POLITICAL cowardice is more common than ever before. Instances of cowardly behaviour by politicians, depending on your definition or understanding, make either a long list or an exceptionally long list. Certainly this opinion can be defined as subjective to a large extent, but isn’t that part of why it is an opinion?
In my 50-plus years of life, politicians have come and gone, but basically we have had three main parties, two of which have had most of the power dating back even longer. With each new government or campaign come ever-increasing promises to make life better for all. Many will remember the Blair years and the narrative that the working man had never been better off. Or politicians and large institutions trying to convince us that trickle-down economics makes everyone better off. There are many more examples of inflated claims which are invariably rolled back later; so much so that I would argue politicians are the most pernicious users of the English language, moulding it and assigning meaning to statements that are opposed to the common man’s understanding.
Traditionally the population and electorate have relied on journalists to act as a kind of tenth man and hold politicians to account. Where the common man would call politicians liars, journalists have had understandable reasons to be careful in wording accusations, usually they couch them in terms of ‘U-turns’ and other nice words. However the observant amongst us have noticed a weakening of even this level of scrutiny with more journalists acting almost as activists on behalf of politicians, gaining trust and access to leaks, whispers and spin.
U-turns should not be only a bad thing. Yes, if the government take an excessive time to correct course on a failing policy, pointing out the policy’s inadequacy is correct, but most voters are happy to see a U-turn if they believe the original policy is doing harm and welcome the re-think by politicians who should be in a small way congratulated if they do it correctly by being open about the change in course.
The common man, population or electorate, call us what you wish, see all the machinations of politicians and political commentators or journalists. It is an increasing feeling among possibly the majority that the system is broken in part, lurching from one chaotic cock-up to another. The majority surely know that the politicians and journalists in the ‘Westminster bubble’ are normally several months and on occasion years behind the true strength of feeling on issues. Most recently and obviously one issue would be illegal immigration. Those who raise concerns are tarred as racists rather than people with a different opinion or belief. But in this country having another position on issues of the day is a right. The job of politicians and journalists, as expected by the common man, is to investigate in good faith and produce evidence one way or another which allows informed decisions to be made.
I am neither a journalist nor a politician: I count myself most definitely as a common man. I have voted for all the main parties, which I guess makes me a floating voter. Maybe in some ways an argument can be made that political cowardice leads me not to have a position strong enough to stand on and believe in. To this I would simply say I am open to the best possible option. Perhaps the worst political cowardice is the fact that so many will vote not for the best or for a change but more for reasons such as family tradition or because ‘that’s how my class vote’.
If you do not do something different, you must ask yourself: How will doing the same things bring about different results? Violent crime is increasing, food banks are more common, divides between people are deepening. The list could go on. How will these ever change if we, the most powerful people in the land, the ones with the power to change our own fates, do not learn to vote for different, new, more directed parties who understand the need for change or new ways for power to be used? Perhaps the worst political cowardice is in the electorate who do not put real pressure on politicians to do the jobs we want done. We lack the will to change our own lives in a truly significant way, and maybe they know it and that is why they do not act.