14 August 2006

Lets be honest, the average politician is a nicer person than the average voter.

Strong criticism of government policy is vital for a healthy democracy, indeed it is the bedrock. However the culture of negativity that we have at the moment is not healthy. If you criticise everything and praise nothing, what you are really doing is arguing for the status quo, and that is reactionary conservatism.

This culture of negativity being pushed by our reactionary press has exactly that purpose - to push us into the hands of the right and the Tories. Even then it is much easier to destroy the Labour vote than persuade the electorate that the Tories are worthwhile, which is why the Tories are putting their best skills of deception into action, to persuade us they have changed from being the nasty party of old. If they can destroy enough Labour votes this electoral system can give the Tories power on less than a quarter of the electorate.

Think of blogs and political campaigners, how many are running a positive campaign? If all they are doing is criticising and offering no alternative vision, be very suspicious!

Whenever I criticise something I always try to offer a clear proposal in balance. My campaigning for electoral reform is more about persuading people of the virtues of open list PR than pointing out the ridiculousness of FPTP. When I criticise the vast inequality we have, I point out the most efficient solution - a citizen's income. And when I criticise the media, I point out how well the broadcasting regulations work and how they could easily be extended to the press to stop the most overt bias.

So when I hear the sheer venon of criticism and even hatred reserved for our elected representatives and our public services, I remember that when people actually meet MPs and councillors etc and experience our public services firsthand, their opinions are very different. The media's negativity has a lot to answer for.

16 comments:

  1. The culture of negativity comes from the most dishonest and corrupt govt in history. You only have yourselves to blame.

    Even John Major is now able to say his lot were honest compared to the likes of Bliar, Two Shags and the rest of the rotten lot. And that says a lot.

    Bunch of crooks.

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  2. If politicians are held in contempt by the electorate, it is because they have behaved in a contemptible manner. They have only themselves to blame. Having watched them pull apart the rule of law and destroy our liberties, I tend to hold the average cockroach in higher esteem - and I'm being nice about it.

    Frankly, if a politican was on fire... well, you know the rest.

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  3. Watch out for the excellent and highly positive campaign that will be run by the compass youth group to extend the minimum wage to all young workers.

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  4. anon: "The culture of negativity comes from the most dishonest and corrupt govt in history."

    That is the sort of statement I am on about. If people really believe this, they don't know much about history or indeed what goes on in the rest of the world. You need to get your head out of the Daily Mail once in a while.

    1 in 4 of the adult male population has spent some time in jail (usually a sign of being corrupt, violent, dishonest, a crook etc). The figure for politicians is a fraction of this. Now I'm not saying social position doesn't play a part and I am not discounting non arrestable crimes but look around you, the UK is in a much better state than before.

    All politicians have to be very careful and vague in what they say so that the media don't rip them apart, but there is an awful lot of hypocrisy going on when journalists and members of the electorate criticise politicians. Who hasn't told lies? We expect our politicians to be whiter than white and generally they are much better than the people criticising them.

    longrider: "Having watched them pull apart the rule of law and destroy our liberties"

    Oh come on. We are free to do what we like. I felt much more oppressed under Thatcher, look what she did to the miners civil liberties. Look what she did to the poor. Isn't incresing inequality so that those in low paid jobs cannot earn enough to enjoy a fair share of this country's wealth an erosion of their civil liberties?

    adele: "Watch out for the excellent and highly positive campaign that will be run by the compass youth group to extend the minimum wage to all young workers."

    Adele, all the advances in this country have come from the left. Eventually the right have to accept things like 'ending child labour', 'paying a living wage', 'votes for all', 'minority rights', 'the NHS', 'universal education'. But we still have to fight to get and keep these things or the right would happily erode them.

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  5. Neil, you are being disingenuous here. Thatcher's management of the miners' strike was not a civil liberties issue and isn't relevant in this discussion. And we are most certainly not free to do what we like. Tried selling a T shirt emblazoned with "Bollocks to Blair" recently? What about suggesting that police detection kit is a pile of shit? Tried that recently, either? Another betrayal is the politicisation of the police force who now misuse the law to stifle dissent. Free to do what we like my ****!

