Monday, 24 May 2010

Why Politicians Will Always Punish The Poor

As someone who engages with many everyday working people on a daily basis, both professionally and in my spare time, THE most oft-repeated phrase I hear is "I don't do politics".

They'll all advance their thoughts about the ills of the world, though. After all, it's human nature. Van drivers, bricklayers, checkout girls, roofers, teaching assistants, spark's mates, cabbies, labourers, nursery nurses, road workers, cleaners, and the unemployed - they all have opinions. And most of them feel totally ignored.

But then again, a lot of them say they 'don't do politics'.

It's getting to be a chicken and egg scenario. Did the politicians begin ignoring them before they stopped bothering with politicians, or did they stop bothering before politicians realised they were a waste of time?

I'd argue that it was the latter.

The Libertarian Alliance recently issued a press release which accused the minimum alcohol pricing proposals to be what we all know they will turn out to be.

The Government’s proposal, and the welcome given it by Tesco’s, amount to an attack on the poor. The ruling class politicians who continually whine about alcohol will not be affected by minimum pricing or the abolition of special offers. I might add that none of them can be affected by such laws.
Exactly. It will be the less well off who will suffer.

And politicians couldn't give a hoot if that is so. The reason being that they are comprehensively proving Adam Smith's principle of economic self-preservation.

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest.
Politicians, by simply having scaled the greasy political pole, are driven by their re-election ... and nothing else.

Labour, who used to stand up for the poor non-political citizen (and were founded on that premise) long since ditched the idea of protecting the disenfranchised in favour of those who will gain them the most votes. People who 'do politics' are just the job. Those who don't, err, aren't.

The main parties have an incredibly forensic approach to elections. On count nights, they will corral their supporters to intensively scrutinise the ballot papers to see which ballot boxes, in which areas, are most likely to gain them support. Districts which show a willingness to vote, especially for their candidate, will be targeted first in the next election - areas where people 'don't do politics' are a waste of time to canvass.

Similarly, areas which offer a rich seam will attract market researchers to pinpoint what are the most pressing issues in their lives. The information will then be fed to the relevant central office, spreadsheets and databases updated, and policy formed accordingly.

It doesn't bode well for those who don't understand the process, those for whom politicians may as well be talking in a different language, those who haven't a clue what the word fiscal means, and those who can't really be arsed.

They all have valid concerns, and will talk about them at length to one another, but politicians won't give a stuff. It's not in their self-interest to do so.

It's why Gordon Brown would always bang on, robot-like, about 'hard-working families'. They're the ones who the focus groups identified as being most likely to vote, and when they do so, to be more likely to place their X in the box marked "free money for you".

I've seen this first hand during my brief fling with being on the stump. Hold out a leaflet to a middle class-ish family and they will take it, same for the elderly and those who look remotely 'professional'. Try it with someone sporting a neck tattoo, or a trackie bottom-wearing Mum on her phone (innit) and the best you'll get is a dirty look.

Cos they 'don't do politics', you see.

In a civil democratic society, though, their views should still be taken into account. They still get angry, they still suffer from bad legislation, they still have concerns. It's just that they aren't valuable to any politician with an eye for power.

The problem we now see, though, is that they may have started the fire by not voting, but politicians are so blinkered by their time-honoured methods of maximising their own influence, that when some try to raise their voice they are dismissed as irrelevant.

For example, Tom Harris is well aware of the upsurge in online dissent, but instantly deems it unworthy.

If Clegg really wants to be a leader, he must at some point stop uttering the banal and populist platitudes so beloved of the PPFKATLD and get on with the job of leading. It would be absurd if he believed a particular law should be repealed but chose not to argue for that in Cabinet just because it hadn’t come top in a vote by the public.
Now the chicken has been formed by a different medium to the ballot box, the politics of the egg are still being adhered to because the wonks and obsequious rosette-wearers haven't yet witnessed any change in stats from the upturned election ballot papers.

For all the talk about listening to the public, politicians will never do so until it is demonstrably proven to have transferred to cold, hard, electoral Xs in boxes.

The more politicians still persevere with such a self-interested way of governing the country, ignoring new ways in which the public can engage with those who wield power, the more people will keep feeling ignored and the more will say that they 'don't do politics'.

And, as the spiral swirls ever deeper, the more our country descends into a system which increasingly ignores those who are less able to articulate and, in ever decreasing circles, listens only to a diminishing elite to the detriment of the nation's well-being as a whole.

Just like it used to be.

H/T the Kitty Counters for inspiration


Curmudgeon said...

Might not an Irish-style STV system encourage wider participation in politics by ensuring that everyone's vote counts, as opposed to the current system which (as you describe) means that the votes of a few thousand people can effectively turn an election?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter anymore.
The collapsing Euro will damage the Asian economies.
Simply because the .laugh
Western consumer societies will deflate.
This will slow growth in the emerging economies.
Leading to at the most pessimistic view ,unrest .
The next century may well see the return to 18th century values.
If you think this is bullshit .

Read a horoscope or an economic forecast.
They vary from the depressive economic view to the foundations of dare I say revolution.
I feel in my bones a wind of change is blowing .
Brrrrrr !
It may be cold .
And cruel.
It may just be uncomfortable for most at the most optimistic but it "aint" good.

Anonymous said...

It's just as well many of those you mention don't "do" politics.

They can vote.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Basically, I put it down to stupidity*, which cuts across income and social groups; across age groups; across political parties and so on.

The fact that rhis leads to a downward spiral is just one of those things.

* Combined with animal cunning, naked self-interest, instinct for self-preservation, short-sightedness, corruptibility and so on.