11 Feb 2011

Apparent Victories Are Simply Short Changing the Public

I am fascinated by the Coercive techniques we are seeing used by the Tory-led coalition government.

Initially, I have been aggravated by kneejerk political reactions by David Cameron. His "Knife crime" policy reversal in light of tabloid pressure is a typical example.

Pre election predications on Knife Crime had the Tories arguing for custodial sentences. Yet these were abandoned under the coalition agreement (and, as one tweeter acknowledged, there were no demonstrations in London over this pledge breaking).

However, in a week of reactive responses to political situations, it is interesting to see coercian tactics subtly implemented accross the UK.

Bankers Bonuses

The Mirror headline "Cameron Caves in Over Bankers Bonuses" is epitome of a u turn in political terms.

While the Murdoch press were keenly promoting this positive spin, there is a clear message being presented to the people. They have been awarded a victory. A win, a success.

But what exactly have they won? As the more eloquent and articulate members of journalism and blogosphere are identifying, the system on Bankers Bonuses proposed this week is

Lord Oakshott presented a coherent argument, identifying the flaws in the plan. Yet he was quietly removed from the front lines by the Coalition, and while Vince Cable continues to admonish a war on bankers, faith in grass roots is very low and his comments have gone unmentioned in most mainstream press.

You see, if you threaten to do nothing, and then offer a little something, most people will take the little something as a win, not realising they had the power to negotiate the full deal.

Duped over Forrests

Bankers Bonuses, which caused vitriolic rows on BBC Question TIme last night is not the only apparent U Turn that has used this method. We see today an apparent change of heart over forrests.

Cameron proposed selling forrests off to private companies to raise funds. The greener populus exploded in venom, hashtags and questions at Prime Minister's Question Time.

As many politicians commented, the procedure was open to "consultation". A word which is more about fait accompli than anything else.

Consultation, which may have shown 100% of people against the sales, is now quietly being run after announcements today Some Forrest Sales will be Halted.

The key word there is "some". The public will quietly roll over and stop their moaning, and 85% of forrests will still be sold. Without the public outcry, the consultation will be barely responded to and there will be no legal basis for challenging the sale on these grounds.

So the public get a little bit of cake, when they could have had the whole thing.

What will we see in the next four years? A half hearted reform of the schools system? How about a quiet overturn on petrol prices?


Not only do these coercive techniques quieten public noise, but they allow large scale reform to go ahead practically unchallenged.

While people were celebrating Osbourne's apparent change of mind on Bankers Bonuses, they missed the small announcement petrol prices would go up by 5p per litre in April.

While we celebrate over saving minimal forrests, we may be missing out on shocking proposals to leave the COnvention of Human Rights, or on Gove's disasterous court defeat over Building for Schools cancellations.

Of course, Mubarak's resignation is a significant event most people will be watching. But be aware that you may also be missing out on democratic opportunity to overturn unfair policy and legislation, and, ultimately, you should never settle for half servings in the name of victory.

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