Thursday, 6 May 2010

Save Politicians from Dole Queue

General Election Day. Politicians have been trying to convince us this is a grave day of decision for most of the populace, who, by and large, seem to feel it isn’t, really. It’s a matter of articulating distinctive selling points against the backdrop of a large public narrative, fuelled by expenses scandals and media cynicism, that says “they’re all the same.”

This is especially hard to do with a voting system which, as the Electoral Reform Society points out it, produces 600,000 players and an audience of 25,000,000. 600,000 people happen to live in marginal seats, so they get a real election, complete with politicians who take them serously, whilst the other 25 million of us, merely watch the floats go by. 385 seats are a done deal before the show begins. The only political animal 95% of us can aspire to be is a sheep:

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see that, however exciting this may all be for the lucky 600,000, the other 25 million shuffle in their seats.

All politicans agree people ought to get out and vote, and profess dismay at the way turnout has collapsed over the past twenty years and among the young. If they mean what they say, an alien inquirer might wonder, why not do the obvious and bring the disenfranchised 25 million onto the stage? It’s not rocket science.

Or perhaps it is
  1. Changing the voting system means turkeys voting for Christmas. Why would they? The present system suits the political nomenklatura, because it creates a landscape they can manage without much reference to ordinary people. So we have a burgeoning professional political class that squashes its personal discretion and conviction in order to keep on message. It’s the price of power. Anyway, it would be a fearful bore and rather expensive to engage with 44 million. It’s as much as they can do to talk to 600,000.

  2. Furthermore the present system means politicans sometimes lose, but it’s worth sticking with the game because only by doing so can you win it. And when your turn comes, Bingo! you can live for five years in bright sunlit uplands where you don’t have to listen to or take other politicians seriously, let alone the public.

  3. This leads to rather unresponsive government. To give just one example someone mentioned to me this week, against the clear opposition of 60% of the population you can start an illegal war that kills half a million innocent civilians. Legitimacy is a vague, slippery concept. It won’t lose you an election.

Meanwhile, one thing that has well and truly got our daughter Steph’s goat is the Sun’s take on the election — especially one story yesterday that showed 16 Page Three models pleading “Save these girls from Dole Queue.” This did not sound like the kind of thing a nice little bishop should be scanning, but in the interests of political esearch, and finding out what the best selling newspaper in Britain has to say for itself, I pressed on.

I am a doctor.

SIXTEEN Page 3 Girls in all their glory represent the very image of freedom in this country. But if Labour or the Lib Dems win the election, this could be the last time they are allowed to pose together.

Scary stuff. One of the girls, Poppy, explains:
The basis of Lockean thought is his theory of the Contract of Government, under which all political power is a trust for the benefit of the people. His thinking underpins our ideas of national identity and society
Poppy’s words call into serious question Locke’s observation (in the Essay concerning human understanding) “that in bare naked perception the mind is, for the most part, only passive.” If Poppy does end up in the dole queue, it won’t be long before a University Philosphy Department snaps her up. Lecturers get the kind of regular salaries that will enable her to buy herself some nice clothes, including, perhaps, some underwear. So what’s the Sun trying to say to us? “You don’t have to be a Dirty Old Man to vote Tory, but it helps?” Now that is off message...


Erika Baker said...

The problem is that politicians lose too, because the increasing apathy and cynicism erodes everything they work for. What matters in a democracy is that the people can effect bloodless change of government, and Britain can do that now. Making the vote of the majority count will not substantially change this, the odds for politicians remain largely the same, leaving aside the initial wobbles of reform (I guess – because I assume that, statistically, the 600 000 are already a fair reflection of the population as a whole?). But it would help to make more people feel they have a stake in politics.

Please do keep us updated on the main developments in the Sun. It saves us from having to read it for ourselves and I really appreciate your self-sacrifice!

June Butler said...

This did not sound like the kind of thing a nice little bishop should be scanning, but in the interests of political esearch, and finding out what the best selling newspaper in Britain has to say for itself, I pressed on.

I am a doctor.

In the shorthand of Facebook, Twitter, and round and about on the internet - LOL! Thank you, Bishop Alan, for my best afternoon laugh. You're like no bishop I know, and I wouldn't mind at all having you for my bishop.

Sorry about your boring election. When I started laughing, I forgot what your post was about. Our last election in the US was not boring. Much was at stake. We might have had Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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