our standpoint. Just look at the way that people will often query the veracity of official stats that tell a story that doesn't fit with their own narrative (ie falling crime). I think that means that Labour would need sustained good news to counter the negtive narrative in many voters' heads.

The one plus point is that I still feel that the Tories' resurgence nationally may have pretty flimsly foundations as I don't think people know what they are voting for. I am still not convinced they will give the Tories a go just because they are fed up with Labour without having any clear conception of what the Dark Side might actually do with power. But the longer this goes on the less that might matter.


Charlie Marks said...

The level of integration with the US is the reason why people focus on the bad economic news - that and the fact that food and utility bills are increasing at alarming rates.

On the elections - let's not forget that a majority of those eligible are still abstaining. If the Tories win the next election, it could be with a pitifully low turnout...

Tom P said...

Any views on why voter turnout is so low?

Charlie Marks said...

1. The winner-takes-all voting system (Solution: STV)

2. The inability to vote directly on policies (Solution: more referenda)

3. The inability to force
issues onto the political agenda (Solution: citizens' initiative)

On those last two points, check out Matt Qvortrup's "Supply Side Politics" (

Tom P said...

Cheers Charlie - interesting stuff as always. I agree about more referenda, though the punters might vote the 'wrong' way!

PS. the book I ordered on Gramsci should be here very shortly.

Charlie Marks said...

I don;t know about the "wrong way". The recent referendum in Hungary on health and education charges - triggered by a petition - was able to stop the government in its tracks when a large majority rejected the changes. Just one example!

What book did you order in the end? Is it the one Stuart Hall had a hand in?

A favourite Gramsci quote on socialism:

“To be sure, the line of development is toward internationalism, but the point of departure is ‘national’ — and it is from this point of departure that one must begin.”