Friday, September 12, 2008

The Sarah Palin gap

This week's Economist has what promised to be an incite full article (not sure if subscription needed for link) on the absence of an equivalent charter to Sarah Palin in British politics, at least not since Mrs T.

The article is perhaps a little too pleased with itself as it spends most of its timing equating chavs with rednecks. However it makes a number of points that I agree with and have made in this blog and else where. Namely:

  • Politics has become professionalised and this has denied the average person representation of people who are like them and hold their values. ( Oh yes the likes of Harriet Harperson and Theresa May go on about needing more Women etc - but they mean more women like them. Not the common people who they claim to lead. One of the most telling criticisms of the "A List" fiasco for the Conservative party was how diversity didn't seem to mean everyone should come from Kennsington and Chelsea. )
  • The political system has become a conspiracy to deny the majority of people their say.
  • The whole system chases the diminishing pool of floating voters. With those in 'safe' seats ignored. ( Labour has just found out the cost of that - the Conservatives came close in the Bromley byelection. )
This is a wider argument than just the observation that in the UK we have no equivalent to Sarah Palin. It suggest, with our falling voter turnout, and concentration on the feckless floating voters ( about 40k out of 60 million I think ), that we don't have a functioning democracy or at the least one that ignores the largest parts of the population and frankly isn't intrested in them.

Of course there used to be politicians who connected directly with their voters like Dennis Skinner and Norman Tebbit, but its getting harder for their likes to work their way through the party establoishments, serving their time a 'researchers', spAds, and think tank members before that all important moment when a safe seat becomes available and you have made all the right contacts to get yourself in. Just a shame these people have nearly nothing in common with the people the euligise and say they represent.

Norman Tebbit made a telling point in an interview for Tory Radio a year or more ago. He pointed out that a large amount of the population is now not voting at all, and there is an alternative startegy. Instead of chasing the feckless and clueless floating voters, you could go out and find you supporters who no longer turn out.

It look like its working for Sarah ....

Update: This extract from the article makes many of the key points:

That lack is in part a reflection of the boringly professionalised career that politics has become. There is still a small gang of old-school industrial Labour MPs, who huddle in solidarity in the House of Commons; but there used to be many more who had personal experience of the social problems they opined on. Politics is now a game played by slick graduates, who work in think-tanks or back rooms before climbing the pole to their own seats, and are unlikely to drop their aitches. The party machines weed out authentic mavericks much more mercilessly than America’s presidential system. This is as true of the Tories as it is of Labour, which is why neither side makes a fuss about it.

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