Wednesday, 6 March 2013

From Discourse to Reality and Honest Choice

From Discourse to Reality and Honest Choice

Electoral campaigns raise expectations by promising a nirvana, a promised land of endless opportunities for all. Soon after, the petals of a beautiful flower start falling off and disillusion sets in: the believers suddenly realize that 95 per cent of what they were promised is actually something that they themselves should be working to achieve. This is merely one aspect of the problem.

Another aspect of the problem is the fact that people usually take credit for things that they have not achieved. How does this happen? They feel that they are winners when their favourite football team wins. They feel that they have won when a certain political party that they supported wins. They do not realize that unless the political party that they support truly delivers what was promised their success is merely an illusion.

Yet another aspect of the problem is that not all promises can be fulfilled, either partially or in their entirety, because politics is about negotiation, about give and take, about best options when dealing with bad alternatives.

There is yet another aspect of the problem: time. Time is a very scarce and non-renewable resource. Time is also linked to changing needs, different beliefs and different ways of doing things. When I started working as a journalist, a mechanical typewriter and paper filing systems were seen as the standard. My children were born in the Digital Age and for them mechanical typewriters are museum pieces.

When mechanical typewriters were the norm, more people were needed to do the same kind of job and therefore it was easier to find vacant positions and especially for those who were starting their working careers. In the Digital Age, things move a lot faster and the number of people required to perform a certain task was dramatically reduced thus reducing the possibilities of employment. This has happened many times and in many areas of human activity after the arrival of new technologies.

There is a necessary process of adaptation required, a constant search for alternatives. In quite a few cases unemployment is directly linked to lack of adaptation. For many, failure is like falling from a moving train. The train keeps moving and they are left behind. In certain countries, failure is the end of the road. In other countries, failure is just part of the process of trial and error and a necessary step towards success.

What a political party should ideally provide is not a ready-made recipe. I political party should state very clearly that what is put forward is a sense of direction, a direction of travel. This is what I call ‘a consistent approach’.

Here are a two examples regarding direction of travel.
·         A political party promises to put an end to flood immigration. Is this a promise that can be delivered?  At present, there are 650 seats in the House of Commons. Therefore a sizeable majority will be needed to pass legislation to put an end to flood immigration.
·         A political party promises the re-nationalization of public services that are now run by foreign companies, private or otherwise. Without political support in the Houses of Parliament a re-nationalization bill would not be possible.
When it comes to democracy, many people vote for a certain political party merely to stop another political party from winning the election. This is the worst kind of approach. You should make up your mind about which is the political party that offers you the best options and support it. At the end of the day, by voting ‘strategically’ we end up with governments that very few people actually want. Dishonest voting usually leads to dishonest governments.

The 2010 UK General Election indicated that there is some sort of attitude shift and none of the so called mainstream political parties had a clear majority. A minority party managed to obtain a seat in Parliament because some people thought that it was better to vote for what they really wanted instead of voting strategically.

In recent elections both UKIP and the British National Party have been making advances in elections in which about 60 per cent of the electorate decided to abstain. If suddenly 60 per cent of the electorate that usually abstains decides to support alternative political parties, the politically scene in Britain would change dramatically.

If you really want change, abstention is not the answer. There are alternative political parties and there are also independent candidates. Forget about strategic vote and think about being honest by voting for what you really want even if, at the end of the day, you are voting for a minority political party.   

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