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Electorate’s Dim View Of Politicians

July 1, 2002

Electorate's Dim View Of Politicians

In one recent survey politicians came top of the list of most disliked people. We even managed to beat estate agents and journalists by some margin.

Maybe it is the innocence of a relatively new boy in parliament but one can only hope that all of us politicians and our advisers take the negative impressions of the electorate to heart.

The loss of respect for national politicians has also coincided with the rise in the role of pressure groups. There are now hundreds of lobbyists and many skilfully manipulate the media to pursue and promote their single issue agendas.

In many cases a politician’s view on a particular subject can be seen very clearly. If it is against a particular view of the world then the lobbyist supporting the other side attacks the politician vehemently. However each opinion he or she expresses on a subject inevitably has both its supporters and detractors. For every strong supporter of foxhunting there always seems to be another person against it.

As each person finds something in an MP to dislike (for example his or her opinion on smoking and fox hunting) or something which is unacceptable (his or her failure to support minority rights or desire to see this country scrap the pound) so they will vote against that representative. It is clear that electors will often not want to be associated with a candidate’s preference and they will not vote for them.

This often means that the constituent will NOT VOTE at all. A party allegiance and a strong belief in democracy may get them to the polling booth but it is clear that an increasingly large number of people now abstain because they disagree violently with a particular candidate’s point of view on one subject.

I remember one colleague being quoted as decrying one parent families. In one fell swoop he told me hundreds of votes were lost and not a single vote gained!

All of this helps create an atmosphere in which politicians appear less honest. The example which I have quoted is an issue on which the politician feels deeply because he believes in the importance of a two parent families in the development of a better behaved and ordered society. Few, I contend, would argue with that view as a generalisation but the impact upon local single parents and their wider friends and family meant that the politician was a source of personal attack in the media for months afterwards. When he spoke up he was expressing a deeply held and whether you agree with it or not – fundamentally honest opinion and he was making his comments in the light of increased teenage crime in his constituency.

He realises now that to avoid controversy it would have been better to be bland and less specific. As this country’s electorate falls more and more out of love with its politicians and sits on its hands on election days so this country will create politicians who will say anything to be inoffensive and will agree to everything put to them by pressure groups wishing to keep them on their side. Historically British people have not wanted such leaders and I firmly hope that it will not be so in the future.

It is important to take a lead, for if we are run by pressure groups, which quite rightly only see one dimension of any picture, our society will be the poorer for it. Honesty and integrity should be demanded from our politicians but in the same way I believe we politicians should ask our constituents to cast their preference based on the overall national good rather than on one single issue magnified and often distorted by a pressure group.

In that way I believe politicians can be more true to themselves and in the years ahead the electorate will find the ability to put us above estate agents and journalists many of whom incidentally I believe are unfairly maligned!