Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Matter of Policy

Have you been following the televised leader's debates?
After the first debate the opinion polls showed a surge of support for the Liberal Democrats following a better-than-expected performance from Nick Clegg, and some of the viewers and listeners comments were remarkable.
"I thought Nick Clegg was wonderful", one lady enthused, "and I've decided I'm going to vote for him now".
In other words, she was going to vote not for the Liberal Democrats but for Nick Clegg; for the personality not the policies, for the man and not for the manifesto.
I'm not bashing Mr Clegg or the Lib Dem's but I am saying that it's a mistake to be beguiled by the way a politician presents himself in the media and let that sway your allegiance. What matters, surely, is not the cut of their suit, the earnestness of their face or the quality of their smile but the policies they espouse and will pursue if they get voted in.
Another interesting bit of coverage has been the Election Call on Radio four, where listeners could phone in and put their question direct to party leaders on-air. I've listened to a few of these and noticed a recurring trend - many of the callers were unashamedly shallow, shortsighted and selfish.
One man I heard bashed David Cameron over his proposal to give a tax rebate to married couples. "That's unfair!" he raged. "My partner and I have been together thirteen years; why won't you give me a tax break? How come we can have money if we get married but won't get it if we're not?" Mr Cameron's answer, that marriage deserved to be recognised and supported, fell on deaf ears. All the man was concerned about was whether he could get a few quid or not, and he couldn't see further than that.
This is a critical election, and we need to take the long view. Of course we will be concerned for the immediate wellbeing of ourselves and our family, but we should also consider the impact of our chosen party's policies on our wider society. We slammed the bankers for placing short-term self-interest over the world's wider good - we need to be careful not to do the same.
My plea to you, then, is to make the effort to consider the policies of the parties. What will they do on Europe? Would they take us into the Euro or out of the union altogether? What about defence? What about ID Cards? What about the economy and repaying our immense deficit? Where do they stand on issues of morality? Would they clean up politics or 'reform' the system for their own benefit? What is their attitude to the environment? What about freedom of thought, speech and religion? These are important questions.
It might also be instructive to check not what the candidates say they will do, but what they and their colleagues have actually done. If you're thinking of re-electing a serving MP, try entering "name-of-MP voting record" into your favourite search engine. Or if you're thinking of voting for the other side, check out the record of some of the MPs they already have. Actions, after all, speak louder than words - a fact worth remembering in the light of the recent expenses scandal, perhaps?
So let's choose our next government not on a whim, or on the basis of a televised debate, but with as much care as we'd take if were about to buy a costly TV or a car. We'd check the specifications, read the reviews, compare the options and make sure that when we finally handed over our cash we were getting value for money. Anyone who didn't do that we'd consider a fool, yet how many of us will sign away the next five years of our future without a second thought, or maybe not even bother to vote at all?
I believe May 6th will be a defining moment. We all, together, need to take it seriously and make sure we get it right.


  1. Great post! The cynical me wants to reply: "Welcome to American-style politics!". We've been dealing with a voting public that votes on age, personality and "will he put money in my pocket?" for years! In real estate it's "location, location, location". In selecting a government it's "policy, policy, policy".

  2. A question: Are you for or against ID cards and why? An honest question.

  3. I'm against, for a number of reasons that wouldn't really fit into a comment. Perhaps I'll do a post about it, assuming of course the project survives the General Election