Those debates did, however, set me off musing on the whole problem of politicians and the electorate, something that many people have opinions. It seems to me that most of those opinions are wrong in that there is no evidential support for them.
One thing we can all agree on and that is the lacklustre performance of all parties in Britain, something that has been going on for a few years. Turn-outs in general elections tend to be not much higher than sixty-five per cent when it used to be in the high seventies and low eighties while in by-elections this has sunk to ridiculously low levels. This is largely a matter of choice on the part of the electorate but what is not clear, given the plethora of smaller parties, why that choice is being made in preference to voting for one of them.
One of the most easily disproved assertions is that people are tired of negative campaigning. Really? When did positive campaigning win anything? I am talking about both sides of the Pond; President Obama has recently won a second term after a campaign that seemed to consist of nothing but personal attacks on his opponent.
More seriously, there is a rather fuzzy opinion around that politicians would be more popular if they were more in touch with the people, were more like the man on the street, were more trustworthy and had had experience of being successful at something else than politics such as business or warfare. These are mutually incompatible, of course. A successful businessman or military commander is nothing like the man in the street and being "in touch with the people", even if it were possible, would mean adopting some of the most obscurantist, illiberal and economically illiterate opinions. Too many of our politicians do that anyway. We do not want any more of that.
I strongly suspect that if the Leveson proposals were put to a referendum, there would be an overwhelming majority for state control of the media as people who buy those newspapers with the illegally acquired gossip rush to show their shock and horror at the practice. Thankfully, some politicians are not in touch with the popular mood on that.
In the past I covered some aspects of this subject, writing about the lack of evidence that people who have been successful in other fields will necessarily make good politicians or be able to have rational policies on those very fields; also about parties that set themselves up to field "real people" as candidates such as the Jury Team in 2009 and the Trust Party in 2010.
About the Jury Team I wrote:
We hear a great deal about the arrogance of politicians and all those who live in the Westminster/Brussels bubble. Indeed, I have written and spoken about it myself. But what of the arrogance of people who think that they should be in that bubble, make decisions that affect us all and generally throw their weight around without wanting either to slog through the party structure (fair enough if you do not believe in it) or to make the slightest effort to find out what is actually going on around them?
What on earth makes these people think that the world (or Britain or their region) is waiting breathlessly to hear their ignorant ideas on what needs to be done? At the very least, they could find out that the European Parliament does not function in the same way as the Westminster one does. Or about the treaties. Or about the European Communities Act. Or, or, or ….That sort of arrogance of ignorance continues to appal me and, I hasten to add, the electorate as none of these parties get votes worth bothering about.
As for the Trust Party, the brainchild of Mr Stuart Wheeler, now Treasurer of UKIP:
Mr Wheeler and many others keep telling us that they want to restore faith in politics and politicians. Those are two different issues and one often precludes the other.
Certainly, it is time the people of this country grasped that politics is not a spectator sport. If you don't get involved it will come and grab you. This notion that somehow politics has nothing to do with us is a relatively recent one in Britain and has grown in tandem with faith in politicians. Leave it all to them and they will sort it out. Unfortunately, instead of sorting it out the politicians have brought this country to a point of destruction and the expenses scandal was, in a way, a wake-up call for many people not to trust those b******s any longer. In my opinion, that is an entirely healthy attitude. The last thing we want is a return to the somnolent attitude of the people trusting politicians.The question of whether the electorate wants trustworthy politicians who are just like themselves brings us rather neatly back to UKIP. Certainly, many of their candidates would be described as "ordinary people" though whether they are in touch with the man or the woman in the street is a moot point. Yet their electoral achievements remain meagre. Even on the local level, the only way they get new councillors is by existing ones abandoning their own parties and going over to UKIP. When it comes to general and by-elections the results after twenty years are lamentable but we need not rehearse all that again.
