Danny Kruger, who was giving evidence to the PASC alongside Lord Glasman, Polly Toynbee and Shaun Bailey, left a very interesting comment on my blog yesterday about the hearing. He suggests I have got the wrong end of the stick and provides some essential context to the comments that Maurice Glasman made about Locality.
I am certainly prepared to accept if I am wrong and have, as Danny says ‘got the wrong end of the stick’. I did reveal in my blog that I was not following the hearing, but rather picking up the reports on twitter from others who were. No one is disputing whether the comments I quoted were said, so the issue appears to be whether or not they were taken out of context. Or perhaps it simply highlights the importance of being aware of how social media is changing the way news travels and the way it is communicated.
Anyway, I wanted to respond to the points Danny makes and return to why I think the wider issues I raised are still valid….
There are four points of Danny’s that I want to address:
1) “The witnesses weren’t grandstanding, trying to hog headlines, or doing anything other than responding to questions – mostly pretty superficial – from MPs”
I wasn’t there and I’ve not watched the hearing, so I am prepared to accept I may have deduced too much from the comments I read coming out of the hearing. However, I would point out that my comments about grandstanding and point scoring were not confined to those giving evidence, but included the MPs on the committee too. You’ve acknowledged that the questions were superficial and that’s disappointing – though I do understand that the Inquiry was only just starting. My request was for some grown up politics and I don’t believe that, even if the witnesses weren’t trying to hog the headlines, there was anything to make me change my mind about this. Our political discourse (and to an extent the not for profit sector) is beset with polarised positioning and tribalism. I am not suggesting we should all move to a position of consensus, but I also think we do a disservice to our beneficiaries to act in such a self interested way. The same day as the PASC hearing, I was listening to Muhammad Yunus talk about opening up the ‘door to selflessness’. I sincerely hope our leaders heed his advice.
2) “Maurice Glasman’s remarks about Locality came at the end of a long and v interesting account of the history of community organising, in which he cast himself and London Citizens in the tradition of Alinsky against the Settlement Houses tradition…He sees Locaity in the Settlement House tradition.”
We obviously didn’t have the context of Maurice’s talk on twitter – though I have heard him use exactly that line before whilst speaking. I think his analysis of the origins of community organising in the US is extremely useful and insightful. However I think he was wrong to extend the criticism of the 1930s US settlement movement to Locality and its membership in 21st Century England. They are very very different – in context and practice. And if Maurice Glasman doesn’t know that, then in my view he should be very careful about making that sort of statement.
3) “Maurice spoke with gentleness throughout, and is surely allowed to complain about the Govt’s choice of provider if he wants to.”
Of course he is, and I would encourage debate and dissention in political discourse. However was he criticising the government for making, in his view, the wrong commissioning decision? Or was he criticising Locality? Lord Glasman of course has a vested interest in one of the unsuccessful bids. Sour grapes?
If you look on the PASC website, you see Lord Glasman listed as “Advisor to Ed Miliband and Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at London Metropolitan University”. I think that makes a difference as he is, in effect, speaking as an advisor to the Opposition (whether he wants to or not). I think it’s inappropriate. Maybe we disagree?
4) “The idea Maurice shouldn’t refer to ‘toffs’ when he’s a Lord (of about 5 minutes standing) – mocking his ermine – this is the son of Dame Hilary Blume talking, right? Doesn’t that make you an hon. or something? Since when did being honoured for services to the community mean you couldn’t attack elitism?”
Ooh, Danny, I know you said you were feeling bad about “having a bash” at me…was it for this one? Low blow! But I forgive you. 🙂
Being a son of a DBE doesn’t afford me any title. Honourable is a title given to the son’s of hereditary peers – as an intelligent and well educated man such as you, surely knows.
I actually don’t have any problem with recognising services to the community – and the honours system (despite some problems) is a good way to do that. I am immensely proud of my mum’s honour for the work she has done for the charity sector. And, to be honest, I also recognise and admire the work that Maurice Glasman has done for the community over many many years.
However, for as long as we have an unelected House of Lords, still with around 100 hereditary peers, I consider it ‘fair game’. Come on, with respect to the many working peers (who have only been there since 1958!), it’s been the bastion of “toffishness” for centuries. And as for the ermine…to be honest I’m personally not a fan of fur. But I suspect that’s probably a minor point!
The main thrust of my blog yesterday was that there was too much pettiness and point scoring in politics and I would like to see more honesty and intelligent debate. I don’t lay the blame for that at Maurice Glasman or any individual, we must take responsibility as a society for this – we get the politicians we deserve. That sort of change may seem monumental and mean reforming Parliament, political parties, the media, education……But you have to start somewhere and in my experience, anywhere will do.