    We have lost Habeas corpus, we have on the statue book one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to be passed - the Civil Contingencies act, giving ministers the right to rule without parliament... that's just two for starters; I'll not go into "summary justice" (lynch law by any other name). Whatever Thatcher's points; good or bad; that was twenty years ago and didn't come close to the betrayal carried out by the current administration.

    Betrayal of trust is the worst thing a politician can do. I have come to despise them - all of them and their houses. A pox on the lot of them. No, that's not negative, it's a reasonable response to the despicable betrayal carried out in the desire to grab ever more power for a corrupt, venal political class.

    Frankly, I will resent having to vote for any of them.
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    "1 in 4 of the adult male population has spent some time in jail (usually a sign of being corrupt, violent, dishonest, a crook etc)."

    Nothing to do with 3,000 new offences created by this government in the past decade, eh?

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  6. longrider: "Tried selling a T shirt emblazoned with "Bollocks to Blair""

    People were arrested for wearing 'cool as fuck', or 'bollocks to the poll tax' in the Eighties. Don't try to pretend our laws restricting swearwords are new.

    Blair is the most openly criticised PM ever. Thatcher deserved far more abuse but was not surprisingly treated with kid gloves by the Tory media.

    As for police powers, nothing Labour have proposed is as bad as the 'sus' law? Labour may be overenthusiastic about bureaucracy in some areas but at least now the police have to explain themselves when they arrest someone. Ironically 'summary powers' are a great attempt by this government to sidestep the inefficient bureaucracy of the criminal justice system for trivial offences, and it makes absolute sense in my opinion. Your objections are absolutist, in practical terms these changes will make little difference to civil liberties but they will make a massive difference to attacking low level disorder.

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  7. By the way, crime has fallen under Labour despite the new offenses. I agree a lot of these new offenses are a response to our vindictive tabloids (led by the rightwing hysteria the Tories are whipping up about everything).

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  8. I suspect that politicians could redeem much in the eyes of the public by providing a straight answer to a question.

    Whenever a politician (PM's Qs, various TV programmes etc.) is asked a direct question where the honest answer would show them in a marginally negative light, we usually get "wriggle, wriggle, talk about something vaguely similar that sounds better."

    It is this kind of behaviour that makes them (and this applies of politicians of all stripes) appear to be a bunch of slippery liars.

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  9. anon: I completely agree with you. But you have to ask yourself the question, why do politicians do this?

    The answer obviously is that it is what loses them the fewest votes. Giving straight honest answers to every question is of course desirable, but the media are the real dishonest ones, trying to manipulate and misrepresent every word to their own agenda. Unfortunately voters don't see through the media anywhere near enough and don't weigh up thwe whole picture but focus on the one or two policies they disagree with. One or two honest answers is enough to lose politicians more votes than it gains. Can we really blame politicians for this?

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  10. Who is the average person? Who is the average politician?

    The average politician will be ambitious and power hungry. The average voter will be trying to keep a roof over his head.

    Does your assertion stem from a) a belief in the inherent goodness of politicians or b) a characteristically New Labour contempt for the ordinary working man?

    I imagine the average voter would be wracked with guilt if they caused a single death. I doubt the 412 MPs who voted to declare war on Iraq are losing sleep.

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  11. the moai: "I imagine the average voter would be wracked with guilt if they caused a single death. I doubt the 412 MPs who voted to declare war on Iraq are losing sleep."

    I don't know where you get this idea that politicians are some separate race of people. Politicians have to make decisions that affect people's lives. Whatever decision they take there will be serious consequences.

    I don't know if you remember a program called 'vote for me' on ITV that was run a couple of years back. The idea was that ordinary viewers would put forward their ideas and the viewers would vote a winner who would be entered into a GE constituency as an independent. The number of hang em-flog em entrants was extraordinary - indeed the winner was a convicted fraudster with rightwing illiberal policies that would make the BNP wince. I didn't see any of this compassion or anguish that youtalk of. The calibre was awful, it made you realise just how good our politicians are. It is much more difficult than it looks. Politicians in this country generally have come from a committed principled background and care passionately about their communities. Indeed they are usually the ones campaigning on issues and trying to improve things while the majority of the people sit on their arses watching coronation street.

