Friday, 9 October 2009


In the third week of Party Conferences, it would be easy to despair when reading how far the tabloids have to dumb down their political coverage. As our country approaches a general election, and at a time when the developed world faces incredible economic pressures, the two principal arguments for Britain seem to be:

"He's got no sense of humour."
(therefore Gordon Brown and the Labour party are somehow unsuited to run the country)

"He's got a posh accent."
(therefore David Cameron and the Conservative party are somehow unsuited to run the country)

This isn't The X-Factor! Worryingly, these are becoming the front-page, headline issues. However, if the public does dig deeper they will, eventually, be presented with other arguments such as:

"Gordon Brown got us into this mess."
(conveniently and blatantly ignoring the impact of global recession on the country)

"David Cameron doesn't know what it's like to live on £90 a week."
(as though any of the party leaders have to live on £90 a week - and as though having someone with this sort of experience would be better than silly things like economics, business, diplomacy, etc.)

Anyone who is engaged by this sort of insightful journalism would do more good eating their ballot paper than voting with it.

So whatever happened to the real political argument? Well, it's true that the difference between left and right is much smaller than it used to be. Tony Blair won 3 elections by taking the centre ground - he understood that the unions and militants would sound more appealling to the country if they shut their mouths. David Cameron seems to have a similar strategy, bringing the Conservatives right in beside Labour, and adopting a more compassionate stance. With both parties trying to be masters of the middle, there is naturally less division, less fodder for robust political debate.

But surely there is still room for some intelligent discussion. Surely there are different centrist approaches that merit debate? Or have we reached the point where a talent show phone-vote is the only vote that matters?

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