Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

What Is So Unendearing About Politics

What is so unendearing about politics, as conducted in the modern era, is that it has become the sport of aberrant men and women, in which points are scored and victories earned if the participant succeeds in making a sly or ironic remark, which is usually at best remotely amusing, at the expense of his or her opponent.

Readers will either be utterly shocked at such a bold assertion, or they will shrug and ask, "What's new?"

But it truly disturbs me that political debate today is about futile point-scoring. It probably comes from the top. As political campaigns are conducted in such a way where public criticism of our leaders is prevented sometimes with force, and as debates become based around simple soundbites rather than clear and cogent arguments, then it is inevitably going to be the case that the winners of the public debate are the ones who think up the witty one-liner rather than the ones with intellectual clarity and a purposeful vision for society.

My words, I realise, make me sound scornful of all those people who are better with the witty one-liners and the soundbites than I am, but I still find it dangerous that debates are conducted like this. It's just another part of the systematic dumbing down that has been going on for such a long time in our society.

But it doesn't stop there. A consequence of this dumbing down is that our political leaders and elected representatives are themselves 'dumbed down' as part of this process. And what this leads to is a society where people in power are no longer people with a great vision for their country, a view of a new utopia, but who either serve as lobby fodder for our ultimate rulers or simply as robots and hacks.

Am I alone in seeking a return to a society where politics is where we look to for our source of inspiration, where the masses look for greatness? The politicians of yesteryear were different to the ones of today. Even our Prime Ministers were different. In the past, we had leaders with such diverse visions for society as Margaret Thatcher, Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill. Yet each one of those had their vision for society. They all knew what had to be done to make life safer and happier. They had personality too. They weren't afraid to utter the unpopular word or to think the daunting thought. They would speak out if they didn't like something. They were true leaders.

But today we are left with leaders like Tony Blair. Today, we have men and women who won't go anywhere near the unpopular, because they're too afraid that the next batch of opinion polls will go the other way. Today, our leaders have no concept of 'right' and 'wrong'. Today, they have no vision for a better society, because they are too afraid that a vision might alienate certain groups in their society. So instead they offer kind words and a few pennies to people in the vain hope that they'll still be popular at the end of the day.

I look to a future in which society is much different, where we return to the days when leaders had values and principles which they weren't afraid to be martyrs for. I look to a future of great men and great women, not merely feeble hacks wandering through the electoral desert scouring for another drop of popular water for their survival.

I look to a better future where men and women go into politics with great aspirations and come out with even greater achievements.


At 9:17 pm, Blogger David Stewart said...

I do not think that the situation is as bad now as you describe it. Margaret Thatcher was fond of the one liner, and she was, in my opinion, the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever had. Even Tony Blair, who I do not like as a Prime Minister, is perfectly capable of debating and has shown himself never to shy from the unpopular, especially on the issue of the Iraq war.

Never before have politicians been so accountable, and never before has it been no necessary for a politician to be able to properly defend his or her position. How many Question Time debates were available to the scrutiny of the public when Winston Churchill was in office, and how many examples of him debating are there?

The experience and skills of a politician have never before been so readily available to the public eye, and this means that politicians must be able to intellectually and properly defend their position.

If what you look forward to are politicians who make sweeping comments and glorious sounding phrases, then the answer is that this will never happen because the British people are no longer so easily persuaded.

At 9:41 pm, Blogger Mark O'Brien said...

I suppose my problem - and I'm ready to admit this - is that I'm jaded by a view of better things. Recently, the sketch show 'Dead Ringers' showed the very eloquent and intelligent President from the American series 'The West Wing' finally tell his staff that he was fictional, and they were shocked when they found out it was someone like George W Bush. Now, whatever you think about Bush - and I think that people are often far too harsh on him - the difference between the kind of politicians we would like and the kind we have is immense.

I'm certain that we would like straight-talkers who aren't afraid to stray once or twice from the party line whereas what we really have are politicians far too often looking out for their own career.

I'm certain that we would like politicians who can both persuade us and inspire us in equal measure, yet there is only one occassion when I've heard others talk of Tony Blair as being 'inspiring' and that was with his speech urging Parliament to vote in favour of war in Iraq - yet the months and years following his speech prove further that our leaders are not the principled giants we would really like.

Am I being too ambitious and too demanding, or far too high up in the clouds?

At 9:45 pm, Blogger David Stewart said...

I get the impression you're looking a commanding and powerful Caesar to come and patriotically bring this country together. In a sense, that is a very appealing thought, we all like to be entertained and this would encourage more people to become involved in politics. However, unless we completely change the British parliamentary culture so that it more resembles the American, then this is unlikely to happen.

I think the culture we have at the moment is the correct one. In a way it would be inspiring to see blue posters saying "HOWARD 2005" or "BLAIR/PRESCOTT FOR DOWNING STREET" and to a certain extent I would like to see more of this kind of marketing. However, is there really any substance behind it? I believe that George Bush is perfectly capable of holding an intelligent and indepth discussion, but the nature of American politics means he doesn't have to do this regularly.

When George W. Bush answers a question very articulately it surprises people, you can feel the tremendous sense of pride that his man just came out with a paragraph of complicated and sound economic thinking on American taxation. Yet it's not because he is actually stupid or uncharismatic, it's because the political culture in America means that the president is expected to say nothing more than sweeping, patriotic words.

On the other hand, the political culture in Britain has created a situation where it is expected and demanded by the public that politicians make more than patriotic gestures, but that they can articulate their ideas well. Regarding Tony Blair, he is inspiring to people a lot more than that for which you seem to have given him credit. He continuously manages to come across as the 'nice guy' and is able to exert an aura of youth and enthusiasm that the other leaders had trouble doing. Dislike Prime Minister Blair as I might, I cannot deny his ability as a politician.

At 10:08 am, Anonymous Anomaly Resource said...

I fear your envisioned future lies beyond the death of the current civilization.


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