Spin doctors <= A narrower consensus than the 50's and 60's ?

Adam Rose adam at pmel.com
Mon Oct 7 10:15:21 MDT 1996

Jon Flanders writes, re:Statement to Tony Blair
> Adam,
>   Last night I watched a bit of Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference
> on C-Span, followed by the Clinton-Dole debate, which I watched for a
> half-hour or so.

Isn't sticking your fingers down your throat quicker ?
[ Possibly not, I suppose . . . ]

>   I was struck by the Reagan-Clintonesque image Blair projected. This is truly
> an international phenomenon of the television age.
>   Blow-dried Blair offered up sentimental anecdotes, platitudes and paens to
> opponents in the grand Reagan tradition. We have come a long way in bourgeois
> politics from the haggard image of Nixon in the 1960 debate with Kennedy.
>   The irony of all this is, that as the ruling class has become more
> sophisticated in their image-mongering, their audience ratings drop. There is
> virtually no discussion up to now of the presidential campaign on my shop
> floor. Unlike the situtation you describe in England, the rank and file expect
> very little from another four years of Clinton. From the point of view of the
> ruling class, this is one of his sucesses, I suppose.

During the Labour Party conference, there was a Panorama programme on
BBC1 about "spin doctors". They undoubtedly have more influence on
"official" political life than they used to.

A lot of the hatred of Blair is directed at his press officer Pete
Mandelson, who undoubtedly deserves the hatred. But the point the
programme misses, that all the official debate about this misses, is
that the reason image has become so much more important is that there
is so little difference in actual policy.

Although there was a political concensus in Britain from roughly
1945 through to roughly 1977, through the 50's and 60's the economiic
boom meant that there was more freedom of maneouvre to both parties.
This meant that there was some genuine debate within the concensus.

Perhaps the end of the long boom ( and the associated political collapse
of the left which ensued from the collapse of the USSR ) has genuinely
left less room for manoeuvre within the new Thacherite / Reaganite
free market consensus than there was within the mixed economy /
"Butskelite" concensus.

This may apply to the US as well - the US ruling class DID have a real
choice about eg how to deal with the Black resistance - coopt it or
crush it. In the end, they did both. Today, there is no real choice -
they cannot give reforms. So yesterday's copted Black middle class
and the ruling class join forces in crushing the gains of the 60's.

A counter argument to this is of course the splits in both major parties
in Britain around the question of Europe. But again, this is still a
split within the free market consensus, in both the Labour and Tory
parties. And the debate is suppressed in both parties precisely because
the ruling class is split on the issue, and so therefore are both main


Adam Rose


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