Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Way We Were

"Substantial and sustained progress across the economy and public sector is breaking down barriers to essential opportunities for all, according to the 2005 Strategic Audit from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. " The report puts the facts of the UK’s performance in the public domain in a clear and coherent way," said David Miliband, Minister for the Cabinet Office. "Britain has never had a better chance to meet the challenges of the modern world. Thanks to the foundations laid since 1997, we are making prosperity, security and opportunity realistic goals for the British people."

Cabinet Office Press Release 24 February 2005

This was cobblers but in the run-up to the May election that year the credit bubble was being inflated to produce a general feel-good factor. Nobody wanted to hear that their house was not worth what they hoped, or that a degree in a so-so subject might not be worth £20k. Still, there was unease growing; the Iraq war had been on for two years and the party was shrinking in popularity. Labour won in May 2005 because the public still fancied Tony Blair more than the alternatives.

In September 2005 Mr Wolfgang was manhandled out of the Labour Party Conference and threatened under the Terrorism Act. The mask slipped and for a moment everyone saw the face beneath. At that point every Labour Party member should have torn up their party card and stuffed them up Jack Straw's behind, where he should already have shoved his own, signalling to the wider electorate that they at least had seen the light. They did not; like David Miliband they sincerely wanted to believe that the con was true, assuming that he did believe it and was not telling lies.

Five years later David Miliband is the favourite to win the leadership of the party - not that it matters - but he is still subject to the same delusions. "I think I can turn dreams into reality" he assured the Times, which is a forgivable turn of phrase in a young hopeful on a talent show trying to express the virtue in aspirations and getting the words muddled. In a politician taking over a collapsing party, it's unrealistic guff.

There is a difference between giving people hope and leadership or merely talking out of your arse. The difference lies in whether the person has appreciated the underlying reality of a situation. That's not easy; evidence can be interpreted about the world in several ways and it is possible to be either over-optimistic or pessimistic.

It is also observed often enough that the optimists tend to come out of things better in terms of health and property, so it is rational for Miliband to be f-wittedly cheery simply because talking out of your arse pays off more often than can reasonably be predicted.

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