Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A General Election blog post (boring boring boring)

Yes, another blog post to add to the vast numbers of blog posts, tweets, podcasts, news reports, statistical analyses and broadcast packages that will continue to spew forth from every corner of the political geekosphere before the UK general election this year.


Boring. Boring. Boring.

And yet... Evan Davis helpfully reminds us that a general election is not substantially about the jockeying, the punditry, or the personalities:
"... an election is not just a chance for the parties to have their say. It is best viewed as a national experience. A time for us all to take stock of the issues and to argue about how to deal with them."
This might sound idealistic, naive even; but even when there might be little to choose between the parties save policy nuance, political soap opera, positioning and clever spin, this - now - is the moment at which the country decides how to deal with the problems it faces.

The geeks, hacks and activists among us might enjoy all the jockeying, the punditry, and soap opera. We might think the politicians ill-equipped with answers and justifications. We might complain that the voters are unengaged with what they need to engage. We might note that elections are rarely decided on rational grounds, or that the parties are "all as bad as each other", or that parties never stick to their election manifestos when they get into government. And all the rest.


But Davis' point is that beyond all that, actually, there are things that we should be arguing about. Like how to deal with a deficit that will affect every member of society for years to come. Like (some might ask) what should be done about climate change, a question that if we get wrong could either reduce our economy even further or curse our descendants with a rather unpleasant world. Or a host of other issues that people might care about, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, MPs expenses, immigration, Europe, poverty, housing, taxation, the NHS, schools, crime, terrorism...

So somehow we need to move beyond the classic dichotomy between the few who simply relish the entertainment value of a general election and the many who are simply bored witless by it.