One puzzling thing about Craig Kelly (whom I was highlighting yesterday) is that here is a politician who doesn’t represent at least some of the people in his Australian parliamentary constituency. He actually hates quite a few of them. And he doesn’t mind saying so.
What kind of politician is it who hates a great many of his constituents? Surely politics is very much a business of trying to win as many votes as possible, and therefore appealing to as many people as possible? Surely you don’t want to alienate anybody?
But maybe politics doesn’t work that way any more. Increasingly these days, more or less everywhere, politicians are interchangeable with each other. They are simply a bunch of people (in the UK, about 650 people) who get elected to enact laws in parliament. They will all nominally belong to one party or other – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green, etc – but they will quite often change their party allegiance on the spur of the moment. So, for example, Douglas Carswell changed from Conservative to UKIP. And in the USA there are RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – who will not behave like Republicans at all once elected.
And organisations like ASH (and not just ASH but any number of others) spend a great deal of their time lobbying these 650 politicians. They wine them and dine them, even send them on holidays. These lobbyists seem to act together to shape the climate of opinion in parliament and in the mainstream media that reports on parliament. It’s well worth reading Deborah Arnott describing in Smoke And Mirrors how it’s done.
It makes perfect sense for lobbyists to do this. No need to change public perception: all you need do is to change the perception of a mere 650 people who inhabit one single building in London. And you do it by creating an artificial world in which all the people around them are antismoking, environmentally conscious, global warming alarmists who are in favour of gay marriage, transgender restrooms, and Wahhabi Islam. MPs in parliament are probably the most highly propagandised people in the country. It may even be that the lobbying organisations surrounding them have come to agreements with each other, so that there is a separate “lobbyists’ parliament” where these agreements are worked out, so that they all sing from the same hymn sheet. And it’s a hymn sheet which is increasingly at odds with what Joe Public thinks.
In the USA it’s called The Swamp, and Donald Trump was elected on a promise to Drain The Swamp, and restrict the power of lobbyist groups in influencing legislation. It remains very much open to question whether he has made any progress at all in this respect. Some people think that he has been sucked into the swamp. And in the case of the President of the United States, instead of 650 people whose opinions must be shaped, there is just one. And a lot of US politics right now seems to be all about who is going to be the opinion-shaping advisors who surround Donald Trump. It’s probably much easier to control the opinions of one man, simply by feeding him selective information, than it is to influence 650 (or however many people there are in the Senate and House).
The mainstream media also have a large part in shaping opinion in parliament, because they are the mirror in which politicians see themselves. And so it’s natural that the lobby groups are as influential in the MSM (e.g. the BBC) as they are in the legislature. In fact, the principal role of the MSM may not be so much to shape public opinion as to shape opinion of the few elected members inside the legislature. MPs and Senators and Congressmen all live inside a lobbyist media bubble.
And it may not matter who gets elected to the legislature, because once they have entered that bubble, their opinions will rapidly come to be shaped just like pebbles in a stream, having the rough individual edges worn off them, and turned into nicely rounded and easily-compliant yes-men. So within a year or two of entering parliament, and learned the ropes, they’ll be something completely different from what they were when they first came in. They’ll have become Representatives In Name Only.
One consequence of this process is that the climate of opinion inside the legislature begins to diverge from public opinion outside it – because the general public are not as highly propagandised as their representatives inside the legislature. And so politicians – of all parties – lose public esteem. They are increasingly felt to not represent the voters. And this is because they actually don’t. They have become the captives of lobby groups, and are doing their bidding instead of that of the voters.
Craig Kelly, as an MP in the Australian parliament, which has only 150 members, may be an example a complete captive politician. He’s been an MP for seven years, so there’s been plenty of time. It’s probably much easier to shape the opinions of 150 people than 650 people. And that may be why the Australian government is so politically correct, and why Kelly is an antismoking zealot. There are only 120 MPs in the New Zealand parliament. And by all accounts New Zealand is correspondingly more politically correct. It’s easier to subvert small parliaments than large ones. Or it can be done more quickly.
Craig Kelly is now almost an anti-politician. He can openly express his hatred and contempt for large numbers of the constituents he supposedly represents – the smokers – whose lives he wants to make horrible for them. He almost certainly has hatred and contempt for all his constituents. But it won’t matter if he doesn’t get re-elected when his constituents discover this, because whoever succeeds him will become identical to him once he has in turn been “processed”. It won’t matter if the new elected member is a member of the Tea Party, or UKIP, or AfD: all are soon converted into compliant politicians who can be relied upon to do the lobbyists’ bidding.
I’ve sketched out here a rather dystopian vision of the state of contemporary politics in the Western world. It’s one of rule by special interest groups. The public have been locked out. The representatives who are supposed to speak for them are bribed, blackmailed, browbeaten, and kept in an artificial environment in which opinions are very tightly controlled. I can’t see any other explanation for the growing divergence of opinion between legislatures and electorates except that they inhabit very different worlds.
In the extreme, legislatures everywhere will be entirely filled with “representatives” who openly hate all the people who elected them, and work to “make life horrible” for all of them.
One solution – perhaps the only solution – might be to throw out every single elected member of the existing legislatures, and replace them with a new membership whose very first act, before they can be “processed”, will be to stop the influence of lobby organisations, so that the opinion in the legislature once again reflects the opinion of the people.