Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tangentopoli UK ?

I've just heard Tristram Hunt, unlikely ex-new Labour biographer of Engels, on Radio 4 opining that if Britain wasn't a Monarchy this expenses farrago would lead to a collapse of the State and the foundation of a new Republic. I'd guess the Italian experience must have been in his mind. Tangentopoli was the word they gave their situation - 'bribesville'. It took the emergence of the magistrate - not politician -led Manu Pulite ('Clean Hands') anti-corruption campaign to bring it down, and bring down the so called 'First Republic' as well.

Now, despite the fact that the British situation seems far less organised and structural - its all about individual venality as far as I can see, not organisational corruption in the Italian sense - I do think Hunt is on to something. Perhaps because he is the son of a weatherman he can tell which way the wind is blowing.

Dave Osler - and in a different way, Paulie - worry that this is feeding into an anti-political mood in the country. I agree with Paulie that the big threat is not the BNP - although I expect them to made some electoral gains in the Euro elections - but some charismatic and telegenic charmer on the Berlusconi model. (Please God, don't let it be Richard Branson.)

In a way our default model of political leader has been evolving in this direction anyway- think of Blair, and our two current Blair-lites, Cameron and Clegg. Anyone of them might, if they had accidentally lost an election in mid career, have evolved into a TV sofa host on the lines of Jeremy Vine or Kilroy Silk. Even the viciously combative ex-politician Portillo now seems eminently charming and personable as an all purpose TV talking head. The stage is surely set for some movement in the opposite direction - a TV talking head who arrives on the electronic PR campaign equivalent of a white charger promising to sweep away all this nonsense.

Because this is Britain, not Italy, I don't think, as yet, conditions are far enough advanced for such a 'new politics' (sic) to be successful. But I'm prepared to bet someone is going to try.


  1. "a TV talking head who arrives on the electronic PR campaign equivalent of a white charger promising to sweep away all this nonsense"

    Very convincing, I'm sure this is what the Brits would go for. Who are we going to get? Jeremy Clarkson? Joanna Lumley? My guess is that both of those are too shrewd to let us discover that actually they have feet of clay too.

    For yonks Shearer refused to be drawn into giving up the easy non-job of providing "expert analysis" on Match of the Day for the very hard real job of actually rescuing Newcastle Utd. He was then tempted (a million quid may have helped), and guess what, turns out he's no good at it.

  2. Football as a source of our prospective white knight? Christ no, please. I've suddenly uneasily remembered that Alan Sugar used to own Spurs...