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Reflections of a Guardian Reader

Madeline Bunting said, in The Guardian on Monday 22 September: "Chris Mullin, the much-respected Labour MP whose constituency is now mostly covered by the new seat, is retiring. He admits to being more than a little baffled by what he calls a "disconnect". He was canvassing on an estate that had been transformed by a big regeneration scheme. At the doorstep of a brand new house, a woman told him: "I'm not voting, you've done nothing for us." Mullin was left speechless as she slammed the door."

This is obviously the political equivalent of the parent delivering the much nagged-for present that is then never played with.

It was a very intelligent man (Schiller) who said "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain".

If people won't vote for a governing party in an election because, being ignorant, they do not recognise that the government does in fact deliver services and facilities for them, what does this say about representative democracy as we currently have it? If people vote on the basis that politicians will do things specifically for them, but then cannot or will not recognise or acknowledge what the politicians do in fact deliver, then perhaps the basis of politics must change - because there is an election tomorrow but educating an entire population takes a long, long time!

In the light of this thought, if the basis of politics was changing how would we see this change? For an ignorant person, with no intellectual basis for judgment, basing a vote on a feeling that a politician is just like them becomes perfectly sensible. An ignorant politician might genuinely be just like them. An intelligent politician might intelligently conclude that this was a good way to appeal to ignorant voters. Which might perhaps explain the appeal of Cameron in the UK and Palin in the US. Both are better at targetting ignorant voters with their feelgood soundbites than more substantial thinkers and doers who struggle to understand that being able to deliver in office may not matter.

I doubt this is an original thought. But it was mine, yesterday.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
23rd Sep, 2008 12:34 (UTC)
Mullin is indeed the kind of MP the Labour Party can ill afford to lose.

My own town was treated pretty much as a Tory fiefdom for decades (at one point it was their largest majority in the UK), and the final incumbent was astonishgly inept. At the last General Election, he was booted out in favour of a Lib Dem MP who has spent the past two years working furiously to represent the needs of her constituency. Trouble is, she has a majority below 300 and the Tories are determined to drag us back into the dark ages.
23rd Sep, 2008 12:37 (UTC)
Well said!

One thing that I think is needed is an electoral system that allows a more nuanced response at a general election. At the moment, FPTP essentially disenfranchises many voters. At the same time the landslides the system currently seems to force mean that the views of individual MPs are also easily ignored by the party in power, even if they're in the same party. Intelligent, educated, informed debate thus achieves little in the face of the brutality of the whips and party machine.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline M

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