Writings

Election matters, and why this election matters so much

Two excellent pieces today on separate aspects of the election campaign. Francis Gilbert has written a cogent piece on Comment is Free on why Tory policies for schools will spell disaster for our education system. In the main paper Natasha Walter analyses the deeper reasons for the absence of women from the front line of politics.

There are many reasons, of course, for the shift in modern politics, away from a collegiate/cabinet emphasis to a more Presidential style of party leadership but the set piece TV debates have only accelerated this trend. 2010’s election campaign has been structured entirely around the Thursday debates, and associated briefings and endless analysis. This means, as many have observed during this singularly depressing campaign, that the only women who seem to count are the glamorous loyal wives whom, it is hinted, will be able moderate their husband’s excesses and weaknesses in traditional medieval court style. The power beyond the throne: yes indeed; nothing to do with democracy. As for the elected women, they are nowhere to be seen. Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, is occasionally glimpsed in her bright red coat ( much good it does her) standing at the edge of some media scrum or apparently pushed to the edge of a platform.I have glimpsed the top of her head at least three times on television in the last week; they don’t even bother to show her face. Of course, the main media players are only interested in the main political players. There’s a few women in there, but not many.

As for Tory policies on education, they will be an unmitigated disaster. If schools can select their own pupils, secure their own funding and float away from struggling schools in their neighbourhood – the independent school model, unwritten by the state this time – inequality will only intensify. The Tory claim to want to tackle poverty and inequality is disingenuous; if anything proves it, it is their education policy.

One Response to Election matters, and why this election matters so much

  1. Yes it does matter of course, but look at the way it’s turned into the bloody X Factor. Can the three party leaders charm us into voting for them? Is that really what it’s come down to? If the majority of the electorate are that shallow, it’s no wonder they’re all scrambling to milk the spin and pad it out with a large dollop of empty rhetoric.

    The US style debate format may be new to the UK but it’s far from the first time we’ve seen them mete out that tedious “personalities before policies” stuff that just trivialises the really important issues for me.

    If we’re going to have these media events where the key players are paraded in front of the cameras like this, then at least hook them all up to a polygraph so the audience can have a vague idea of whether they are expounding lies, damn lies, spin, empty rhetoric or (heaven forbid) something that has some integrity to it.

    I am certain that my paternal grandfather who started work in the same year the Labour Party was formed would have wanted his grandchildren to continue with his life long support of the party and its values. I’m not yet a grandfather myself, but if I do become one, I’d like my own grandchildren to be able to live safely and fruitfully and their grandchildren after that. The greatest barrier to that happening is not the economy or immigration but the environment however. A subject largely absent from most of the debates.

    Again it’s not helped by the fickle electorate who might recycle their paper or glass on a good week, but they’re buggered if they’ll abandon cheap flights, the “right” to take Tarquin to his piano lessons in the family estate a short bicycle ride away and most importantly have as many children as they want. Apart from the somewhat biased pop at Tarquin’s wealthy parents, this issue does actually cut right across society in terms of socio economic status.

    I believe that most people will vote for what they think they will do best out of personally. Others (though I suspect not many) might cast their votes thinking of what the country would best benefit from. For me this is still insular and short sighted behaviour as we are by definition part of the whole planet. I’ve lost count of the times politicians of every political colour tell us to look at the bigger picture whilst completely overlooking the needs of their home planet.

    It would be electoral suicide to mention responsible family planning for instance in one of these debates, but over population is en even bigger issue than huge oils spills in the US, flying, driving cars, not recycling, eating meat and the host of other environmentally damaging activities that are burning up our fragile earth.

    I would agree that education is vital if we are to ever get the pressing (depressing) message across about ecology and the future of the planet. Under any of the three parties debating on the stage at present this issue is not going to be addressed adequately all the time the PFI companies and large multi nationals who increasingly influence/sponsor/work in partnership with AKA corrupt our workplaces and schools however.

    Their lobbying power is still much greater than Greenpeace, the World Development Movement, Friends of the Earth et al because these excellent charities aren’t funded anywhere nearly as much as those who want to continue to plunder our diminishing wealth of natural resources (no surely not). As always – money talks. Try eating it when everything else has been exhausted. It will of course be too bloody late by then.

    For these reasons I shall be voting green.

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