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  12. Just to respond to some of the more blatantly foolish assertions in your comments:

    You need to get your head out of the Daily Mail once in a while.

    Now that is hardly a constructive comment, is it? In fact I would define it as a pointless cheap shot. Not all people who are right wing read The Daily Mail, just are not all nominal left wingers read The Guardian.

    Who hasn't told lies? We expect our politicians to be whiter than white and generally they are much better than the people criticising them.

    Leading by example mean anything these days? And there is a big difference between me saying to my boss "yeah, I got that letter out the door" and Blair saying "there are WMDs so we have to go to war."

    I felt much more oppressed under Thatcher, look what she did to the miners civil liberties. Look what she did to the poor.

    The militant miners were in direct conflict with the government. Scargill's stated aim was to bring about a socialist revoution in the UK. No wonder there was conflict with the Tory government. And the failure of the Tory government with the miners was not to close the mines and take on the strikers, but rather provide alternative employment for the communities stricken by the mone closures.

    And Thatcher allowed the poor to buy their council houses. Rather than patronising them by implying they were not capable of owing them themselves.

    Blair is the most openly criticised PM ever.

    No he's not. What about Major? And the criticism of Blair ("he lied to get us into a war") is far more constructive than the criticism of Major ("he tucks his shirt into his underpants").

    I don't know where you get this idea that politicians are some separate race of people.

    Well, they kind of set themselves up as a seperate race of people through their behaviour, such as restricting our freedoms at the same time as ignoring our laws.

    Politicians in this country generally have come from a committed principled background and care passionately about their communities.

    Some of them, yes. Like Eric Forth, Tony Benn, Alan Clarke and Tony Banks. They were ideologues, who fought for their ideas and their constituents. Regardless of what you think of their ideas, those guys had/have real principles. And you know what? None of them have become leading politicians.

    It is the likes of Blair who sell their souls for a good headline/vote who bring our politicians into disrepute. If Thatcher got an easier ride in the media than Blair, it is because she had principles and she had beliefs. The only thing Blair cares about maintaining his own power base and getting a good headline.

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  13. Where do you get the figure that one in four males has spent time in prison? Based on today's record prison population of 80,000 less 10,000 foreigners and 5,000 women (65,000 of 24m UK male adults) roughly 1 in 350 men of adult age are in prison today.

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  14. Nameless Tory: Thanks for your comments. I think the criticism of Blair is over the top on most issues. Look at how prosperous the UK is at the moment and the way publis services have been restored and improved. Things were getting worse under Thatcher/Major. Yes I think backing Bush was a mistake - but not backing Bush wouldn't have reduced the number of deaths in Iraq. It was a difficult decision.

    Blair is a pragmatist, I think this is better than blind ideology - no matter how honest the politician might be who holds the ideology.

    My point is that politicians generally are better people than the electorate. Politicians do have to set an example but the media make it very difficult for them to give straight answers - straight answers don't win votes - as Blair proved and Cameron is proving. But we have to realistic about what is causing this. Until we, the electorate, start voting for politicians who tell us unpopular truths we will get politicans who are evasive. This evasiveness does not mean that politicans are bad people - just people who recognise what they have to do to get elected.

    pragueTory: You are forgetting that the 80,000 figure is transitory. Most people who go to jail spend less than 6 months inside. Over a lifetime 1 in 4 males will spend some time inside. Obviously it is not something people like to shout about.

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  15. Neil - I do appreciate the concept of a non-stationary population. About 90,000 are incarcerated a year in the UK. As reoffending rates are about 67%, two thirds of these are previous offenders. So, 30,000 new people are sent to prison each year of which about 25,000 are adult UK males. So with 25m males that's about a one in a thousand chance in a given year. And one in twenty over a lifetime. Back of an envelope, I admit, but I can't imagine where you get the one in four stat.

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  16. Neil - I do appreciate the concept of a non-stationary population. About 90,000 are incarcerated a year in the UK. As reoffending rates are about 67%, two thirds of these are previous offenders. So, 30,000 new people are sent to prison each year of which about 25,000 are adult UK males. So with 25m males that's about a one in a thousand chance in a given year. And one in twenty over a lifetime. Back of an envelope, I admit, but I can't imagine where you get the one in four stat.

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