Friday, 11 July 2008

Westminster Village 2 Blogosphere 0

The turnout collapsed, he received 5,000 fewer votes than last time he stood, and public opinion has not budged according to ConservativeHome. David Davis describes this as a "stunning message". To excitable bloggers maybe!

Some people initially claimed this would be an example of the mainstream media (MSM in the blogosphere) calling it wrong, and the Westminster Village being out of touch. In fact it looks rather the reverse now. In addition you do have to wonder how long Right bloggers can keep plugging this 'Westminster Village' line. I'm not sure how convincing it is to attack the 'Westminster Village' if you are, have been, or want to be a parliamentary candidate. Or run a political bookshop, magazine etc.

And for all the claims of bloggers 'telling it like it really is', lets see how Right blogs respond to a cleary weak result for Davis that will probably be forgotten very quickly. To accept Davis' "stunning message" line unquestionably is surely the business of party hacks, not independent-minded keyboard warriors...


Richard Young said...

Hmm. While there's plenty of valid dubiousness about Davies's logic and the wisdom of pursuing this topic via a by-election, the issue of individual liberty is *the* defining debate of our age. And David Davies has done more than most to publicise it. Surely he deserves some credit for that - and to be honest, I'd rather have politicians who were passionate about the issues than those who were expert in politicking and spin. (Maybe I'm just naive...)

Nick Drew said...

I have no particular expectations of agreeing with you on anything, Tom, perhaps the reverse ...

but definitely not on this. The blogosphere may be a fairly imperfect register of grass-roots sentiment but (on the right, at least)it's a lot less intermediated by, and a lot less self-censored by kneejerk obeisance to, an 'élite' norm which governs the Village and the oh-so convention-bound commentariat (who have almost all been beaten into calculating according to the same logic, and thinking the same normative thoughts, and know exactly what their editors want from them)

DD's action is tapping into, and triggering, something spontaneous, near-universal amongst a certain (rather important, IMHO) sector of society, and very real, which now has an unmissable means of expression - the instant, unco-ordinated identicality of which must surely give you pause for thought, even if you consider yourself apart from it

(like someone attending a big soccer match for the first time and noticing how the crowd all reacts strongly and in an identical manner within the blink of an eye - and not just to obvious things like a goal being scored after a long build-up, but to unexpected things, seen only in peripheral vision, like a sudden off-the-ball incident, or the hint of a handball. The engaged crowd sees: it immediately knows the consequence: it immediately gives voice: and (within context) it's meaningful (couldn't conceivably happen if it wasn't); it gives pause to a referee who either hadn't noticed, or was minded to overlook it; it blows the collective whistle; it's the Wisdom of the Crowd finding its entirely spontaneous voice. And nothing about it features in the FA Rulebook - but so what ? It's what will make a crowd turn nasty ...)

The tidy Village post-mortem on this by-election is just an exercise in comfortable 'told you so': in trivial, technical terms the outcome was pretty predictable, and the Village has had several weeks to hatch its self-pleasing response.

Face the underlying phenomenon with Village Logic and you'll misread it every time. Will that matter ? maybe not, in placid times. But ...

Tom P said...


thanks for comments - will reply later.


JL Adams said...

Hi Tom,

Sorry this comment is not related to the most recent post.

I've been following your blog for some time now, I work for a NGO in the US and we frequently submit shareholder resolutions. We are looking to move some of our efforts into the UK, would love to discuss the technicalities of such a venture or possible have some resources to reveiw. Anything you can do ...thanks and I enjoy the blog!

CityUnslicker said...

side issue now, the real issue is here

Tom P said...

OK here goes... obviously I agree that it is a good thing if politicians stand up for what they believe in, and from what I have read I think DD does genuinely have a principled concern about this issue.

however, he is clearly does not have a strong record as a champion of liberal values given his views on the death penalty, Clause 28 etc. As such there was no way I personally would support his campaign. (Maybe that is partly because civil liberties aren't one of the ares in politics that exercise me, but that's another story).

Some on the Left argued that because DD was right on this issue we should support him, but how far do you take that argument. What if it was UKIP MP Bob Spink leading the charge (he's actually pro 42 days, but just for sake of argument), should we support him? Why does this one issue trump eveything else?

I still don't buy this Westminster Village vs Silent Majority line. For one, we are talking about a bloke who wants to be prime minister. You can't get more Westminster Village than that. And in reality I wonder whether the 42 days/Big Brother society isn't actually exactly the type of argument that is of interest to the Westminster Village but not the great unwashed. The polls afterall seem to show support for the government, and have been undented by DD's campaign.

What Davis did tap into IMHO was a generalised dislike of the political class in general, and I have a number of problems with that. For one, it's a bit unconvincing to play the anti-establishment card when you want to be prime minister. Let's be under no illusions about this - that was his aim when standing for the Tory leadership. Secondly I personally think politicians get an unwarranted amount of stick, and I don't think playing to this is a positive development.

What do you reckon?

Tom P said...


Very happy to have a chat about this, and glad you like the blog. can we swap emails?


Tom P said...

Mr Slicker

Yes, I read that post this morning, interesting stuff, will give it a plug.


Nick Drew said...

several things

- your last 2 paragraphs are fundamentally undermined by something you clearly don't realise: DD no longer wants to be PM**, even if he did 3 years ago. When these types get to the top, or within spitting-distance, it generally changes their whole perspective, cf Heseltine 1990. (We actually depend on this late-in-career amendment of vision and values, because to get to the top, all but the most individualistic/charismatic must have suppressed everything except Village-machine thought in themselves - and we hope for, though don't always get, better than this from our leaders)

- what's more, DD is authentic SAS. I am guessing (?!) you've never been a soldier Tom: if so, you won't understand what this means

- Silent Majority is by no means the correct characterisation of the relevant 'dissident' sector. Certainly, the great unwashed are not much moved by 42 Days (though they are often moved by a DD in full sail ...) but it ain't them we are talking about.

** though I imagine he would accept a Cincinnatus Commission (hey, that's a great book title ! © N.Drew 2008 !)

Tom P said...

I'll be honest, no I haven't been a soldier. But Saving private Ryan is one of my favourite films so are we so very far apart? ;-)

are you sure he doesn't still want the top job?

Nick Drew said...

Yes I am (subject to my footnote)

It's the reason why the Village is so appalled - they instantly realise the usual sanctions & restraints won't work on him any longer

so who knows what he may do !

snowflake5 said...

There is something laughable about bloggers like Ian Dale and Guido claiming that they are not part of the Westminster village - they are, they live in that fevered atmosphere.

However the mainstream media might live in the Westminster village, but they've long since learnt to temper their views thanks to commercial considerations. Advertising and newspaper sales are dependant on the provinces outside the village. Get too far away from real opinion and you are financially off a cliff. But of course this reality check doesn't apply to the bloggers, which is why they simply assumed that they were real opinion, even when all polls showed they were not.

JL Adams said...


Sure, thanks.

JL Adams

Tom P said...

OK got it.