IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

The electioneering this time is different and worrying

29 November, 2019

• GIVEN my 70 years and having experienced numerous elections, what strikes me is how different this is from previous ones.

There is the sheer amateurish behaviour of the principal players. How can a group of senior politicians be caught running a fake website purporting to be that of their rivals?

The fact that they justify it by saying that anybody reading the fake website Labour manifesto will see the letters CCHQ on the front page of the post and realise that it’s not what it claims to be is a schoolboy cop-out. It’s a jolly jape that you would expect from the boys in Billy Bunter’s Lower IV at Greyfriars.

That serious politicians can spend their time on such silly stunts rather than on devising serious proposals to put to the electorate, gives a frightening insight into the frivolous nature of our leading politicians.

This is the first election I have experienced in which the two leaders of the major parties are unwilling to speak on major policy issues. Boris Johnson on his policies and Jeremy Corbyn on the EU.

Do they fear that if they are allowed to speak their mind on serious and controversial issues their loose and foolish talk will alienate voters.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been exiled to Somerset for making known his offensive thoughts on the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. Presumably CCHQ hope it will be a case of out of sight out of mind.

One requirement of a political leader is that they are a good communicator. When Winston Churchill and Aneurin Bevan were engaged in debate, the bars in the House of Commons would empty as MPs would flood into the chamber.

Debate between leaders in the Commons now has the effect of making MPs want to exit the chamber to get some relief from the tedium of it all. What should be the essential skills of rhetoric seem absent from today’s politicians.

Labour claim, quite rightly, that they are proposing one of the most radical manifestos of any party since 1945. However unlike Clement Attlee’s Labour they seem not to know how to engage and enthuse the electorate for their policies.

Instead of spending their years in opposition educating the electorate about the need for radical reforms, they have surprised the electorate by suddenly showering them with a plethora of radical policies in the short period that is the election campaign, hoping some will resonate with the voters.

In contrast Attlee’s years in opposition were spent educating the electorate on the need for radical change. Admittedly they had the advantage of the Army Education Corps being peopled by largely academics of a Labour persuasion, who could sell the party policies to a captive audience of  servicemen and women.

Excellent as are the Labour canvassers, they cannot do in a matter of weeks what should be have done over a number of years. I know Labour has constantly attacked the government on austerity, but absent from their attacks have been the detailed policy proposals that would have given bite to their criticisms. As a supporter I despair of the party’s lack of professionalism.

Britain is always claimed to be a mature democracy, but I fear that it is a mature democracy that is edging towards senility. The behaviour of senior Conservative politicians does suggest that parliamentary democracy is entering into its “second childhood”.

While so much of the criticism in the media of Corbyn is unfair, his failure to engage with the media has let that image stand unchallenged.

His negative image means the media can claim that the choice is between two seemingly unpopular, dysfunctional, leaders, enabling Johnson’s media team to claim him as the lesser of two evils.

One of the reasons for the decline of the first democracy in Athens was the disrespect brought on it by the poor behaviour of its politicians. Athenians came to believe it was not worth fighting to retain it.

Are we in Britain experiencing a similar change in our political landscape?

DERRICK JOAD
Address supplied

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