Social politics and political social work


Richard Axelby and I have a book out today about international aid and development. We try to put across how aid looks from the viewpoint of those receiving it in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The choices made about who gets aid and how it is given are political, but bureaucracies tend to present them as if they are guided by social problems and economic and technological solutions. The politics is kept hidden. Greater honesty about the politics of aid would increase effectiveness, we argue. For more.


Conversely, the representation of politics at Westminster obscures the social aspects. The work of British MPs is seen as all political – about interest, conflict, division, and coalition – while the emotion, theatre and relationships that give politics its form and substance are taken for granted or deemed insignificant.  Take the example of keeping people on side. Party loyalty is influenced but not sustained by self-interest; it takes the social bonanza of party conferences, informal chats with the leader or a double scotch from a whip to keep MPs on side. Such conversations bind people. The Lib Dems manage to make a surprisingly cohesive party, despite the compromises of being the smaller coalition partner, partly because they are  small enough to consult all MPs on important issues, which makes people feel included and maintains the kind of relationships that inspire loyalty.

What's in a name?



As Big Ben finished tolling 3 pm yesterday, the Speaker began an understated ceremony to rename the Clock Tower. Calling it Elizabeth Tower celebrates the Queen’s Jubilee.  It does not mean we have to abandon the name for the bell, Tobias Ellwood, the MP who originally proposed the change, reassured us. Paul Flynn, however, tweeted: @Paulflynnmp “Act of profound futility in 're-naming' of Big Ben. Could the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal or Empire State Building be re-named? Big Benn better.” And another MP joked “so its Vic and Liz now is it?”, referring to Victoria Tower at the other end of the Palace. Names have social and political significance.


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