Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 5 December 2008

Jeff Randall gets it Spot On

Jeff Randall's piece today in the Telegraph seems to me to sum up one of the main problems today with political discourse in the UK today. It is an excellent article about why people in public life rarely tell the whole truth about things or even attempt to answer questions put to them. It also covers some occasions when politicians have tried to step outside the narrow bounds they set for themselves and end up commiting a "gaffe".

This state of affairs has concerned me for quite a while now. Peter Oborne's latest book The Triumph of the Political Class covers this subject matter and related topics in great detail and is a very good read for political junkies like me!

I have lost count of the number of times I have been willing politicians when they are being interviewed to answer the question, engage with the issue, resist the opportunity to distort or make cheap partisan points and been left disappointed. It is just part and parcel of the usual discourse unfortunately.

A good example of this is what happened with Andrew Lansley a couple of weeks ago (Randall makes reference to this in his piece). He made some comments which were in response to claims that the recession could be bad for people's mental health. His comments were pertaining to the potential upside of a recession and that there is evidence that because people tighten their belts they tend to eat more healthily and drink and smoke less. That is exactly the sort of interesting and sensible observation that ordinary people would be interested. I certainly was and I thought it enhanced the debate about the current situation. However there was an outcry stirred up mainly by Labour politicians and others in the media about how heartless this was and how "TEH TORIES THINK TEH RECESSION IS GOOD FOR US!!!11". Complete lack of any attempt to engage with the substance of what Lansley was saying and just an opportunity for cheap political point scoring. Pathetic. Tom Watson MP's comment on his blog is typical of the sort of reaction I am referring to.

Once it became clear that the media narrative considered it a "gaffe" Lansley was forced by David Cameron to apologise for his remarks. Probably the next time Lansley has an original and interesting insight into some issue of the day he will keep it to himself. And the homogenisation continues as the standard of political debate in this country step by step gets a little bit poorer.

*Edited to correct a couple of mistakes.

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