From this week's Spectator
Tony Blairs guru spells out his terrifying vision for the future of democracy
At the heart of Downing Street, a team of highly talented technocrats is taking over the role of Cabinet ministers.The real foreign secretary is not really bemused, bewildered Jack Straw; it is the new foreign affairs adviser David Manning. Nobody thinks that the driving force behind Tony Blair's education reforms is the timid Cabinet minister Estelle Morris. It has been Andrew Adonis in the policy unit.
One can go through practically the whole of the Cabinet in this way. The Cabinet, and Parliament too, now fit Bagehot's description of the monarchy: they are formal and ornamental' parts of the British constitution. Gordon Brown's Treasury is the isolated example of an independent departmental fiefdom, hence the murderous antagonism against Downing Street. It has become fashionable to call the Blairite system of government presidential', but the analogy with the United States of America only half works. In the United States the powers of the president were carefully circumscribed by the founding fathers. For the most part, the president must cope with a hostile Senate and House of Representatives.
No such constraint disables a New Labour prime minister. For if Cabinet has been emasculated, this is still more true of Parliament. Stand in the Members' Lobby at the entrance to the Commons chamber these days, as I still try to do from time to time, and that once-bustling thoroughfare is an empty, dead place, inhabited by ghosts. Labour MPs are encouraged to represent Tony Blair in their constituencies, not their constituents in Parliament.
Rather than govern through Parliament, New Labour is aiming at a direct, unmediated relationship with the British voters. Philip Gould's participatory democracy' comes, like all New Labour's political ideas, direct from America, if two years late, and has already been patented by Dick Morris, Bill Clinton's grim pollster, in his book The New Machiavelli. It involves making use of new technology - the Internet, modern marketing techniques, text-messaging - to make contact with the voter. Philip Gould's participatory democracy really boils down to direct democracy, an ugly populism and a form of mob rule.
The Prime Minister - just look at the way he has ducked the chance to create an elected House of Lords - has chosen to rule through a narrow, technocratic elite which is invisible to the voters. This new ruling class claims to govern in the name of the people, and there is no reason to doubt that this assertion is in part sincere. But the new elite, like all elites, is contemptuous and distrustful of the voters. It refuses to deal with the voter straight, and seeks to manipulate him instead, through the artifice of focus-groups and a corrupting alliance with the tabloid press. Tony Blair and his allies are engaged in a new and frightening political experiment which has radically reordered the relationship between governor and governed: one day it will go horribly wrong.