Let me turn my blogging attention to the Leader of UKIP, one Nigel Farage. Again, we need not rehearse all the many problems there are with his leadership - many people have done so, not least the Boss of EU Referendum. On top of the cult or personality, the lack of strategic thinking, the propensity to make stupid off the cuff remarks in public and the refusal to do any homework there is the undoubted but rarely discussed fact that Nigel Farage is not a vote winner. He did stupendously badly in Buckingham, coming third in a two-horse race, as a disenchanted supporter put it, and even that plane crash did not bring in the sympathy vote. There is no evidence that his presence adds to UKIP's vote total and some that it actually detracts from it.
My American friends find this rather hard to understand as they see Mr Farage on TV and he seems personable, articulate and a good bloke who will tell it like it is. Surely that is just what the voters want. Apparently not.
The curious thing is that those American friends are right in a way. Farage is excellent on the media and his jack-the-lad persona is absolutely genuine, reflecting similar personae up and down the country. He really was a trader on the Metal Exchange, he really does like to drink and smoke cigarettes, he really does prefer to have his meetings in pubs, he really is a sort of a regular bloke with that regular bloke's propensity to bend the truth and forget about loyalties. He has many interests beyond the obvious ones, being, among other things, a knowledgeable amateur historian of the Western front in the First World War. (I know this from conversations with him.) In other words, he is not a bland, manufactured political puppet; what you see is what you get. And yet the electorate does not seem to want this.
Let us now look at their temporary Leader during the last general election: Lord Pearson of Rannoch. He, too, is not a bland, manufactured politician. In fact, he is not a politician at all but a man who believes certain things very strongly and insists on saying them. You would think that would go down well with an electorate that is allegedly tired of politicians sitting on the fence or trimming their sails to the prevailing political wind. Not a bit of it.
Lord Pearson is a toff but one who is not ashamed of it and that seems to work for Boris Johnson who hasn't an honest bone in his body. Pearson is a businessman who built up his own reinsurance business. He has worked hard for various charities and in the House of Lords for causes he believes in. He likes country sports, particularly fishing and shooting and owns a large estate in Scotland that is run as a business. I wrote about him in greater detail when he became Leader of UKIP.
The Conservative media's attack on him at the time had
nothing to do with him being upper-crust, which he is not or being involved in some country sports, which is not an upper-crust pastime in the country, especially not in Scotland. It has nothing to do with him being an old Etonian or with being on friendly terms with many political, business and social animals.
What it has to do with is the understanding that with all his various faults Lord Pearson is a man of principle. He is also a man of experience, having built up his own very successful business, running his estate as another business, setting up various charities and organizations that help charities and think-tanks financially.
He has helped Soviet and East European dissidents and victims of Islamist persecution; he was involved in the fight to save country sports and country businesses, particularly those that produce food; he has taken part in campaigns and set up organizations that help disabled children, their families and carers; he has defied all to bring Geert Wilders over to this country and to proclaim the importance of free speech; above all, he has fought the Euro-Monster for many years in the House of Lords, through his contacts in the business world and via determined correspondence with the BBC that is beginning to pay off.Things did not work out too well, as we know, not least because the media that is always allegedly looking for "different" and "honourable" politicians gave him a peculiarly hard time. (To be fair, some of his own statements did not help.) Just as with Mr Farage so with Lord Pearson of Rannoch: what you see is what you get. Neither is a bland, manufactured politician but the kind of person the electorate is allegedly hungering for. Well, not so that you'd notice it is not. We surely get the politicians we deserve.
At this point I can hear readers muttering and shuffling their feet. All right, all right, they all say (I am not playing the numbers game) but what is it the electorate wants? What do you (I) suggest? That is just the point. I do not know either. What I do know is that there is no point in repeating the old shibboleths about what is wrong with modern politics because they are all wrong and have been proved to be wrong. Most definitely it is time to think anew and, as ever, it ought to be UKIP who does it as they have most to gain and to lose.