Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Voter apathy and modern politics

Party member ship has collapsed since the 1950's when 1 in every 11 people were members of a political party to 1 in 88 now. (An interesting statistic I picked up from Sir Hayden Phillips report on party funding)

You have to ask why people have become so disconnected from politics?

Well, there are a number of reasons including the fact that life is a lot more comfortable for most people than it used to be. However one reason I can see for this is the way modern politics is conducted.

Take for example this article on the BBC's website from 1992 about John Major campaigning on his soap box in the general election.

A group of left wing activists turned up to heckle with load speakers. How profoundly ugly, childish and anti democratic is that? Similar also went on in the 2005 General Election with both Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy having their personal band of hecklers sent in by Labour to make sure they could not campaign.

In the 1992 campaign Jack Cunningham was asked when Neil Kinnock was going to get on his soapbox. He said:

"We have graduated from soapbox politics."
Well, it does not appear to be engaging people any more. This sort of behaviour is simply wrong. It puts people off politics and stifles debate. It is time for politicians to get back on their soap boxes and with a bit of luck the fascist tendency in the Labour party will not try to stifle debate.

Hat tip for the BBC article to Mike Smithson of Politicalbetting.com.


billy said...

I cannot agree with you here Benedict.
Hecklers are part of the democratic scene and as for organising, it has always been so. Look back to when the MP only turned up in his constituency just before the vote and paid for the mob to stop the opposition from voting. It is a lot more civilised nowadays.
While I am here: I was a member of the Conservative party from Ted Heath to John Major. That period represented people from fairly ordinary backgrounds getting to the top as representatives of one nation toryism. Since John Major I have floated. I cannot think of any reason why young, Etonian David would be a good PM, and I desperately want rid of Tone and the Scots mafia.

Benedict White said...

Well, I can see hecklers being part of the scene and you may be right about mobs turning out to make sure their man gets in, but I still think it is wrong to try to stifle debate in this way.

I have no problem with hecklers per se, just when their sole objective is as you said to make sure the hecklers mob win. (if you read the BBC report that seemed to be what they were aiming at.)

billy said...

I agree that was probably their objective, but isn't that just part of the rough and tumble?
Take a more powerful amplifier. A bigger bunch of thugs, or whatever is needed. It adds to the spectacle.
I'd love to see John Prescott take a swing at someone determined to hurt him rather than an egg thrower.

I noticed you never answered my second part. Do you have a good reason for voting Old Etonians into positions of power?

Benedict White said...

Billy I can't agree with the idea of an arms race in terms of amplifiers or mobs, after all it is an attempt to engage people who don't want a fight and don't have ear defenders.

I did miss out on answering your second point. Sorry about that.

Is there any reason to elect an old Etonian into a position of power? No.

Is there any reason not to? He has to earn the votes like anyone else surely, but if he does so then that is good.

billy said...

Is there any reason not to? He has to earn the votes like anyone else surely, but if he does so then that is good.

I cannot see him doing that. He is completely remote from my life experiences and yet if I put him into power his decisions will affect me every day. The Blair/Scots conspiracy isn't any better but better the devil you know etc.
Is there not another Maggiearound? Somebody who understands what ordinary folk want from life and government.

Benedict White said...

Billy, Maggie was a Middle class grocers daughter who did a chemistry degree and went on to be a barrister, Ted Heath was a piano playing yachtsman who was also a batchelor. John Major ran away from the circus to become an accountant. How are these people closer to your personal experiances?

As for providing a government that the people want I an interested to know what sort fo government you think that is. After all many people have very different ideas on the subject from huge nanny state to so light touch that you wouldn't know you had one.