Conway is gone – ‘for a long time’ we are told, which leaves open the possibility of his return at some point, presumably after an election in 2010. Three years out is more like it, but in perpetuity is really the only option, as no one will want him back other than his ‘friends’. A crook is a crook, and he should not return to any part of government or Opposition.
What is interesting to me about the reaction in the blogs, is how angry people are now about the corruption of public life. They don’t even care what party the perpetrators come from any more. They just want them out, and a new lot in with better principles and morals, and a willingness to hold others to account for their corruption, not be trying to get their own snouts in the political trough.
I don’t think those on the inside if the Westminster village understand the anger felt across the nation which has been generated by the years of spin, the collapse of the public services, of education, the police, hospitals, immigration control, lack of prisons and any number of other issues.
If the destruction of Britain and its way of life had been necessary as part of some application of high principle, people might be willing to go along with it, and adapt. But when they see the very people who have presided over the destruction of Westminster, the County Councils, the Common Law, the Bank of England, nearly everything about Britain that not all that long ago, worked so well – when they see these same people not explaining why Britain has had to be effectively destroyed, but instead trying to cadge a few more grand out of their expenses, the blood really boils.
And that anger now has a way to express itself powerfully and with immediacy – in the blogs.
It’s not that new information necessarily is revealed by bloggers, although often that is the case. It’s more that people have a chance at last to give instant and direct feedback to political leaders, which was not possible before.
When the feedback loop travelled via the MSM, public anger was discounted, and seen as not so relevant to the high level decisions being taken in the corridors of power. But when hundreds of thousands of people can instantly access opinion and see that everyone else is as angry as they are, something changes. You feel it in your gut. By writing opinions in blogs, you have impact on events, and can send a direct message to the people who are pissing you off. The logic of their decision making processes is affected, and you know it.
A million people went onto London’s streets to demonstrate against the Iraq war. They halted nothing. But if the blogs had been running in 2003, I am sure that the daily drip drip of information about Blair’s and Campbell’s lies would have exposed them more forcefully and effectively than the MSM did. Peoples’ anger at Blair would have found a way to build up and up until he could no longer ignore it.
The attack on the BBC and Andrew Gilligan for his ‘sexing up intelligence’ report would not have been so easy for Campbell and Blair to carry out. The murder of David Kelly would have been exposed more quickly, and the whitewash of the Hutton enquiry. In fact the Iraq War with blogging by people like Richard North and Guido would quite possibly never have happened.
Politicians and the media would like to ignore the blogs, of course. The Hain and the Conway affairs, however show that they cannot – all credit to Tim Montgomerie, Guido, and Dale. Brown hasn’t got it yet, and he’s still clinging on to the ‘bureaucracy knows best’ approach, and he still thinks that he’ll control things from his bunker. Cameron on the other hand, by terminating Conway within 24 hours, has shown that he understands the new ways of the world.
In the Conservative Party at least democracy is fighting itself back to life. It feels like a rotten old box of clothes has just been opened and the fresh air is getting in there a little at last. If democracy in Britain started dying in 1992 at the time of Maastricht, then it is in 2008 via blogging, that it is starting to come back to life.
The lesson from the Conway episode for MPs, and for anyone else for that matter, is not to do anything that is indefensible – not necessarily as regards the law, or by the standards of the media or as could be defended according to ancient institutional practices. In the blogs you have to defend yourself in terms of common sense, in the ordinary terms of every day people. If Conway could have done that, or Hain, they would have survived. But they blustered and tried to slide around what were very simple questions.
Once the defences given by Hain and Conway were quite clearly of the farcical variety, they were easy meat for Guido. They were finished. The internet via blogs enables the instant and powerful application of common sense to any situation. And it isn’t going away.
The good thing is that we will eventually end up with people who understand common sense running our country. Roll on the day.