FRED Carver, the former Liberal Democrat councillor in Cantelowes ward, explains this week that he will “probably not work for the party again”.
He adds: “I might vote Lib Dem and I might not (probably not if it means voting for the coalition) but I reserve the right to pick and choose as I see fit.”
But give him time to explain himself – seriously, give him a bit of time –and you will be rewarded with a fascinating window into the way the Lib Dems, and probably the other parties, organise themselves locally and at Westminster.
In a 4,500 word essay explaining why coalition governments ultimately founder on the rocks of tribalism, Fred is frank about his time working on Lib Dem campaigns. He explains how group unity, kinship, almost a social circle, cements people together more than political beliefs. He talks about a caste system between different levels of organisers… and highlights the leaflet photocopier as a pretty important tool.
We’ve seen the wide-eyed rush to win elections at all levels become more important than actual policy debates many times in Camden. That feeling, to is writ large in Fred’s article for the Who Rules Where blogsite.
“People who are part of political parties are too loyal,” writes Fred, who left the council three years ago. “Politics is fairly thankless; the material rewards are – comparing like for like – shit, and it is frankly quicker and easier to accumulate power outside of formal political processes. One therefore shouldn’t really do it for any other reason than ideology. But the kinship of politics becomes a trap, and so politicians do what every person in every walk of life does when they find themselves in this situation: they tell themselves little lies to make it all ok. This is why Liberal Democrats now send each other painfully thin infographics which crow over their “achievements”, and pretend that they had ever heard of the “pupil premium”. And by being too loyal, they are too forgiving of the coalition, just as by being too tribal others are too irrational about the coalition.”
He goes on: “Most people in political parties never ever talk about politics: it seems somehow self-indulgent and redundant. I have managed campaigns for candidates at very high levels where I can honestly tell you I haven’t the faintest clue what my candidate’s political beliefs were. Because once they are playing for your team it doesn’t matter, your role is to help them win.”
There is an acerbic wit to other passages of his dissertation: “Researchers work in Parliament which means they get to drink subsidised beer but have to wear suits to work. They all watch the West Wing and the Thick of It and tell their friends that their lives are like that. If their MP is a) influential and b) trusts them, then they are not entirely incorrect – but they work for the Liberal Democrats so that never happens. Research is an archaic word meaning ‘to google’ and so most researchers don’t really do much research: they are part PA, part Press Officer, and part Events Organiser. A large part of each researcher’s day is spent asking “what’s our policy on x”? Researchers work around 60 hours a week, this is in part so they can look suitably exhausted when networking over a post work pint. Being peppy is bad form.”
There’s more: “Volunteers occupy a position in the Liberal Democrats not unlike that of the “Hijira”, or eunuchs, of South Asia. On the one hand they are considered the lowest of the low: stupid, surly, and fit only for the most basic manual work. On the other they possess a certain sort of spiritual power which is coveted and must be appeased at all times. Thus contempt is concealed, and even the mightiest minister in the land must make a show of doing the occasional paper round to demonstrate fealty. There is a conceit that all Liberal Democrats start off as volunteers. It isn’t true, but those that didn’t fake it as best they can.”
And putting councillors in power at the Town Hall is later likened to putting “the person who delivers the most newspapers in charge of town planning”.
There are too many points to quote here. Have a read. It’s one of the most interesting explanations of disillusionment with politics out there. It sort of makes you pity the lives our local politicians may lead.