Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some reflections on the elections

Perhaps the saddest thing about the recent local and European election results is the implication that most of us don't really want to be well info red about the real issues but would rather vote on the basis of soundbites and misinformation. At least that ho it appears. One "local man in the street" response over immigration for example, was to complain about the number of Eastern Europeans working in coffee shops.

I worry that voting is less and less about ideology and more and more about self-interest and half-truths. Even the major parties appear to be in danger of large scale reductionism when it comes to seeking to win next year's General Election. So, David Cameron talks about eh conservative Party as the only party that can deliver a referendum on european membership. The implication being that if membership of Europe is your main concern then only electing his party is the way to go. No thought need be given to whether you think they've managed the economy well, created a more stable job market, improved education. Just ask yourself if you want to vote yes or no to Europe.

I seem to remember Paddy Ashdown once suggesting that the European issue was more complex an issue that could be reduced to a simple in/out vote, and surely that's true of the broader political issues at stake in any election. Sadly we seem to have evolved a culture where we'd rather rather watch Eastenders than Panorama, Mock the Week than Newsnight. And I must confess that given the choice, I prefer to be entertained more than informed.

Perhaps it will only be because we choose to be informed that we will become more informed. We can't force it upon each other, we can just encourage it. I do think politicians and journalists have a significant role to play in helping us do this, but they can't do it alone. Yes it would help if some parts of the media stopped sensationalising things in ways that fuel the prejudices of some, but we all need to take responsibility for getting the facts straight.

In the wake of the weekend's results I'd like to see some real effort made to tell the truth about the issues at stake. Some intelligent discussion without political axe grinding. Too much to ask for I know, but if we let the loudest protest voices carry the day, we may find ourselves making wrong decisions based on errant information, and there will be no going back.

If we want our MPs, MEPs, and local councillors to do a better job, then we need to know what that better job looks like before we tell them.