by Tobias Phibbs
Friday, 7
May 2021
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11:24

Cummings is right about pointless pundits

Even when they're proven wrong, they act with almost zero accountability
by Tobias Phibbs

As the hot takes swirl around the Twittersphere over today’s elections results, Dominic Cummings tweeted out a warning of his own: don’t listen to the pundits.

On this point, Cummings is surely correct. Even when they’re proven wrong, pundits act with almost zero accountability and this week’s elections will be no different. On days like today, the pundit class will be on full display.

The first thing to notice is that the Pundit is serious and he’s got serious things to tell us — about cut-through, dead cats and ground-game. Sometimes you don’t quite know what he’s talking about, and it never seems to correspond to anything actually happening but it’s all important stuff.

So what have they been saying about the country’s local and national elections? Yesterday, Andrew Adonis, politician turned pundit, said that “today’s elections will come to be seen as a mid-term watershed moment, akin to the 2016 referendum, Black Wednesday in 1992 and the 1981 Warrington by-election.” (You won’t want to miss his new self-published book, either: It’s the Leader, Stupid: Changemakers in Modern Democracies.)

Meanwhile, the centrist pundits who thought Starmer would return Labour to electability (any leader other than Corbyn would be 20 points ahead, of course) charge on regardless, somehow attributing today’s losses to Jeremy Corbyn; those on the Left of the party who referred to the Northern Independence Party as “serious” less than 24 hours ago have gone rather quiet after Thelma Walker managed all of 250 votes.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the pundit’s predictions are right or wrong. Regardless of the results, the pundit is here to helpfully let us know that lessons will have to be learned. Adonis says he has “a lot to say about [the result].” I’m sure. The takes have already been written and if the results confound them then never mind, the pundit will just write some new ones.

Over 50 years ago, Peter Cook wondered whether Britain was in danger of sinking giggling into the sea .The pundit is far too serious to giggle but the seriousness with which he regards things that do not matter contrasts with national silence on those that do. Rates of immigration or competition over rare earth metals and semiconductors will shape our country for decades to come. Real wages are falling, China is building Britain’s infrastructure, and nobody is building Britain’s homes. On these questions the pundit is remarkably quiet.

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daniel Earley
daniel Earley
1 year ago

Does anyone actually pay any attention to anything Adonis has to say anymore?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  daniel Earley

You mean there was a time when anyone did?

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Sadly, there was. Which is why the country will be cursed with the atrocious HS2 for decades to come.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  daniel Earley

Very unfortunate name & a disagreeble manner, a name like Lord Sneer would suit him better

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

If pundit be synonymous with expert then I’m 120% with you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Here in the depths of Arcadia, rumour has it that Cummings was the progenitor of all this Lockdown/Mask nonsense.
An Arts graduate , enthralled by Science, he capitulated to Ferguson & Co without a whimper.

He should now do the ‘decent thing’. but has he the ‘virtus’ as the wonderful Romans would say? Sadly, I think not.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

It’s a living, isn’t it? Got to pay the bills somehow. Pundits are no different to any run of the mill columnist with a mortgage to pay and a cat to feed – all on the churn-it-out-kerching treadmill.
Getting paid to talk bollocks is a fine way to earn a living.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Its strange that some people will take advice from complete strangers. Listeners to a R4 programme were asking which country they could invest hundreds of thousands in buying flats and get a guaranteed profit. Firstly wouldn’t the experts be buying these magic beans-sorry flats themselves & secondly the listeners knew nothing about these countries-had never visited , didn’t speak the language etc but were willing to risk all their money.Its the ‘I have a bridge I can sell you’.syndrome

Charles Brewer
Charles Brewer
1 year ago

There is an interesting article on EuroIntellignce by Wolfgang Münchau which asserts that the pundit’s traditional “left-right” model is entirely outdated, with which I would entirely concur. While Münchau does not actually put forward an alternative, he certainly hints that he leans towards some kind of elitist-populist dichotomy, although he tends (I think rightly at present) to define these by examples rather than by an overarching set of principles.
Cummings is surely correct that the Clinton-Blair triangulation model is either dead or so minimally useful that it is no longer worth considering (except as an example of what-doesn’t-work-any-more). This relied on there being a roughly flat distribution where “fairly extreme on one side plus a large chunk of the middle” was what was needed. In Blair’s case this was an amalgam of the Dennis Skinner / Corbyn-Abbott extremes plus a demographic extending to pro-NHS Tories.
Now, however, we have a tri-polar environment where there are the populists – an oddly assorted bunch containing the likes of Trump, Farage, Johnson, Salvini and the memory of Thatcher and Reagan, the elitists Starmer, Blair, Clinton (either or both) Macron, Barnier, and third group, usually consisting of a gang of puritanical, violent, nihilistic extremists such as Thunberg, Corbyn, Sanders, BLM and XR, sometimes with the assistance of “useful idiot” real terrorists. The last two of these often form a sort of toxic amalgam.
Wherever real elections have taken place, the elitist-extremist side has been defeated, but where there is no real judicial oversight – as in the USA at present – the latter is able to rig elections either by its control of the media (which failed in the UK over Brexit and the 2019 elections) or by direct rigging, and then uses dictatorial executive power to fix institutions so that the “wrong” result can never happen again.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Brewer

As a very old man I have learned that pundits/experts are never to be trusted, however Wolfgang often hits the nail on the head. I suspect it is by the application of common sense and learning from experience that his conclusions usually ring true. Adonis is a miserable figure and one of Brexit’s minor successes was proving his bulls**t totally wrong.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stanley Beardshall
Ted Brennan
Ted Brennan
1 year ago

I recall Bobby Robson saying ‘the (football) pundit’s team can never loose, because it never plays’…I’ve always thought the same applies to political punditry.