« Late night - long day | Main | Experiences of an English soldier »

January 09, 2008

Politics ......

I find politics interesting, in much the same way that I find venomous spiders "interesting" - preferably dead. But just at the moment you can't seem to escape it. The Pollsters have been busy little bees, and yesterday, while waiting for my flights, I had to listen repeatedly to predictions that Hilary Clinton was heading for an embarrassing defeat in the US Presidential Primary being held, I think, in Maine. Likewise there was a great trumpetting that Labour had gained a few percentage points in the Polls against the Conservatives and even the LibDems had managed to lift their share. Only our Illustrious Leader remains low in the public esteem it appears. But just how reliable are these Polls?

THis morning the BIG news is that Hilary Clinton won the Primary. Yesterday she was lsated to lose - today she emerges a clear winner. Either the statisticians are getting their sums wrong, or the voters are telling "porkies" when answering the questions ... Or it could be "hanging chards" again ....

As I see it there are several things that beset all political systems of the democratic, multi-party sort. First it is the fickleness of uncommitted voters, I have known people vote for a candidate "because he has such a nice smile" - not because he is any good or offering anything new, different or beneficial. Likewise any politician who dares to tell the truth about their intentions might as well take a jump off the verandah of that Palace of Follies into the Thames wearing a weight belt and without a lifebelt.

The second thing is the Party platforms themselves. Party affiliations are all very well, but the problem comes in when the Party Ideology dictates the voting of the members. No matter whether a policy or a law is going to be good or bad - the party hacks must and do vote according to their Party position and not according to the ebenfit or otherwise the item will bring. In other words they represent not their electorate, but their Party. That is now an outdated and outmoded concept and it is time it was changed. Voting should not be a matter of "Whips" choice, but of how their electors see things.

Then there is the process of election itself. Personally I will never reveal how I intend to vote or have voted to anyone. That is the object of a "secret" ballot. Some people I know will deliberately tell a pollster the opposite of what they voted and some voters will vote on party lines simply because they always have, or worse, because that is how grandfather voted and I always ..... I call this the tribal vote. Again, it is in serious need of reform, for at the moment there are too many "Rotten Boroughs" where no matter who or what the candidate is if they have the right badge they will be elected.

Then there is the problem of answerability. Far too many decisions these days are in the hands of the incompetents who make up the civil service. They write the "rules", draft the legislation, draw up the questions for a referndum and always couch these in terms that require a legal expert to decipher. And always in a manner that ensures that there will be another thousand/ten thousand bureaucrats required to administer them. Once elected we hear nothing more about "consulting the electorate" and suddenly Parliament is free to do as it pleases for five years "because it is in our manifesto and the voters approved it."

The other big issue in our news was Gordon Brown's meddling in the NHS - again. I think I have now heard his "new money" and "new intiatives" around eight or nine times. Does he really think he can fool us by re-arranging the deckchairs again and again. There is no "new" money going into the NHS for medical care. All the "new" money goes to more and more "managers" on "performance related pay" and not into health care! Again and again twisted and selective use of numbers "prove" that "targets" are being achieved for this that and the next thing. All the while the things they are measuring are carefully selected to show only the "best" part of the picture. Selective vision is always a stock in trade for politicians. It is all about bribery to get votes. If they can convince enough voters that they really will get something for nothing if they will only vote for "X" then they will promise anything and "prove" they have done it. And sadly, there are voters out there who are easily swayed to vote for "X" because to vote for "Y" will cost you ....

I have commented before that our democracy here is weakening, the last General Election demonstrated that very clearly, only just over 50% of the electorate bothered to vote - so Blair's "Ringing Endorsement" of Labour was a sham - it amounted to 28% of the voters endorsing his policies .....

Politics and statistics of course share one thing in common. They are both about creative use of numbers or language to convince the populace at large that one group or another is "good for the country" and everyone else isn't. As they say, "There are lies, damned lies - and statistics" which could be renedered, "There are lies, damned lies - and politics."

Not much to choose from really, as I said at the start, as fascinating as watching a Sydney Funnel Web approach to attack you. Not much you can do to stop it either once it bites.

Posted by The Gray Monk at January 9, 2008 09:29 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: