Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Politics of Modern Debate?

Hullo ma wee blog,

I've done a fair bit of ranting  or commenting about politics on the blog. That's odd because I would never have previously described myself as particularly political. Sure I have a point of view, and I hold my values dearly, but I never felt engaged enough by politics to get involved, other than exercising my right and - in my eyes - my obligation to vote. Although not a member of a political party I see voting as a must. After all, if you don't vote you've little grounds to complain about anything that happens after in my view. So over the years I've listened, formed and changed opinions, gone back to previously held views and grafted on new ones and all the while, at every opportunity, I've trudged to the polling station and voted for the party or sometimes the person that conforms closest to my values. I've not always voted for the same party, although mostly I have. Through the years no matter what way I've voted in real terms I don't feel it's made a great or in fact any difference. Maybe that's the effect of democracy, that the individual want is never truly expressed through the majority, but somehow I think not. I know if I had my way society would be different, priorities would be different and in my own narrow view therefore would be better. Millions of us I suspect feel pretty much the same way.

But, and I know this is a bit late in life, I'm coming to the conclusion that it's not politics but politicians who are the problem. I sat the other night and watched what I deem to be the BBC flagship political programme, the weekly 'Question Time' debate where a panel of 'experts' from ostensibly different political viewpoints face questions from an audience which is supposedly representative of the UK as a whole. This week I found it grotesque, almost a pantomime. Huge effort was expanded by the politicians on the panel in deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting what other panelists said. Great mountains were created from overheated non arguments and all the political parties blamed the other while obviously suffering from acute amnesia of their own broken promises. Again and again answers to reasonable questions from the audience were twisted to make a comment about what the other parties had or had not done, had or had not said, while 'they' were diligently trying to do the right thing and all the time suffering from being misunderstood. Any attempt by another panelist to make a point was interrupted and talked over and lengthy amounts of time were eaten up by panelists being allowed by the host to meander off into history or different areas of ideology that were never at the heart of the original question. It was infuriating and depressing.

And that's the problem. No one in politics can take a question and give a straightforward honest answer about their opinion and stick to it. Answers are couched in language designed for later ease of denial, easy to infer a change of emphasis and are held up against an opposing viewpoint in an often vague and spurious example of why they should not be trusted. Again and again the same thing. Politicians all speak of 'needing to engage with a wider audience'. They all talk the talk about declining numbers voting at elections and how people need to take little interest in politics. State worry about declining numbers at the polls during elections and how this poor turnout doesn't truly give a clear or effective mandate for government. The answer is surely clear. The electorate are disenfranchised, uninterested in the continual performancing of politicians. We don't want you to dance around the question afraid to get it wrong. We don't want you to take the question and start off by explaining what the other party didn't do about it. This is exhausting, time wasting nonsense. Stop treating us like illiterate imbecillic children. Do you really have such a poor regards for us - your employers. Do you lack the real conviction of your own argument to carry the debate. We want to know what you are going to do. We want you to lay it on the line clearly and unambiguously. We want the truth. We want the facts. We want promises upheld and we want you to stop wasting time pissing on the other guys parade when yours should be in full flow. None of you seems to be particularly fired up about anything. No one shows any passion. Are you all made in the same political factory? You all seem to be working to the same formula regardless of party, of ideology, of doctrine, advised by the same old advisers and constricted by the same old thinking and same old-school perspective.  If the future of politics is going to be this way, with professional politico's out for themselves when we need inspirational leaders with new ideas and the passion to take people with you, then the situation with the voters will only get worse. The stability of long term single party government you all seek will be unobtainable if all you do is promise, lie and deny us the credibility we deserve and the credibility we ask for with every tick on voting papers. End this farce of politics by performance, communication by soundbite. Start treating us with some respect.

Frankly - you 're not good enough.

Like someone once said; the key to politics is integrity. If you can fake that, you've got it made.......

As far as I can see most of you need to take a long walk off a short pier.

And as far as the BBC is concerned - the panel for the programme:  two members of the government, {none from the opposition} a historian once described as one of the top 100 influential people in the world, a human rights activist and an extremist view candidate for Mayor of London. The historian was more Tory than the Tories, never once did he question the government position and constantly interrupted the other speakers. The human rights campaigner hardly got a look in. Through all this I felt the chairing of the programme was very establishment biased and sometimes quite dismissive of audience opinion {at one point he stated a question from the audience came from her own agenda and then allowed the panel to basically completely disregard the real - and relevant - issue of the question in its answer.}  Not what I would call conducive to fair and open debate.

Listening to this - which perfectly describes my feelings.


Jane said...

HEAR HEAR, HEAR HEAR! I totally agree. I was bawling at the telly on Thursday night and ended up switching to another channel in disgust. David Dimbelby has gone way done in my estimation in recent times, and the audiences are sometimes no more representative than fly in the air. As for the farce of the panel - don't get me started. Tories and Lib Dems sitting there side by side agreeing on stuff, no, on absolutely everything, that they used to completely disagree on. Shame on them. Yes, and that historian - why the hell was he not told to keep quiet while the others were talking? If he's deemed to be one of the most influential people on our planet, heaven help us - he doesn't even have basic good manners. I am no fan of the ex-soon-to-be-again mayor of London, but at least he had the decency to let the others have their say. Grrr, sorry - rant over!

Alistair said...

Oh Jane - you made me smile with that comment. Welcome another fully fledged member of 'the curmedgeon club'.

Ya poor wee soul........

Big Swifty said...

I cant bear question time, or the radio version. Dimbleby has a haughty patrician attitude that I find annoying, rather than the chair role he should be exercising.
I'm interested in politics and why there is public apathy. I've chatted with some local politicians I know, suggesting they reduce their slagging off of each other, and just say what they will do, and deliver.
I thought about standing for our council as an independent, but if I (and all the others) was honest, I would say "vote for me, but I won't be able to do much as the council's powers and funds are very limited", and who is going to vote for that?
A good principle in life is "under promise and over deliver", but politicians feel obliged to do the opposite to get elected.
I wish I could come up with an upbeat ending for this message but I can't. All I can say is that I know some very decent people who serve on our council (all parties), who get swallowed up by the role and deliver the same old way of communicating with the electorate. What a turn off.

Alistair said...

Couldn't agree more Swifty.

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