Yesterday morning, on the radio, i heard a piece about how the current economic problems are affecting different people in the UK. A cross section of the community were asked about their own personal circumstances in these increasingly difficult times.
As we all are no doubt aware, especially here in the UK, this week has brought even worse news. The continuing concerns about the Euro currency and how that might affect us. The statement from the Governor of the Bank of England, saying that even he doesn't know what's going to happen and that things are pretty grim. As if we needed to be told that.
And then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, gave a statement in Parliament saying that things are worse then he thought they'd be and that the end is not in sight yet.
It was also announced that the state pension age is going to raise to 68 and, of course, we had the public sector strikes, over personal pensions.
So, not a good week!
During the course of that radio discussion two teenage girls, aged 17 and 18, were interviewed. When asked what they thought about George Osborne's statement this week and how it might affect them, they both admitted that they hadn't known who he was. One of them had even asked the other if he might be related to Sharon Osbourne, the wife of Ozzy!
While this produced some laughter amongst the other participants, it does pose a rather serious question. If, at this time of world wide economic crisis, two teenage girls don't even know the name of, arguably, the second most important politician in the UK. What hope is there?
I'm not blaming these particular teenage girls for their lack of knowledge, as i know that they are far from alone here. I have a 17 year old daughter myself and i have a feeling she wouldn't know who George Osborne was either.
Politics, even in these testing times, holds no interest for the young. In fact, politics seem to hold little interest for a fair proportion of the UK population, regardless of their age.
This situation is quite probably replicated across the world.
This apparent apathy about politics, especially amongst the young, is a big worry. After all, these are the people who will be voting for the first time at the next general election. They are the people who should be providing us with our next generation of politicians, both locally and nationally.
So, why this apathy?
I'm sure that some of it can be put down to those old favourites, "what can i do about anything anyway?", "my vote doesn't count?", "they are all as bad as each other" and "politicians don't care about people like me anyway, so why bother?"
Those concerns are age old ones and are still as relevant as they've always been. But, i'm sure that things are worse now than they used to be.
Politicans are now, more than ever, distrusted and seen as being hugely out of touch with the people that they govern. You only have to look at the recent scandal here in the UK about MP's expenses claims to see that.
The current UK goverment is run by multi-millionaires, from public schools, who insist that, "everybody is in this together", when it is patently obvious that they are not.
Money has also become a bigger factor in whether somebody can get elected in the first place in many, if not all countries. Running for office, or running a political party is a costly business and this has taken its toll and excluded many from being able to put their names onto the ballot paper in the first place. It also raises the potential for corruption and favours for those who donate, in the future.
Of course, the recent financial crisis and the bailing out of the banks has had a serious effect on the lack of confidence in politicians. The fact that the banks have been seen to have got away with their bad practices, seemingly, scott free and at the expense of the rest of us (the 99%) has hardly helped.
And then there is that small matter of those very same bankers still being allowed to pick up their large bonuses, while the politicians wring their hands and do nothing. Even though "we", the people, own a large proportion of many of those same banks, after rescuing them.
When were you last rewarded for doing a bad job? Exactly....
Another aspect is that all the mainstream political parties all seem pretty much the same. There really doesn't seem to be much to choose between any of them. The fact that we in the UK have a coalition government at the moment just reinforces that.
All the parties seem to be trying to appeal to the same voters. They have forgotten, or chosen to forget, the rest of us. All we ever hear about is "Middle England", whatever that means.
All of the above does mean that it is hardly surprising that the youth of today find politics unappealing. They feel angry, or at least see the anger of their parents. But, they also feel that they can do nothing about it. Except maybe riot, or occupy a small part of a city.
Politics used to be a worthy profession and one that many people aspired to. Thankfully, there are still some who, fortunately, try to carry that on. But, it is now a profession which has been tainted forever. People now seem to be attracted to it for all the wrong reasons, or are just not attracted to it at all.
I don't deny that being a politician is not an easy life, regardless of what some may think. It is hard work, if done properly and the increasing public scrutiny and constant media pressure can't be easy to bear. But, that is partly the result of that public distrust and past misdemeanours.
But, i do wonder if another reason politics has lost its shine over recent years and is not now such a valued career path, is because of the rise of the celebrity? After all, celebrities command more column inches in today's newspapers than many politicians, or world leaders.
Politicans themselves can often now be seen as celebrities. They've increasingly started to appear on reality shows and tv panel game shows. This usually happens towards the end of the particular persons political career i know, but....
So, if even the politicians see celebrity as a future career path, is it any wonder that the youth of today feel the same way and can't be bothered to find out, or care who is actually governing them?
Worrying, isn't it?
So, what can be done about this?
Personally, i can't see things changing any time soon. Well, not until the whole political set up changes. Or, until a completely new political party comes along to shake the foundations of the current system.
Until that time, we will be left with the same levels of distrust and dissatisfaction, with our politicians, that we have now.
Vive la revolution!
Despite what most politicians say to the contrary, they like voter apathy. Keeping actual voters to a smaller set of people they can depend on for cash and votes is far more manageable than being responsible to all the people.ReplyDelete
Yes, the good old days when public service was a high calling... Here it was from the inspiration of JFK, and the generation that came of age during his brief time. The last of those idealistic and honest politicians in our Congress (Barney Frank) just announced he will not seek re-election to his seat next year. To which, I'm sure, most 17-year-olds said, "Barney who?"
Ken: I'm sure they like voter apathy, because it tends to keep them in power. That's what's so frustrating & also why they try & appeal to only certain people.ReplyDelete
I have no idea who Barney Frank is either, but i do think i've got a pretty valid excuse.
Btw, i read the first story in your book. Good stuff :)
In Canada, 61% of eligible voters voted in the last federal election, 48% in the last provincial election and 40% in the last municipal election, a not uncommon pattern in other democracies.ReplyDelete
As you pointed out, I think one of the most significant changes in politics has been the lack of practical difference between the major political parties. Certainly I think that's been the case in Canada, especially over the last decade. Ideologically differences still exist, but practically the major parties have become harder to distinguish, especially in these tough economic times.
And more than ever it seems—even if you do manage to get out to vote—you can't be sure the party/person you vote for will deliver on its/his/her promises once in government. I'm sure many people who voted for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats aren't getting what they expected; and I know there are a lot of disappointed Democrats in the United States who voted for Barack Obama and aren't getting what they hoped for. And this brings up another reason why politics may not have much appeal for the young: the frequent necessity for compromise and the inevitable disappointment that results.
Dugal: We get pretty bad voter turnut figures over here too. It just shows the apathy of the people.ReplyDelete
The similarity of the parties is certainly a factor. I think another one is that before an election many promises are made. But afterwards nothing is carried through. As your comment about Obama suggests.