Last week we had Russell Brand, who for reasons passing understanding is now a very rich ‘celebrity’ holding forth on politics and being selected by our dumbed down media to be afforded a platform, telling Jeremy Paxman that he ‘can’t be arsed to vote’ and looking forward to a revolution, in a Newsnight interview.
Now we have the Guardian focusing on Paxman’s confession that he himself, grizzled establishment beast that his is, once did not venture out to vote because looking at the candidates he found ‘the choice so unappetising’. This was enough to spark off the Guardian’s Michael White into writing an op-ed, that we will look at in a moment, as it actually prompted this post.
Back to Paxman for a moment though. Regardless of who he works for and the editorial line he takes, some of his withering assessment is illustrative and quite valuable.
Russell Brand has never voted, because he finds the process irrelevant. I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo-chamber. But it is all we have.
In one recent election, I decided not to vote, because I thought the choice so unappetising. By the time the polls had closed and it was too late to take part, I was feeling really uncomfortable: the person who chooses not to vote – cannot even be bothered to write ‘none of the above’ on a ballot paper – disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all.
At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history.
It won’t be a bombshell if very large numbers of the electorate simply don’t bother to vote. People are sick of the tawdry pretences.
It was in response to these comments that the Guardian’s insufferably arrogant Michael White entered the fray with a voter apathy piece. Now, things are never black and white, there are always shades of grey, which is why there were some parts of White’s piece that seem well judged. But this is Michael White, so he undoes his good work with some typically idiotic rot:
But Paxman speaks to a wider malaise in which the media itself plays a larger part than it ever cares to admit. Yes, politicians promise too much and under-deliver. But the idea promulgated by Brand, that they deliberately “lie and deceive” while remaining indifferent to voter needs, is risible. If anything, current politicians are too keen to appease voter demands – better services for less tax – than to tell hard truths about our problems.
This is so much establishment bollocks. Take David Cameron, Nick Clegg or Ed Miliband for example, promising too much and under-delivering. Why does this happen? It is perfectly fair to argue that they are lying and deceiving. It is not risible. Their failure is not about being more keen to appease voter demands than to tell the hard truths about our problems.
The first hard truth is that they infer action will be taken, or promise action will be taken, on matters where they know all too well the UK Parliament has no control, because sovereignty has been ceded to the European Union. They know it because they are briefed about the limitations of what they can and cannot do by advisers and civil servants. They don’t make these promises to appease voters, they do it to conceal the extent to which power has been given away. That is why they indulge in such tawdry pretences.
If these men and their ilk wanted to appease voter demands we would have had, for example, an EU referendum years ago, we would not have invaded Iraq, our troops would have already ended the Afghanistan debacle, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers would be removed from the country as soon as their claim was rejected, people wanted on terrorist charges overseas who abuse our hospitality by using this country as a base from which to incite violence would have been deported, wind turbines would not be replacing coal and gas power stations at greatly increased expense to consumers, fuel duty would have been slashed, and idiotic rules on waste collection and spiralling landfill costs we are forced to pay would have been dropped. Just for starters.
So Russell Brand is right about the lies and deceit. What about this assertion from White?
Consensus can be a boring but necessary part of life, at home as much as in politics. Compromise is part of the process of politics whereas polarisation fuelled by outrage (real or fake) is more fun, but also more dangerous.
The reason why there is so much consensus is that the major issues of ideological difference have been removed from national control. Change cannot be effected, so the three main parties are congregated around the scraps that are left, where there isn’t really scope for wildly divergent viewpoints. There is a hard truth here, but none of the politicians acknowledge it. The EU elephant is in the room, the deception is maintained.
The hardest truth of all is that democracy has been utterly subverted. We hear lots about democracy when politicians seek legitimacy through elections. But when constituents try to influence how their elected representative votes on a matter in the House of Commons, they are rebuffed by the MP – often with words to the effect of they represent all constituents, not just those who write or call to press for him/her to vote in a certain way.
So where from here? Since writing this post commenced in the late afternoon, Russell Brand has been given space in the Guardian for a lengthy opinion piece. The comments and ideas there concerning elections and voter anger will be covered in part 2…