Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
Is there a question for our form of democracy when the public don’t seem educated enough to make a rational and informed decision on election day?
Considering the upcoming General Election, it seems that the public just don’t have a clear idea of what each political Party is about, they are misinformed by media and politicians. The spin and misinformation targeted at the public is obviously done in attempt to damage the image and reputation of rival political Parties but also to boost the popularity around certain political groups and figures. This is electioneering. They need the public to vote for them in order to win an election and it is this result which drives spin, propaganda and misinformation in the arena of Parliamentary politics.
So how can democracy function under such a Parliamentary system which involves deliberate drip feeding of spin and misinformation toward the public, leaving the majority of the population in a state of confusion and ignorance over what they are really voting for?
Consider the result of an election where a massively politically misinformed electorate vote for their choice of political Party. It’s a frightening thought, but perhaps this is a situation more familiar and close at hand than we think. In such a situation, surely the winning Party will be the one who is most skilled and has the most resources available to put together a vote-winning propaganda campaign. Now ask yourself a question: “Is this democracy?”
Winston Churchill famously said “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” To modernize this quote and make it work for today, I would substitute “average voter” with “man on the street”. Are we happy with a situation where a politically confused public can pick who is in charge of our society?
We commonly witness News broadcasters around the time of an election, asking people in the street who they are going to vote for. Mainly, the responses they get seem to reflect what I have been talking about: a situation of confusion and misunderstanding. We witness members of the public getting confused between which Party is which, who represents what? And murmuring ‘Who’s Nick Clegg?’ I’m not being pompous about this, I sympathize with the situation, why the hell should people have a firm grasp of our political system?
We also often see voting referred to as some sort of consumer choice. People flip and flop from Labour to Tory, from one election to the next with, it would seem, no deeper ideological attachment to the values or aims of a particular political group. Voting just doesn’t seem to be taken seriously enough and is sometimes referred to in a similar way that people refer to choosing their favourite brands at the supermarket. Rich Tea or Digestives? Labour or Tory? Political and democratic matters require another level of decision making.
Obviously voter apathy plays a huge role here. Politicians and political Parties need to Revolutionize and pragmatize the way they go about their business. Trust and apathy are both contingent upon the way our political system works, and with such a system where electioneering necessarily involves spin and misinformation, these two issues will not go away.
So what’s the best option for change? Do we change the political system and electoral system? (a switch to proportional rep would be a start) Do we restrict the vote to the politically aware and educated? (I think that would be a firm no) Or do we tackle the way our media is dominated by politically biased media moguls, challenging the petty, gossip papers’ content and strive for a more objective media in the UK? Another key step would be to educate the public politically. Now obviously we don’t want everyone to do a BA in politics, yet some firmer and more substantial form of political and democratic education does seem necessary. Ok we have citizenship classes for school kids and personal, social education, but it’s just not enough.
Let’s educate the public politically and democratically and let’s give people a reason to vote!
Tom Bone, 2015 – Editor for Consensus44