All entries for Wednesday 06 October 2004

October 06, 2004

Michael Fish – the end of an era

So, it's finally happened, Michael Fish is hanging up his weather-map. No more will we see him on TV and remember his reassurance of the audience that there would not be a hurricane in 1987. No more will his technicolour ties grace our screens. And thus ends an era in TV History.

The lack of choice in British politics

Okay, so a disturbing number of my rants so far have been focused in some way on the Tories, so to prove I do have other hobby-horses, I'm going to have a moan about politicians more generally.

Doubtless one day, the annals of History will recall that May 2nd 1997 was a day when nothing much changed. Although there was a strong feeling that New Labour was 'a good thing' (to quote 1066 and All That), this has since, in quite a short space of time historically speaking, given way to profound resentment as well as a deafening chorus of apathy. Since the advent of New Labour, a curious phenomenon has developed whereby politicians spend an incredible amount of time spinning and doing what they believe the people want, whilst at the same time causing a great amount of disengagement and then blaming the people for not choosing between Tory plan A or Tory plan B. There is thus something of an anomaly: politicians spend a lot of time on the looks of a policy, yet at the same time they behave as though it is the duty of the electorate in a democracy to accomodate the politicians rather than vice versa.

This is doubtless partly a result of the fact that the political system is becoming very static, with the Labour party in government for the forseeable future and the Tories and Liberal Democrats nipping at their heels. However, all of the parties seem to be coalescing around the memory of Margaret Thatcher and her peculiarly brutal model of economics. Increasingly, anyone who does not subscribe to the broad neo-liberal consensus which has been developing since the 1970s has no home in mainstream politics. I am a socialist, so for whom do I vote? Labour, who are committed to the introduction of 'specialist' schools, foundation hospitals, top-up fees, reductions in things such as incapacity benefit, and the continued degradation of the railways? The Tories, who subscribe to broadly similar policies with a few cosmetic dfferences to prove that they're all very nice people really? Or the Liberal Democrats, who can't quite seem to decide what they think until they've heard what you think? It's ridiculous that Labour and the Tories at least have become so fixated on the idea of choice recently, yet they do not offer a real choice because they cherry-pick each other's policies to such an extent that it becomes impossible to discover who originally thought of it.

A major reason for this could be that all of our politicians spend so long talking, shouting, or ranting at each other, that the navel-gazing stifles the possibility of any originality or of anything new to come out. Politicians seldom leave their glass-screened ivory tower, and when they do it is either to give the illusion of listening to the conerns of ordinary voters during election campaigns or to go on TV and patronise people and pretend that there's a real choice if only the people would make the effort and vote. This is what really gets me, the politicians will never accept the blame for people becoming disenchanted with politics; it's always 'the cynical media' or 'apathy,' as though the duty of an electorate is to vote for one of the choices graciously put before it by the élite whenever they deign to allow them the opportunity of an election. Institutionalised paternalism in the form of the Aristocracy no longer exists in the way it once did, however, it is still the practice of the élite to look down on the majority of people in this country as being some sort of children who need a simple choice (which is not really a choice at all) and cannot be trusted to rule their own destinies any further than that. Politicians are increasingly getting ideas above their station – they are our servants, not the other way round.

October 2004

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