Monday, 13 October 2008

Politicians - don't you just hate them?

Well no, actually I don't. I do find them annoying when they have been too well briefed and drilled and go on the telly or write in newspapers trying to work in phrases from focus groups and trot out what their PR consultant tells them we want to hear. It particularly grates when Liberal Democrats get on the telly and they fall over backwards to namedrop their leader. I understand why they do it. They need to raise their number one guy's profile. But that doesn't stop it getting on my nerves.

Political parties are very tribal things. At one time you voted Labour if you were working class and Conservative if you were middle class. You identify with your side and detest the other lot. I have certainly thought that way in the past. It is very comforting. Your side is right and the other lot are wrong. It works particularly well when your favourites are out of power. Anything that goes wrong can be blamed on the government and you can shrug your shoulders.

The trouble with this mindset, and the reason I have dropped it, is it is really dis-empowering. You might feel good, but it doesn't DO any good. I think it is much better to thank politicians from all the parties for what they do. The reality is that politicians, opposition as well as government, do us a great service. They bring up a lot of issues that are important and which we really ought to think about. I know that I would not do a good job of coming up with a programme that would get even the support of the members of my household let alone a majority of voters. It can be very interesting to listen to what politicians have to say. Even if you don't agree it with it at first hearing it is worthwhile to listen carefully and try to work out what they are really suggesting and why they are saying it.

I find it helpful to treat what they are saying as a valuable lesson in how the world works. They will have thought it through more than I will have time to - and they have resources they can draw on that I don't have. The fact that we have three big parties and a couple of smaller ones is a great asset to us as a country, and one that we don't appreciate very much.

I have adopted this attitude for about a year now. Has it changed the way I am going to vote. Well not much in the event, I still think the party I have always supported is the one I most want to vote for. But I can now conceive of voting for the other lot - though I probably never will.

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