Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Michael Howard, Society Guardian, and public stupidity

The lovable conservative (it says here), Michael Howard, has placed a full-page ad in the Guardian's Society supplement. He's apparently looking for real live public sector workers to contribute to his search for "waste and bureaucracy", led by banker David James. We've dealt with the Bureaucracy Myth quite frequently here - the belief that there is always a huge quantity of money marked WASTE in the budget that could be magicked up and parcelled out as tax cuts without any cost to society as long as you vote for me - and this is of course just another example. Why, for example, is a financier with a reputation as an insolvency expert in charge? Wouldn't someone with an operational business background be better? A management accountant perhaps? This is where the myth kicks in, lads. Mr. James was hired by government to sell the Dome, and Michael Howard (despite his membership of the cabinet that invented it) wants to create an association between the public sector and the dome, having done a good propaganda job on it in his first trip in the shadow cabinet.

The interest, though, is that the Guardian's Society supplement is an obsession with the Right. For non-initiates of British newspaper politics, this supplement which appears every Wednesday is meant to cover the world of the state sector and carries more public job ads than any other paper. The Right like to do things like measuring it and declaring that "there are more non-jobs now than ever before". They thunder that it is a deliberate attempt to ensure people "who think a certain way" are employed. (The Daily Mail: "the paper that is the bible of statism, welfarism and every other ism involving spending taxpayers' money". Who would want welfare employees who didn't believe in welfare?)

The true reason why the Rightist press are obsessed is of course brutally financial. Newspaper advertising managers are a hard and non-ideological breed and any buyer will do. Those public sector vacancy adverts are a damn good earner - this is why columnists like Richard Littlejohn call the paper a nationalised industry. Speaking of that particular wealthy propagandist - the man who, they say, earns a million a year for his gay-bashing rants - he never seems to notice the masses of adverts for ultra-high interest loans pitched at the poor and already debt-ridden that fill most of the Sun. Funny that. Or should that be the "loan-shark controlled" Sun? Whatever. Business managers at papers like the Telegraph, now under the million mark and losing ads fast, would love to muscle in on lucrative Grauniad territory - it is pure mafioso stuff. After all, why would - say - a teacher in Harlesden or Manningham or Rossington who was angling for a promotion even consider reading a paper that, day after day, year after year, pours forth tens of thousands of words of op-ed loathing, denigration and abuse on the heads of teachers? Why would a social worker in Bransholme looking for a change from trying to stop the kiddies burning the old codger next door's house down and then pelting the fire brigade with broken bottles "because there was nothing to do" even stand near a newspaper that regularly claims that he or she is worse than a paedophile? The answer is obvious - the business managers and the editorial ideologues are on a collision course.

It's very amusing, against this background, that Mickey-H has decided to subsidise the Guardian - almost as funny as the Adam Smith Institute getting most of its money from the State.

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