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October 22, 2009

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Tony Woolf

It is well known that self-interest will tend to drive mainstream parties towards the centre ground where there are most voters. So differences between mainstream parties will not be as great as the differences in society, or indeed between MPs. But parties do make a difference, for example privatisation and council house sales under Thatcher. Or looking a bit further back (but still well within living memory), the creation of the NHS.
The best way to create an interest in politics is to remove the right to vote. I recommend removing the right to vote from young people until they are old enough to have observed, as an adult, the difference between the promises made by the winning party at the previous election and their actual performance in office. Correspondingly, the worst way to increase interest is to force people to vote.

pablopatito

"Even I spend more time thinking about music, food, gardening, or football than I do about politics - and I’m supposed to be one of the country’s top political bloggers."

Ha ha. You still obviously spend a lot more time thinking than Iain Dale does. I really believe that Blair and Brown have prevented more people in the third world from dying unnecessarily. This is just a hunch though.

botogol

I don't really disagree with much of this, but I'd observe that

- you are dismissive of the main parties, because their policies are much the same, and reflect the mainstream, cached thoughts

- however you are ALSO dismissive (and would deny a platform to) the fringe parties, whose policies are definitely not mainstream and which most definitely WOULD make a big impact on our lives, if they found power

Luis Enrique

And yet there is great variation in the things that matter to people, the things that we think politics change, across countries and over time. If politics isn't changing them, what is?

If your answer is decentralized and complex economic and social forces, are you saying, to slip into econ jargon, that everything is endogenous and there's little scope for exogenous actions (say, policy decisions) to change the lives of millions of people in a big way?

I guess one answer to that, is that there is scope for exogenous actions to change lives, only it's the exogenous actions of lots of individuals that interact in complex ways... not the actions that takes place in the arena of politics.

I'm ready to believe that the importance of politics can easily be exaggerated, but I can't quite believe that what happens in the political arena isn't significant enough to matter in a big way.

(Although I must admit, that the state of politics in this country is so woeful, i tend to go out of my way to avoid it).

Straus

Jamie Whyte makes a similar point about the benign phenonmenon of voter apathy in this article:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article634944.ece

Some of his assumptions are a little outdated following the banking crisis, but his central point about the lack of difference between the major parties is still valid.

Actually I don't think that most people who join political parties, at least not the main ones, are fanatics. Many more of them are careerists and the parties themselves are simply vehicles to propel one or another other set of careerists into office. The reason why politicians (with one or two honourable exceptions) are so risible and unattractive is that they will almost always put their careers (the lure of office) above any convictions they might have. How else did the Labour Party manage to corral its MPs into the lobby to vote for the war in Iraq?

One way to make mainstream party politics a pursuit less dominated by careerists would be to reform the electoral system in such a way that would give the minority parties (Greens, UKIP, BNP, Respect etc) a realistic chance of getting into parliament. This would have some negative consequences (such as the presence of extremists and unstable coalitions) but it could have the beneficial effect of getting people to engage in party politics because they actually believe in them, rather than because they think they can allow them to attain or get close to power.

It could also encourage politicians in the major parties to stop trying to be all things to all people and be more frank with the electorate.

ortega

Oh, you know well your Oakeshott!
You convinced me but I'm a fraid that the point is to convince the politicians.

Barry

"In many areas of the country you would have to throw a lot of bricks before you hit a member of a major political party, though the effort might be worth it."

Thank you so much for giving me a good hearty morning laugh!

Tom Addison

"To be a politician is to be a fanatic - what sort of person would rather go to political meetings than watch Corrie? - and an egomaniac: you need to believe that you can “make a difference” and that others should share your views."

Precisely the reason my interest in politics is waning and waning, because each time I see these politicians I step back and think to myself about why they're doing this, how they've got there and who the hell they think they are.

I can imagine most of them decided they wanted to be in politics when they were about 12 years old, and the political views they formed then are probably the political views they hold now (which, as we know, people are very reluctant to change, even if the evidence against what they believe is raping them in the face).

Then there they are, at 18 years old, having only one care in the world, which is fighting their way up the ladder at some self-worshipping political party. I work in Manchester, and each day had to walk past that bloody Tory conference, and I tell you what, the egotistical arses stuck out like a dogs balls.

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