I have already noted the rotten culture at the heart of Jersey's economy and society this morning, but before anyone get's too smug it's important to note that there is no room for complacency elsewhere. As Gideon Rachman notes in the FT this morning:
I have a nightmare vision for the year 2017: President Trump, President Le Pen, President Putin. Like most nightmares, this one probably won’t come true. But the very fact that Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are running strongly for the American and French presidencies says something disturbing about the health of liberal democracy in the west. In confusing and scary times, voters seem tempted to turn to “strong” nationalistic leaders — western versions of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
And as Nick Pearce, formerly of IPPR and now at Bath University notes in the same paper:
Mr Corbyn has drawn new leftwing activists into the Labour fold. That is the limit of his reach.
Most Conservatives, their party governing alone for the first time in 18 years, look on in glee at Labour’s self-immolation. The more thoughtful discern the vulnerabilities of their own party's ageing, shrivelled membership. The scandal of alleged bullying and abuse in its youth wing, following the suicide of a young activist, has claimed the scalp of a minister, and others may follow. Hedge-fund donors can pay for digital targeting of voters, but they cannot equip you with willing foot soldiers.
You can argue that these analyses are wrong, but at the same time I note that, like Jersey, the UK has a very obvious education problem. The Guardian reports this morning that:
England is a divided nation educationally, with children in the north and Midlands much less likely to attend a good or outstanding secondary school than their peers in the south, according to the chief inspector of schools.
Launching Ofsted’s annual report on the state of the nation’s schools on Tuesday, Sir Michael Wilshaw will describe the divide as “deeply troubling”. More than 400,000 pupils in northern England and the Midlands are being taught in a secondary school that falls below Ofsted’s “good” rating.
Like Jersey people, those of the UK (and France and the US come to that) live in superficially wealthy countries where the narrative portrayed by much of the media is one of success and yet scratch only just below the surface, and on something as basic as education, and all is not well. And we know it is not just education. It is health, benefits, social care, justice and so much more as well.
And it so happens that I think that the overall story is remarkably similar to that in Jersey. We have, as Jersey does, a power elite that has been able to command the power of the state and the media to tell a story that we really do not believe. Just as Jersey does not believe in its financial sector, nor do we. We do not trust its promise of wealth. We do not see the evidence that it is delivering. We do note the privilege it demands.
Increasingly we see ourselves as the victims of this situation. That is hardly surprising. In the UK, as in France and the US, there are politicians willing to play a divide and rule card. In France at least that comes from an extreme party. But here and in the US it is coming from the mainstream political right. Trump is appalling, but is Osborne much better? Has it really in any way been even vaguely appropriate for him to have played the political game of designating the 'outsider', who he directs people to hate, to be those claiming benefits? What else was the 'shirker' narrative all about? Is that much better than the vile output Trump has to offer?
Deep down I think people are rightly repulsed by this. We know they are. They have low regard for politicians. They do not want to be associated with political parties. Many, even those who do not agree with Labour, seem to dislike the way the media is treating a man who is at least trying to do things a bit differently. And they can see that this programme of derision of Jeremy Corbyn is, like all the other narratives, really about maintaining the status quo that is very definitely not working.
Geoff Cook in Jersey says that the finance industry still has a lot of selling to do to the people of that island when it has dominated their economy for about 35 years now. He won't succeed. But nor will the politicians of the UK succeed in selling their false vision.
We may be a wealthy nation, but we do not benefit. We are a divided nation.
We are not all in this together. Many are deeply picked upon in behaviour that can at best be described as economic bullying.
Finance is not the answer to our problems: releasing the potential of people up and down this country is.
Not all answers are to be found in the private sector: we only have to see the stunning success of so many state services to realise that wealth is also created by carers, teaching assistants and so many others who are paid little more than minimum wage.
And the story that we cannot afford things is not believed: if we know we can always find money for bombs we know that there is, after all, a magic money tree however much the power elite deny it. And the truth is that it's not magic, and it's not a tree, but there is money if we want it. The fact that we have almost always run deficits, and grown because of and not despite them, is obvious proof of that.
So why are conventional political parties failing? Largely because right now many - and especially those closest to power - have really not been telling the truth.
And why are extremes attractive? I doubt they are. But they seem to be the only way to kick the supposedly moderate peddlers of profound misinformation and (in some cases) bigotry out of office.
And that's what's really sad about this. Because of the hegemony of middle ground thinking, that says the market is good, the state is bad, only the banks can create money and only they know how to use it and we must all suffer the consequences if they get it wrong, then we end up with extremism.
Why, oh why, can't the middle ground celebrate the mixed economy?
And the ability of human endeavour to be creative whoever owns the enterprise it works for?
Why too can't it say that all people are valuable?
And that maybe, just maybe, it might be appropriate to have bankers (including the Bank of England) under democratic control rather than subject to a rule all of their own?
Is it too much to ask that middle ground politics might base economics on the facts of money creation and tax, and not myth?
And why must that middle ground politics vilify people and in the process deny the obvious truth that unless we have really lost all elements of our humanity we are going to provide for the people of this country, come what may, and pretending we cannot afford to do so is only preparing the ground for solutions that are way beyond the human pale?
Where, in essence, is the moderation needed to be credible in the eyes of populace?
I wish I knew.