You reap what you sow is a common metaphor for British politics of today!
Politics in Britain has been going through a crisis with its relationship with the public. Members of the public constantly complain about the lack of information, about negative campaigning, and about the political mainstream treating them as fools dolling out rhetoric when facts are necessary. However, I feel that a country receives the politics they deserve, and vote for. The British public seem to want answers, but don’t want to do any of the work which would enable them to gather them in a credible way. We’re too lazy to look, so we berate politicians for not being our teachers.
Why aren’t people looking at the policies in detail? Partly because the media publish stories of the policies, which means many people can gather bite-sized political snippets over a longer period of time. One example is the announcement by Ed Miliband on housing. Over two days Ed has announced caps on rent rises on the new three year tenancies, and his pledge to build 200,000 new homes a year until 2020. The Guardian devoted articles and analysis to this piece of ‘news’. Yet it was in Labour’s youth manifesto all along. This policy was nothing new, yet it caused a furore.
People aren’t looking for answers; they want to be spoon fed them. On Question time last week, a man was berating the panel for not giving him answers. This was in relation to the latest IFS report on the parties’ fiscal plans. However, what came next was mind boggling. The man hadn’t read the IFS report merely the headline, when asked about it he couldn’t answer coherently. Newsnight devoted a whole segment of the programme to asking people if they had bothered to read the manifestos. They could only find one person who had bothered to read a portion of some of the manifestos. There is an incredible credulity in our society at the moment; people are voting for parties but more often than not they haven’t read any policy documents.
This culture of spoon-feeding has created a public which doesn’t know what policies actually are before they hate them. One example of this is of student fees. Student fees were widely reviled; many claimed it would destroy higher education and price out poorer students. Many young people wanting to go to University themselves now claimed they could no longer afford it, and some incredulously still do. The bile and hatred which was spewed out was like something at a tea party rally, unenlightened, self-obsessed, and ugly. The results of the tuition fee experiment have embarrassed the NUS, and student politics as a whole. More poorer students than ever before are going to University, and the re-payment threshold is higher, if you earn below £21,000 then you pay nothing back. The tuition fees debacle is just one of the policy areas in which many are ignorant. Indeed it isn’t just students, who fall asleep at the policy wheel, but it is a sad indictment of British society that even those who are supposed to be the brightest and best got it so drastically wrong.
If we want a better politics, more informed rational debates, then we need a more informed rational public. One cannot go without the other. There is a reason why George Bush was elected President, and why so many people in America still seem to believe that Iraq played a part in 9/11. The American public stopped caring about facts of policy, and went for the emotional bond of a hapless idiot who was woefully out of his depth. Surely, it is only a matter of time before Britain elects out own George Bush, and completes the cycle of election by hysterical outrage based on premises which are without foundation.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.