For disillusioned, read contempt…

The Squeaker of the House has announced to the world that the UK ” voters were “despairing” of the political system” which to me is a case of either classic understatement or sheer denial of what is actually going on…

Express.

COMMONS Speaker John Bercow has warned of the public’s disillusionment with politics after a low turnout in last week’s local elections. He said voters were “despairing” of the political system and that this helped to explain a turnout of just 32 per cent at the polls in England on Thursday.
Mr Bercow made the remarks in an interview for the Murnaghan programme to be broadcast on Sky News at 10am today.
He said: “People are suspicious, or even despairing, of formal politics as a means to give expression and effect to what they want.
“I think there is a wider dissatisfaction, that people feel the parties are still quite similar and perhaps there isn’t a huge choice, and partly they feel, well ‘I said what I wanted, and I voted accordingly, but I haven’t got what I wanted or what I voted for two years ago’.”
An opinion poll for last week’s Sunday Express found 82 per cent of voters believe the coalition is out of touch. That message was rammed home to David Cameron via the ballot box on Thursday. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems were trounced, losing 405 and 336 seats respectively, while Labour gained 823.

The problem is that more and more people are holding the political system in contempt owing to the activities of politicians. They read headlines saying that MP’s are to allow themselves iPads at taxpayers expense, read about the subsidised bars at Westminster (coupled with the attack on their own drinking habits) They observe that no matter who is in power that things never get better they only get worse and that politicians both local and national only seem interested in either their own parties or getting as much of our cash out of us as they possibly can. The recent scandals over expenses has not helped either, a lot of people now regard politicians as little more than crooks with the added benefit that even when caught they don’t get the same penalties for the crime that other mere mortals would. This along with what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to dumb down the population and get them dependent on state handouts  has effectively disengaged the majority of the public from an interest in seeing how they are governed.

Part of the problem though is latent tribalism, there are still people out there who will not vote outside their mental framework, regarding Labour as being for the poor, the Tories for the rich and the Lib Dems as the protest vote of choice. It’s very rare for any other party to get a look in, save only perhaps UKIP in the EU elections (where voter turn out is if anything even lower)

The solution? I’m not one for banning anything, but I believe that political parties as such are part of the problem, dissolving them and making people stand on their own manifesto and own merit might make a difference. Strict rules of conduct and more public interaction with the voting system in the form of referenda, particularly on budgets. One of the more interesting suggestions I heard was that everyone gets a lump sum tax bill on May 1st (or thereabouts) and all elections local and national were held a week later.

But we have to realise (not just bloggers) that the system is broken and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Also that the people responsible for bringing the system into such disrepute can never be allowed to stand for public office ever again.

Then and only then can we sort out the mess that the current lot have gotten us into.

3 comments for “For disillusioned, read contempt…

  1. GCooper
    May 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I’m in agreement and have long held that our best hope is to ban political parties. They guarantee the sort of lazy, tribal thinking that has got us into this mess.

    The irony of that waste of atoms Bercow lamenting over people’s despair at politicians is beyond comment, though!

  2. Mudplugger
    May 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Rather than a lump-sum Council Tax bill, a better approach would be for each party to publish its detailed budget proposals (including manpower totals and individual Executive salaries for the top 20 employees) for the next 3 years, in a standard format as part of its manifesto – but do that a month before the election date.
    So if the Financial Year starts in early April, hold the election in March, with the proposed budgets published in early February each year.

    It would then be an auditable offence to vary any spending item by more than 5% from the published budget figure.

    That way, interested voters would get the chance to see exactly what spending was planned BEFORE they voted for it.

    That might initially scare the parties sh*tless but, in practice, they would then be empowered by having gained a genuine mandate for their spending plans.

  3. WitteringsfromWitney
    May 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    You chaps should go read up on Direct Democracy & Switzerland – and the principles thereof – and then join those of us who believe it should be used over here – because that for which you wish you can achieve under DD.

    Richard North has for ages been arguing for “Referism” which would include a requirement for politicians to present an annual budget, one that would have to be agreed by the electorate.

    @GCooper: There is nothing wrong with having political parties providing their politicians are constrained by a people ‘brake’. Of course, in Switzerland all politicians are part-time and are only allowed to reclaim expenses – they do not receive a salary.

    Apply DD over here, devolve all but say defence, foreign relations, exchange rates, immigration to local authorities, provide local authorities with tax raising powers by means of either a local sales tax or land value tax and immediately you will get something never had in this country – a downward pressure on taxes.

    If anyone is interested, if you google ‘witteringsfromwitney and constitution you will find I wrote 5 posts on the subject.

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