Livingstone's response, incidentally, is characteristic and indicative of why he was unfit for public office. He declares: "The fact that the first significant action by Johnson's Tory regime is against the poorest people in the capital is highly significant as is the cowardly way he has made the announcement on bank holiday Sunday without any consultation with the organisations representing the thousands of carers, single parents and others affected."
Livingstone never gave adequate information about the oil deal. It therefore bore the hallmark of a political rather than an economic decision, undertaken with an autocratic regime that a progressive politician ought to have avoided. Livingstone's insistence, moreover, that the task of the Mayor is to "consult" with pressure groups indicates how he sees politics. He ran his administration as a fiefdom within and a lobbyists' playground without. I'm glad he's gone.
I've recommended before the work of Ben Goldacre, who writes the "Bad Science" column in The Guardian. This splendid piece last year about Gillian McKeith, purveyor of nutritional mumbo-jumbo and holder of a non-accredited correspondence-course PhD, is a case in point. Here's another one, from Saturday's paper, about something called the Dore Programme for dyslexia. The issues Ben raises have far wider application than his own medical specialism. Against much Guardian precedent, the comments thread underneath the article is illuminating too.There was a curious piece in The New Statesman earlier this month by Noam Chomsky on the radical ferment of 1968. According to Chomsky:
One of the most interesting reactions to come out of 1968 was in the first publication of the Trilateral Commission, which believed there was a "crisis of democracy" from too much participation of the masses. In the late 1960s, the masses were supposed to be passive, not entering into the public arena and having their voices heard. When they did, it was called an "excess of democracy" and people feared it put too much pressure on the system. The only group that never expressed its opinions too much was the corporate group, because that was the group whose involvement in politics was acceptable.
The Trilateral Commission did not exist in 1968. It was formed in 1973, and the report Chomsky is referring to on the "crisis of democracy" was published in 1975. You can read it here. Written by Samuel Huntington, Michel Crozier and Joji Watanuki, it argues that the demands on democratic government are increasing while the capacity of democratic government is stagnating. This was a widespread theme in writings about the "ungovernability" or "overload" of Western democracies in the 1970s.
The authors of the report do refer briefly to an adversary culture, but this is a minor point. The theoretical roots of this critique had nothing to do with the radical demands of 1968. Mancur Olson's The Logic of Collective Action, 1965, was a pioneering work. It argued that liberal democracies were prone to institutional sclerosis, owing to the role of pressure groups in defending sectional interests. There was a lot to this argument, as well. Until very recently, it was a central issue in German political debate.
I've referred once or twice to the one-member party recently formed as the British People's Alliance, under the leadership of David Lindsay. Mr Lindsay posted a comment on this site demanding that the junta that runs this country put me up as its candidate in London in the next European elections, where I shall be overwhelmed by the British People's Alliance.
The British People's Alliance, as I understand it, favours a military coup to sweep away our decadent political class. It is opposed to abortion, contraception, immigration and the European Union. Several readers have provided interesting further information about the party in my comments threads. I'm indebted particularly to the reader who has alerted me to an interview with Mr Lindsay about the British People's Alliance on a radio programme called Wolverhampton Politics ("political debate and discussion from a Wolverhampton perspective"). It was conducted in January, and you can listen to it here. You should fast-forward 44 minutes into the programme, unless, of course, you have a particular interest in political debate and discussion from a Wolverhampton perspective, in which case you will have much to enjoy beforehand.