So we face another general Election. I have little enthusiasm. It will demonstrate much of what I believe we have got wrong in the UK at the moment.
It will not be an exercise in inclusive participative democracy, but an exercise in strategy. Hustings and town hall meetings will pale into insignificance against the media stir created by the political elite and their special advisers (not much democracy in appointing them) racing around the country in their battle buses. Millions will be spent on the ‘Yahboo!’ politics of billboard posters, party political broadcasts and ‘leaders’ debates’.
And the only people really rubbing their hands with glee (apart from the ad men, professional advisers, pollsters and battle bus drivers) are the SNP and Plaid Cymru because of the possibility that a hung parliament will enable them to extract all sorts of concessions that otherwise the democratic process would deny them.
Most of us will have ‘pointless votes’ as energy, horsetrading and guile will be focussed on the swing seats and the marginals. Most of the ‘anointed’ on both sides have already been installed in safe seats from which they can develop their political careers without ever having to really grubby their hands with constituency politics. We may get a few more Portillo moments this time around – but really what difference does that make?
And the voices of the majority of our politicians simply will not be heard in this process. We may see them kissing babies in the shopping centres or get a 2 minute exchange on our doorstep with one of their lackeys, but in general their ideas will not be aired and debated and the concept of ‘local’, while highlighted in manifestos no doubt, will fail to materialise on the ground.
And we wonder why so many stay at home on polling day…
Meanwhile we allow ourselves a subconscious sigh of relief as these prospective leaders, and their respective machine bureaucracies of spin and presentation, promise to shoulder the responsibility for progress so that we don’t have to.
Because the truth is for most of us that we just want to elect a government, national and/or local and then we want them to get on with it. To sort everything out. To put it all to rights. To reduces our taxes and improve our services.
We have to recognise that this approach, if it ever worked, has not worked for a while now. We cannot afford to waste so much talent, commitment, energy and passion while we are bored to tears by the so very ‘on message’ and carefully crafted words of the anointed and stage-managed few.
We have to find our voices, our passion, our energy and our motivation. And then we might just be able to build communities in which we can be happier, and of which we can be proud. That is where I will continue to put my energies. Building society from the bottom up.