So the Labour Civil War Re-Enactment Society is back.
A few square miles of central London ring to salvos of lovingly preserved antique emails. Barbed tweets fly - or whatever tweets do - through the autumn air. Blairites stand fast against Brownites. The Battle of the Footnotes is being refought.
You could care less, but it would take a bit of effort. Damian McBride, the former forever-spinning "special adviser" to Gordon Brown, has a book to sell. Forced to resign in 2009 after being caught plotting to fabricate tales about Tories, this individual adds to the sum of human knowledge by explaining, yet again, that Blair and Brown hated one another as much as they detested opponents.
Poor McBride, presumably with a gun at his head, was "sucked in like a concubine at a Roman orgy" to a world of "vanity, duplicity, greed, hypocrisy and cruelty". To serve his master - for the record, an unwitting master - the spinner spread tales of rivals, colleagues among them, involved in "drug use, spousal abuse, alcoholism and extra-marital affairs". All this to ensure that Brown succeeded Blair.
On cue, news comes from the opposing trenches that the alarmingly named Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, a former Downing Street "director of strategic communications", has come across old emails documenting the Blair counter-offensive. It too was as ruthless as it was petty. In other words, one architect of new Labour was deploying high-priced gossips, generally at public expense, to frustrate the other's gossips. Edifying is not the word you are looking for.
One thought arising from all of this is simple. Didn't those involved have anything better to do? You know: a couple of stupid wars to excuse, noticing what the bankers were up to, running the country? The impression left by these tales, far from the first to seep from the septic tank, is of a pair of egomaniacs for whom the day job was a diversion.
But then there's a second thought. Outside the Westminster bubble, who cares? None of these machinations, these burblings from the sewer, these soap opera plots, had anything much to do with the government of Britain, or with the lives of those being governed. Westminster is truly a hermetically sealed bubble. Much of the failure of politics, and public apathy towards the game, can be explained by the fact.
Westminster is not unique. Holyrood, too, has its modest bubble. The synthetic existence called political life somehow requires these strange, self-contained worlds, in part because - ironically enough - it is what the electorate expects of a mistrusted breed. But if we censure our representatives for being out of touch, we haven't said the half of it. Visit a parliament or a party conference and you enter a parallel universe.
McBride's revelations are already being reported as "bad news" for Ed Miliband on the bush telegraph of the London media. Worse news than austerity, then? Worse news than falling living standards for millions of people? Worse news than the strange absence of Labour policies with which to combat the coalition? You can lay money, nevertheless, that when Team Miliband gather in Brighton this weekend they will be fixated on McBride and his book.
This is, by any definition, dysfunctional behaviour. Self-evidently, its first transgression is to define a political career as a point-scoring exercise, its second to view this existence as a self-justifying end in itself. The result is a political class with a dim knowledge of society and little interest in what goes on within it. An elementary example: these are people who do not pause to wonder why anyone would need a focus group to understand common opinion.
You could excuse it, up to a point, with one of modernity's ironies. We are better connected than we have ever been yet we struggle, each of us, to connect. Perhaps we mistake the means of communication for communication itself. The political types have all the technology anyone could wish for, yet they might as well be conducting the business of government in a very small playground.
The excuse disappears when you realise that daily reality is one of the things they don't "get". Within the bubble, where careers thrive or die thanks to gossip, bullying and the 24-hour news cycle, the real world counts almost as a nuisance. What matters more? What people in Falkirk actually think about Labour and the unions, or the partisan soundbite someone managed to plant on the Today programme?
It is plain enough already that the everyday life of coalition folk is just as gruesome as anything seen under Labour. It is equally clear that ministers could no more find a bus stop than tell what might be being said there. But in a wired world caught in a paradox, one in which community is fading in the face of virtual living, the failure of politicians to connect has become stark.
Some of them could only find Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles with satellite mapping. The chatter within the political bubbles has probably drowned out the news from communities insisting on their democratic right to communication, connection and involvement. But within the virtual archipelago of modern Britain the islands are "remote" - unless you happen to live there - and easy to dismiss. Seen from London or Edinburgh, they barely exist.
For all that, the "Our Islands, Our Future" campaign is important. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles make precise claims on the notion of representative democracy, especially the devolved variety. As we reported yesterday, they want a voice in Brussels. They want a recognition by government, Scottish or British, that remoteness and insularity are nothing less than "issues of equality". I look forward to hearing the politician in Edinburgh or London who dares refuse them.
But there is a wider point. Amid all the wonders of communications technology, the component parts of Britain stand revealed as bubbles of insularity. Even now, I can sense people in the Borders listening to the "Our Islands, Our Future" arguments and recognising a lot of what is being said. They use the same language in Northumberland, and across of the north of England, when the subject of "London", the most dominant island of all, comes up.
Mobile phones, internet connections and the rest are everywhere. People tweet, text or email (so they tell me) relentlessly. Yet the persistent complaint is over the failure to connect, above all of the failure of governments to connect with those who foot the bills and do the voting. It might be an unsuspected effect of technology. It might be because our attitudes towards them render all politicians weird in the end. But certain obligations apply.
Damian McBride is keen to assure us that Gordon Brown knew nothing about the thuggish activities conducted in his name. No doubt that was the case. For what purpose, then, did Mr Brown have Mr McBride on the public payroll?
The latter's supposed speciality was "communications". You can fairly say he has told the rest of us a good deal about how the world looks from within the bubble. It turns out to be a distant land of no interest and less importance. But slowly, surely, it is drifting away from the old centres of power.
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