Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Why is our democracy so broken?

I know I have blogged about this sort of thing before but I still get exasperated when I see comments like this from Peter Hoskin on the Spectator Coffee House blog today:

Cameron & Co. say that they would cut further and faster – but, when it comes to the details of what to cut and when, the similarities between them and Brown's government are striking. Indeed, as I've said before, we're largely taking it on trust that the Tories have a plan sufficient to the scale of the debt problem – even though there are timorous signs that that trust will turn out to be well-placed.

In the meantime, the think-tanks and other non-party political bodies, like the CBI, are doing most of the running when it comes to identifying specific candidates for chop. Perhaps that's all we should expect with an election around the corner. But, for the time being, the debt markets look on nervously.

Why do we have to take it on trust, and why is that all we should expect with an election round the corner? Just think about the logic of this for a minute. The closer we get to the public having their right to decide who should govern us, the less likely the people who want to do that governing are to tell us what they intend to do.

I am not politically naive. I understand the pressures politicians are under and what could happen if they "say too much" especially from their political opponents. But surely something has gone seriously wrong when the result of our adversarial political system is that politicians just cannot or will not go into details about crucial things like where they will focus on for public spending cuts before an election?

What's even worse is that judging by the "that's all we can expect" comment, there are some in the media who seem to accept that that is just the way it is! They should be shouting very loudly that we are not getting the answers.

At this rate, neither the Tories nor Labour will have any mandate to make the necessary cuts if they get into government.

UPDATE 19:05: Peter Hoskin has been in touch with me to point out that he is not condoning the Tories and in fact he has been saying for months that they should be more honest on cuts. His comment about it being "all we can expect" was out of exasperation. I am happy to set the record straight.


Anonymous said...

So what mandate has Clegg got for his 'savage cuts' hardly any of which - except the headline grabbers has he got.

And where do the lib dems think they can find £20bn to cut all tax on first £10k of income?

Mark Thompson said...

Whoa there Leslie! Why are you getting all "rebuttal" on my ass!?

I was not saying that Lib Dems are saints on this either. I am asking how the hell we have got to the point where it just seems acceptable that politicians will not tell us what they want to do directly before an election.

Why do you think it is?

bnzss said...

Because of the importance of marginals. Distasteful as it seems, having the ruling party in power is more important than concrete policy, which is just too risky when sitting in the centre ground and throwing mud is so much easier. That's why we have to take it on trust (or, in my case, assume 90% of it is just an outright lie) that manifesto commitments will be heeded at all.

Unfortunately, nobody really has the balls to do anything except tinker round the edges. Shame, because it makes it all so boring.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

This question - "I am asking how the hell we have got to the point where it just seems acceptable that politicians will not tell us what they want to do directly before an election" - can only lead to uncomfortable answers it might be best to ignore. Still, as you asked :-)

The people get the politicians they deserve.

The people have shown they do not want answers, being entirely content with posturing, sound bites that do not trouble their attention span, and comforting lies.

If posturing and sound bites are departed from, and real policy announcements made, all that tends to happen (as you indicate) is the opposition parties posture and make sound bites and in consequence the people never learn about the policy announcement.

When politicians are caught lying - a prime example being the "no tuition fees will be introduced - and we have legislated to prevent it" - time and again the people meekly roll-over and accept it.

There is no incentive for politicians to behave properly when there is no reward from deviating from their present behaviour, highly corrosive to a thriving body politic though it is. (It becomes more understandable why many politicians have just stuck their snouts in the trough and ignored the people - why not?)

So now we have a New Labour Party that repeatedly recites its fatuous roll-out in response to any problem - "Everything is going very well, there were some difficulties, not our fault, but we are taking new initiatives, so things can only get better" confronted by Dave and his pals who just want to appear "nice" without saying anything at all for fear of putting people off.

In fairness to the gormless muppets, many are just not bothering to vote - but it is no help and no substitute for what they should be doing, which is demanding politicians work for us.

Anonymous said...

So how do you explain away this?

Clegg has captured Lib Dems in a repeat of Blair taking over Labour from the right