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Friday, 1 July 2016

PR as public relations in politics and the selling of jobcentre-funded training in the Tony Blair era

In a blog post 'On the Lost Art of Intellectual Honesty', Craig Murray states:
.... One of the arguments the Blairites use against Corbyn is that he had the temerity to employ nuance and intellectual honesty in discussing the EU. Intellectual honesty is certainly not something Tony Blair ever employed.Politics has become a branch of PR. It is just about selling. The party, candidate or policy you are selling must be portrayed as the absolute epitome of excellence, with no flaws whatsoever. Political discourse has therefore become juvenile. It is about expensively dressed, well groomed salesmen with perfect teeth. Thought is positively frowned upon.(1)
I especially concur with Murray's conclusions about politics becoming a branch of PR. It goes back to a song I first heard and read the background to in about 1973 on a Joe McDonald (ex-Country Joe & The Fish at a time when he just wanted to be known as ‘Joe McDonald’) live album, 'Tricky Dickey'(2)

The song is based on the New York Times best seller by Joe McGinniss, The Selling of the President.(3) The song is especially good at highlighting how PR focuses on ‘solutions’ without particularly investigating the kind of juvenile political discourse that has preceded the current situation.
And I would argue that the transition of Bill Gates from ‘software developer’ to 'global philanthro-captialist' has been marked by manipulation of contract law, business acumen and substantial PR.(4)

Window 95 and 'welfare to work' schemes with government-funded training

When Windows 95 emerged on the scenes from 1995, for example, it became the ‘standard platform’ for desktop computing in the conventional office world; and government-funded computer skills training schemes became a means for ‘training companies’ then focused on that as a ‘welfare to work’ avenue.

Some of those companies were better than others in terms of my own experience of ‘user-outcomes’, yet the worst tended to go in for over-subscription at the expense of under-provision. Four class loads of trainees in the latter were whisked through one training room in a day, maximising the amount of profit and minimising ‘user-friendly access to equipment’. In my experience, the better companies had the disadvantage that the Training & Enterprise Councils ruled against trainees — even with learning difficulties — returning to them. I was told patronisingly that they would not send me back to a training company that I was satisfied with for consolidation in the same kind and level of training. “We don’t want you to become institutionalised,” the Focus TEC for Central London told me when I asked for help in getting Level 1 training in Microsoft Office beyond word processing.
One of the shoddier standard companies tended to shunt trainees for half the day of a 5-day week into ‘open learning’ that was supposed to be devoted to ‘jobsearch’. We were told by Head of Jobsearch to submit photocopies of our CV for each job, and to do a minimum of 16 job applications per week, recorded in a ‘jobsearch portfolio’ to be submitted each week. I got told off for “not devoting enough time for job search.” In fact after spending most of the week skimping what spare Personal Computer access I could get at that company in customising my CV to the job application in hand. I had also spent a whole weekend perfecting the required handwritten letter, making six drafts before sending off my application. Crucially in terms of results though, that one written job application got me an interview; most other ‘trainees’ had no interviews to record. That was in 1998.
By June 2000, a home PC bought for by my mum on the advice of my earlier, excellent Information Communications Technology trainer who had helped me achieve my NVQ Level 1 about 5 months after the initial, funded training, helped me acquire the ‘underpinning knowledge’ to pass the entry test for a Web Development training course with a ‘Positive About Disabled People’ and ‘Investor in People’ award winning charity in SE London. Yet Blairite politics reared its ugly head when I challenged their administrator over the extent of the curriculum vs the six-week duration and no guarantee of a work placement. “I agree with you,” she told me; but the Government has told us to halve the length of training so as to double the amount of throughput.”
In September 2000, having decided to turn down the offer of a place on that course, I was one of several disgruntled ex-jobcentre funded trainees to contact the then BBC2 Working Lunch programme following Immigration Minister Barbara Roache MP’s speech to Labour Party Autumn Conference announcing ‘special green card status’ for people with special skills from abroad.

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

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