We used to have something of a democratic process in the United Kingdom. There were left wingers and right wingers. There was the Tory party which was a bit to the left of New Labour and the there was the Labour party which was to left of anything you can now dream of. Each party had their mavericks who expressed views that were two standard deviations more extreme than their party's mean. There was genuine debate in parliament. A full range of views was aired. We had a vibrant press. You could easily find newspapers with a very left wing perspective and newspapers with a very right wing perspective. But many of those differences are now much more blurred. The main political parties no longer look to separate themselves with clear blue water. Instead, like the coxes in the boat race, they fight for the middle way. Mavericks are no longer admitted to the exclusive club at Westminster. To become a parliamentary candidate for a major party the first prerequisite is to be prepared to toe the party line. If you have the misfortune to meet any of these colourless people you will find it hard even to know which foot they kick with.
All this is bad. Consensus may sound good but it's dangerous if it is just a consequence of being given the same hymn sheet to sing from. For too long fundamental wrongs about the way we
have been heading have gone unquestioned. The banking catastrophe is just one example. Why were no questions asked about that? Was it really that people were unable see the evils of what was going on? Or was it that they had no way to blow the whistle?
If there is one group that is mostly to blame it is the journalists. What, for example, have they really done to flag up the problems of the misdirection of the health service? How often have they picked up stories spoon fed to them by the bloggers? The word 'never' springs to mind.
The journalists do have some insight. Here's Nick Cohen:
... those who ought to have shouted from the rooftops about patients begging for help from excrement-stained beds bit their tongues. Their dereliction of duty is all the stranger because, while Labour did not regulate the City, it sent an army of quangocrats to monitor the NHS and helped staff raise urgent concerns by providing statutory protection for whistleblowers.
For all that apparent encouragement, whistles were not blown by doctors or nurses in Stafford. Instead of independent professionals with the confidence to defend the public interest, the Healthcare Commission described sullen staff, bullied by managers and neglectful of patients. Doctors told its investigators that they had been "proletarianised": turned from professionals with their own codes and standards into employees who must obey.
And here is a telling paragraph:
Suppose whistleblowers were to turn to the press. They would find a cowed Fourth Estate, which is being battered by the recession, and a judiciary which does not believe in freedom of publication. (Source)
Of course this does not make sense. The recession is no reason not to publish a good story. And it can't really be the judiciary blocking the truth. So why has the press repeatedly failed to relay what the workplace bloggers have been saying for 4-5 years until, that is, the cat is already out of the bag?