Friday, 16 May 2008


Ye again as we do our concerns we watch as some overwhelming events take place in the world. What is soon apparent is that as well as the natural disasters and huge numbers of suffering people that just need dealing with, the human causal side is soon apparent.

Burma represents again this sorry story of power and control where you get the impression that the junta in control puts first its control and probably sees an advantage in a weak and crippled population. If this is so, then it is indeed a crime and world powers ought to be more active in what they come together to do. The principle of national sovereignty seems to come higher than stark human need and suffering, but even if that was busted the practicality of aid and distribution is limited. The Buddhist monks may become more active in support and distribution, but they could again become oppressed and no doubt many remain in prison now.

The Chinese situation is more complex because a more open media law came into effect on May 1st and this is why so many images are being seen of this tragedy, but there is news of "rumour mongers" being taken away. There is no way, however, that the anger can just be dispersed without something happening in response. The anger is about capitalistic cowboy builders, and corruption to officials, that allowed shoddy buildings to go up in disaster areas when some buildings - e.g. government buildings - stayed up. This comes about because the Chinese State is a one party state and to get somewhere the independent trader has to slip some money to the local boss here and there to get the all important new buildings up. The dams may be built to the necessity of earthquakes, it's just that they did not build the dams to the biggest shocks that could be predicted. They built them on a gamble and so now some show cracks.

The road to the Olympics seems torturous, and one wonders if it is just going to be one big jamboree after all this. Whether it is the issue around Tibet, and other minorities, or the issue about shoddy buildings and dams at too low a specification (as well as the environmental argument whether they should be there in such numbers at all), or the issue about propping up awful regimes in the quest for raw materials, it all comes down to the necessity for a capitalistic government to be accountable. The alternative is the Chinese authorities, after the Olympics, banging the lid down hard, Burma style, and even forgoing some of the development of the country.

No doubt the regime will start sacking people and putting on show trials for corruption and negligence, as a sort of valve-escape display, but people in China aren't fools. What they want is the ability, themselves, to chuck people out of office.

Here we have a Prime Minister who is a workaholic but who is being shaped up for voters to chuck him out. He has done nothing that compares with any of the above, of course. He works for the electorate, and indeed is a workaholic. People wonder what is wrong with Gordon Brown, but I think the answer is reasonably simple. He is a member of a management team. He is one of those who thinks a lot, researches, comes up with recommendations and presents. His budgets were formed over time. Prime Ministership is a matter of command, of seeing what is coming and doing something about it before it happens, or the ability to show footwork to have a teflon quality when it happens. A Prime Minister sets the direction and is the communicator. This happens in cabinet, and it happens in front of the media. Gordon Brown, when he formed his government, surrounded himself with political minnows in cabinet, which simply took away risk from within. This has led to the Labour Party in parliament as a whole being harder to manage. Surrounding yourself with no potential opposition (though presumably each will grow into office) does not, however, turn yourself into a number one person as opposed to a number team person.

Gordon Brown remains detail man, with arms into every part of government, and so his staff members really are staff members. When he showed presentation, it was at the level of detail. He did this at his last budget: a cut in two pence on the basic rate that had Cameron floored in response. By the time it got to the Liberal Democrat response, the effect of dropping the 10p rate was realised. The political show had lasted five minutes. Some Labour MPs have been slow to see the effect this has had on political cynicism. Had Tony Blair been in power, he would have used his communication skills to see it off, and get a reluctant Chancellor to do some sort of presentational repair next time. Now the staff member as number one, but hardly a number one type manager, Gordon Brown has been found out, and the restless troops outside his pathetic Cabinet have been given something to focus upon, as indeed the electorate noticed and told them when their tax went up, meaning less money for the petrol and food price rises.

When this happens and the government seems badly run, the electorate needs its power to shape up and act. This is the situation in China, where people are not stupid, indeed rather well educated, but the government is only accountable to itself and with only imprecise communication trails into and from the population as a whole - an angry population. The Burmese authorities, however, simply choose more repression.

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