21 August 2005

Myth-Making and Politics: A Response.

This is my response to Talk Politics' "Myth-Making and Politics" essay.

It was very clever waxing lyrical about Machiavelli, Sophists and past Kings, and linking it to New Labour spin. All very interesting but I think your conclusions of where New Labour are and where they are going don't quite tie in with the points you made.

Firstly, I don't agree that 'New Labour' invented spin. You have fallen into the trap of believing the media on this.

Spin has been around for ages and the Tories have been masters for a long time. What did change with 'New Labour' was that we now play the right wing press and the Tories at their own game.

Because of the domination of the Tory supporting press, Tory spin is not highlighted, e.g. they were stage managing their conferences well before us, yet Labour have been labelled the spinmeisters!

I think that this whole emphasis by the media on spin rather than the spin itself is largely responsible for the drop in turnout. Look at how well spin served Thatcherism. Only when it was blindlingly obvious that we had a corrupt, incompetent government did voters desert them in droves.

The drop in turnout has been a generational thing not because past voters have stopped voting. These are people who have NEVER voted. To get these people to start voting is going to be a lot harder than winning over lapsed voters.

I notice you steer clear of blaming the media or the electoral system for any of this low turnout. But these two issues are crucial. With reform in these two areas we could address a lot of the cynicism of politicians and politics in general. It is not always the politicians fault!

With a less overtly biased media, we could avoid the deliberate smearing of politicians (mostly Labour) that is largely uncalled for.

And with electoral reform, we can give more reason for people to vote. Especially those that support radical views outside the main party agenda that is currently ignored. This is why we get a 'least worst' option as government rather than a full representaion of what people want. It is because our electoral system presents most voters with the choice 'least worst' or 'bust'. Most now choose 'bust'!

Lastly media and electoral reforms would free the Labour party to campaign on the issues you suggest rather than being stuck with sophistry. The reason we had to resort to spin was because 'we didn't get a fair press' with which to get across our ideas.

How can we put across an argument (especially one that might be complex) with the current press that we have? A great example was how the press reported the governments tentative but highly laudable ideas on road pricing.

Im also not so confident as you about winning the next election. All the psephology experts including John Curtice at Strathclyde University (who has got the last few elections spot on) think it will be a 'hung parliament'.

With all this in mind, we should make these changes from a position of power rather than having a hand tied behind our backs by the Lib Dems, a party nobody understands, least of all themselves!

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