Friday, May 01, 2015


People are probably sick of the upcoming UK election and, in particular, sick of people blogging, tweeting, and writing about it.  In particular, I'm sick of the increasingly meta-commentary (to which, yes I know, I am now contributing) of the kind that tweets about how awful it is that some person tweeted in support of something some candidate said given that said tweeter is clearly working for the party of said candidate, as evidence by this earlier tweet from the candidate that links to a photo that the tweeter is in....

It's not surprise, of course, that these parties engage in an organised attempt to provide positive commentary to their views.  I've no idea whether this helps at all or whether it just provides distraction for those of us who can't help reading all this stuff.  But it is, in the end, not particularly persuasive.  If the last 1000 Owen Jones retweets haven't made you think that David Cameron is out to destroy all that is good, then I doubt the 1001st will either.  The overall effect is not that different from what happens when supporters of football teams head to twitter or phone in to 6-0-6 with Robbie Savage.  Your midfielder's embarrassing slip that cost a goal is worth all sorts of songs, videos, parodies, comment.  Our midfielder's brave last-ditch effort that unfortunately didn't quite come off is praiseworthy and noble.  We have an organised defence; you park the bus.

Here is how one of these political irregular verbs goes:

I make a cast-iron promise.
You deceive the electorate with false promises.
He is Nick Clegg.

We have a proven track-record of delivering clear progress.
You cocked everything up last time you had a go.
They won't do anything much.

I'm bored by the whole lot and I shouldn't be.  The leaflets and the debates have just become noise.  I think what is most disappointing is that I am now finding it hard to distinguish between election leaflets and those flyers and bits of junkmail you get trying to persuade you to change broadband provider or mobile phone contract.  We are being sold something, not presented with a positive idea of something we can all do better.  (Even when the leaflets say that this is a positive idea of something we can do better, in fact they are trying to sell us something, like those companies that pretend you can save the planet by drinking a certain kind of smoothie.) So, the parties all promise that we can get things that are better, quicker, faster but we don't need to pay more.  Brilliant!  And they will super-promise all that with a five-year price deal for new voters.  (One of my local candidates has a leaflet that contains a list of five promises.  The fifth promise is a promise to keep all his promises.)  I don't believe all this guff any more than I believe that Sky broadband is eminently superior to Virgin broadband.  In any case, choosing who should represent my constituency in Parliament is not equivalent to choosing a home insurance provider.

And if that doesn't get to you, the moral overtones will.  This is perhaps what annoys me the most about the party system.  This choice between different package deals comes wrapped in the pretence of an ethical standard.  The red team says that if you vote blue then you are a heartless bastard who wants to see children starve and disabled people flogged because they can't work.  The blue team says that if you vote for the red team then you're a naive idiot who thinks that money can be conjured from thin air and that someone else should pay for you to do less. You're either heartless or stupid. The yellow team says that the other two teams are liars and that they will do a bit of one and a bit of the other: more heart and more brain.  The other teams say that the yellow team is both heartless and naive.  The green team says that everyone who doesn't like their team hates all other people and wants the planet to burn up.  The purple team says all the other teams just want to carry on playing a game of pass the parcel and that real people are fed up with it and that they want a turn at passing the parcel too.

In both ways we are treated like idiots.  The audience on BBC's Question Time last night was prepared to demand that the politicians on parade answered questions we want answered.  They didn't get much joy, but it was great to see that they weren't impressed by the evasion.