Saturday, 2 July 2011

Why I don't like politics anymore

Over the past few years - and in the past year especially - politics has taken a turn into a direction which leaves me feeling cold.

It's got nothing to do with the particular policy, but it's to do with the quality of the debates and discussions which have been happening.

Whichever party had won the election last year, there would be difficult decisions to make and steering the economy back into growth is not an easy thing to do. So now, more than ever, we could do with some clarify of explanation behind the decisions being made, and more importantly to have the alternative options presented in the form of a reasonable argument rather than partisan ranting.

Take the AV referendum for instance. Both sides of the discussion resorted to rhetoric and soundbites to make their case, rather than presenting a logical argument about why they did (or didn't) believe AV to be a fairer system than first past the post. I would much rather hear an eloquent speech from someone with whom I hearily disagree than a rant from anyone - whether I agree with them or not.

We were told to vote "no to AV" because "The Lib Dems want AV, and we don't like them" or to vote "Yes to AV" to "annoy the Tories". Well no. I'm afraid I won't vote for or against something simply because of who the result will upset - I will vote yes or no for something based on whether I think it's the right thing to do, or not.

Even worse has been the quality of the debate surrounding the cuts being introduced by the government. At the moment, the only opposition to the cuts seems to be vocalised by saying "we don't like cuts". There are very few (thankfully some) voices in the crowd talking about the alternative to the cuts. Very few people talk about how savings could be made elsewhere, or engage in the discussion about how quickly the deficit should be paid back and whether the cuts could be introduced more slowly. Instead, it's finger-pointing and ranting about job losses. The people making incoherent cases are actually doing more to harm the cause than help it.

There are plenty of meaty, interesting and (most crucially) important debates which need to be had at the moment. There should be a sensible and open debate about the strategy to deal with the budget deficit. There should be a rational discussion about whether public sector pension reform is necessary, and if so, how it should be fairly introduced. Instead we have politicians, journalists and other commentators shouting at each other like children in the playground.

The shame is that most - if not all - of the people doing the shouting are actually quite intelligent and would be perfectly capable of putting together a structured and eloquent explanation of why they are supporting or opposing something. But instead, the only way they can secure votes is to come up with childish insults and petty point-scoring soundbites which fit into the space of a tabloid headline.

Of course, the other place where this petty approach to discussion proliferates is on Twitter. I tried a few times to engage in sensible discussion on there, but people who really should know better are all too often tempted to slip into point-scoring and bluntly refusing to engage in what I would describe as an adult conversation.

And that's why - a month or two ago - I un-followed everyone political on Twitter. I used to follow MPs, party members and councillors. I used to follow people of all political parties, whether or not I agree with what they have to say. But eventually it all got too much for me. It felt like I was listening to children in the playground rather than sensible adults.

Politics should be interesting. Democracy is an interesting and deep philosophical concept. But the problem with politics is that it's packed full of politicians fighting for votes rather than leaders fighting for what's right. And that really is a shame.

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