I didn’t watch last night’s TV Election Debate (I was at a meeting), but I think I’d caught up with most of it by breakfast time. It was, of course, all a little artificial but I thought that Nicola Sturgeon gave a pretty effective lesson in how to challenge the government’s record in office.
I went to hear Owen Jones speak last October as part of Bristol’s brilliant “Festival of Ideas”. This is what I wrote on my blog at that time:"Over the past year or so, I’ve become a great admirer of Owen Jones’s writing (he’s a regular columnist in The Guardian). Yes, he’s left-wing. Yes, he’s young (30!). But he’s also incredibly bright… and he talks an awful lot of sense (well, in my view at least). He’s recently written a book – “The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It” – and this formed the basis of the session. He talked for an hour (the first half an hour about the things included in the book and then another 30 minutes of questions-and-answers). He’s a remarkable and very gifted young man. He’s the sort of person who has the ability to express concerns on behalf of many of us who have become disillusioned with “establishment politics”. With certain exceptions, he doesn’t have a particularly high regard for our current batch of politicians (of whatever party)… in a recent article in the Guardian, he described them as “technocratic, rootless, soulless; a professionalised morass of time-servers who see ministerial posts as springboards to nice little earners on corporate boards; manoeuvring constantly not on the basis of political principle but for shameless self-advancement”!
There was nothing particularly startling (or new) in what he said last night (eg. lobbyists who fund the thinktanks that influence the government, or the owners who appoint the editors who set the political agenda, or the tax accountants who get seconded to the civil service that decides how much their clients will pay), it’s just that I found myself agreeing with point after point he was making (and so did the vast majority of the full-house attending last night). His talk was very much a “call to arms” – to scrutinise the powerful (the corporations, the politicians etc) in these austere times and to redress the balance away from the poor, who are all too often (according to politicians and much of the media) blamed for our current financial predicament. Amen to that!
We all need people who make us think, who give us hope, who challenge us… and who encourage us to make our voice heard.”
Well, I’ve now read his book and would highly recommend it – whatever your own political leanings. I can almost certainly guarantee this: it will make you angry... and frustrated.
Last September, I wrote a blogpost about my political frustrations. This is the opening paragraph: “Somehow, last weekend, after the Scottish Referendum which saw a 84.5% voter-turnout, I was heartened to read articles from a couple of journalists making observations such as: ‘This campaign wasn’t about politicians persuading people how to vote, but people persuading politicians…’ and ‘On both sides of the referendum, people were energised by an astonishing proposition: take everything you're used to in politics and imagine you could put it to one side and start again. At that, the people did the talking and politicians were forced to listen’”.The following day, I joined the Green Party.
I don’t pretend that this will change the world or that lots of other people will be persuaded to do likewise. Indeed, with the continuation of a “first-past-the-post” electoral system, many might view my Green vote as a “wasted vote”.
I would disagree.
BUT I would like to think that, with a General Election only a matter of some 30 days hence, maybe, just maybe, there’s still time for people to be shaken into voting for POLICIES rather than knee-jerk party politics?Afterall, the SNP lost the Scottish Referendum – although you’d never think so in the aftermath that has seen them surge in terms of support. Whatever your political allegiances, perhaps for the first time for many of us, I think people REALLY did see through the last-minute panic measures of the Big Two parties… and came to realise that, DESPITE all the efforts of the press and the major political forces, the views of ordinary PEOPLE could actually start to make a difference. For example, although I absolutely abhor UKIP’s policies, I entirely acknowledge their right to be heard. For many people, voting UKIP in the European parliamentary elections was a protest against the cosy politics of the London-centric, Westminster village… and it really scared the major parties. I think the Greens, too (especially here in the south-west), have been justifiably gaining a lot of support from people who see them as speaking up for them.
I don’t know about you, but when I watch or listen to “Prime Minister’s Question” each Wednesday, it just makes me weep. I find the insults and exchanges from both sides utterly embarrassing and depressing.It shouldn’t be like this. We need it to change. We need to make politicians listen to the electorate.
To paraphrase Owen Jones, we need to prevent the Establishment from continuing to get away with it!
Perhaps, over the coming days leading up to the General Election, I might post a few quotes from Owen Jones’s book via facebook - NOT to annoy you (hopefully) or to persuade you, but simply to make you think twice before you vote.
Now, there’s a challenge!
Photo: from the Huffington Post