Talk:Daniel Finkelstein

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Before working for the Conservative Party Daniel Finkelstein was Director of the free market think tank the Social Market Foundation for three years.


consider modern British politics. Here all the prizes go to uniformity, the acceptance of collective re-sponsibility, the exclusion of fringe opinions and the squashing of dissent. The ability to read and remember the "line to take" from party headquarters is valued far more highly that creative contributions to the public debate. Recent speeches by Mr Byers and Mr Milburn urging their party to develop a fresh agenda were re-marked upon only because they departed from "party discipline". Their content, such as it was, was ignored.

The whole of British politics is, in other words, a giant conspiracy to reinforce error. The exercise of inde-pendent judgment is rare, the tendency to recycle the conventional wisdom of experts is great. And once an error is made, the unspoken rules say that it must be persisted with, and everyone is required daily to offer their fresh support for yesterday's mistake. It is this, and not the massively overstated problem of sleaze, that is really corroding British political life.[1]

Later this month, The Times's comment editor Daniel Finkelstein, the Sky News political editor Adam Boulton, a top Google executive and others will discuss how the internet will change politics.[2]

Let's face the truth. We have boy scout politics and the cleanest politicians in the world. Most of the time we have trouble even scaring up a proper sex scandal. I remember it being front-page news when the MP for Finchley went to bed with his research assistant and didn't sleep with her.

Certainly, trust in politicians is at a record low. Ask the next person you meet whether they admire MPs and its 100-1 on that they'll say no. Helena Kennedy has been receiving a respectful hearing for her proposal that we replace decision-making by MPs acting as representatives by, er, citizens acting as representatives. As if MPs weren't even worthy of being thought citizens any more. I've lost count of the times I've heard someone argue that the solution to a given problem is to take the politicians out of it and replace them with so-called independent people. But it is not corruption that is to blame for the decline in trust. For all that people think (wrongly) that MPs are on the take, it is not dirty tricks and financial shenanigans that have brought politics low. It is, and I real-ise that this is hard to take, the opposite. The signal that there is something wrong with British politics is that there is so little corruption and too few real scandals.

But there is a price to pay for such an attitude. And it is this price that leads me to say that lack of corrup-tion is a signal that something is wrong in British politics. The price is a stultifying uniformity, a requirement that every maverick like Mitterrand be controlled entirely by the party machine, a centralisation of power on clean machines to keep out the Kennedys, a system in which the crooks are kept out by keeping out every-one. There are no independent campaigns to speak of, and few powerful offices outside Whitehall. A scandal involves someone departing from the party briefing sheet.

I am not for toleration of corruption. Not even of a stolen postage stamp. But as the police limber up to knock on the door at No 10, I hazard this: it's not corruption that's destroying political life, but our unwilling-ness to gamble on freedom.[3]

Eshun had three guests: Lionel Shriver (peppy, honest and engaging as ever, but dressed somewhat dis-concertingly in a majorette's uniform and a pair of black gloves, like a burglar)' Daniel Finkelstein (full of bonhomie and good sense) and Julia Hobsbawm.Ms Hobsbawm was an interesting choice. Her career in PR came to an end last week and, if her performance here was anything to go by, so did her career in television. When attempting to speak, she became tangled in the English language like a scarf in a spoke. She called immigration "a most difficult political potato", she said that during 9/11 "thousands of terrible, dreadful lives were lost"' she even spontaneously made up a new verb: "documdramering". This was surprising given her pedigree - one imagines Hobsbawm pere (the Marxist historian Eric) would have been stricter on linguis-tic precision than most - but there is nothing like a few malapropisms for enlivening a chat-show programme.[4]

One of my central career objectives is to have a law named after me, preferably without having to do any complicated scientific experiments.[5]

IF I fail to make it in my chosen career as an astrologer, then another attractive job may soon be on offer. New regulations will allow smoking in some pubs providing that no one is eating food on the premises. This will require the creation of the Pie Police. I think I would be an ideal recruit. I could move from pub to pub, sampling the fare and pronouncing whether it should be considered food and whether the landlord should be prosecuted for serving something too nourishing. This new role is worth every penny of public money that will be spent on it and I'm delighted that we've decided to go down this route rather than wasting the cash on, say, pensions.[6]

My family's integration into British life has been remarkably rapid. During his career my father was appointed a university pro vice-chancellor, president of a chartered institute and appointed OBE for services to Britain's civil defence. Yet swift though it was, it was also a very deliberate, conscious process. We spoke English exclusively at home (except when my parents discussed birthday presents) and were encouraged strongly to think of ourselves as having loyalty to this country and its laws and customs. I think that this is the least the British people should expect from those who want to settle here. There are many who urge respect for the cultural differences of ethnic groupings, and they are right to do so. But the majority culture also deserves respect.[7]

The British success in carefully crafted pension reform has been reinforced by solid guarantees to workers and retirees. With rising pension incomes and strong returns on private investment, the British reforms have proven to be a good deal for ordinary people. Congress should structure Social Security reform so that, on balance, as many Americans as possible will be better off with reform than without it. n20

n20 Interview with Daniel Finkelstein, director, Conservative Research Department, British Conservative Party, London, March 6, 1997.[8]


  1. The Times (London) April 5, 2006, Wednesday Guess the weight of the ox: then you will see what's wrong with our politics BYLINE: Daniel Finkelstein SECTION: FEATURES; Pg. 19
  2. Sophie Morris Hobsbawm learnsthe lesson of trying to play matchmaker Independent Media Weekly March 5, 2007 First Edition SECTION: MEDIA WEEKLY; Pg. 10
  3. The Times (London) January 24, 2007, Wednesday What British politics needs is more corruption BYLINE: Daniel Finkelstein SECTION: FEATURES; Pg. 17 LENGTH: 1073 words
  4. Independent on Sunday (London) April 16, 2006 Sunday First Edition For Queen, country and Posh and Becks; TELEVISION BYLINE: Hermione Eyre SECTION: FEATURES; Pg. 18 LENGTH: 916 words
  5. December 15, 2004, Wednesday A law that can make my name live for ever BYLINE: Daniel Finkelstein SECTION: Features; 2 LENGTH: 751 words
  6. The Times (London) November 24, 2004, Wednesday Tax that fat BYLINE: Daniel Finkelstein SECTION: Features; Times2; 2
  7. The Times (London) March 4, 2004, Thursday Submerged by a tide of hypocrisy BYLINE: Daniel Finkelstein SECTION: Features; Times2; 3