Monday, December 04, 2006

Power

What is the mechanism that causes politicians to change their minds once they gain power?

The Spanish Socialist party under Filipe González campaigned against Spain's membership of NATO, and promised a referendum if they were elected. Once in power they decided that NATO membership was a Good Thing. When the referendum was held (after a long delay) González campaigned for Spain to remain in NATO. [sources: CountryStudies, CIA World Factbook]

When in opposition, Tony Blair campaigned against identity cards. "Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local community." [source: New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country, via Daily Telegraph via FishNChipPapers] He has now decided that identity cards are a Good Thing.

My faith in the political process has been permanently corrupted by watching Yes Minister. I have a mental image of Sir Humphrey Appleby (or his Spanish equivalent) whispering hidden facts and complicated arguments into the newly elected Prime Minister's ear.

What was González told, and by whom, that made him change his mind about NATO? And does Tony Blair listen to anybody?

By the way, I wonder what Mr Google will make of the rare and quite accidental juxtaposition of the two words "power" and "corrupt".

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