Friday, 6 April 2012

Bradford West - Aberration or Portent?

"You politicians. Conservative. Labour. Lib-Dems. Over my lifetime, and I am 65, you have sold the assets of this country to overseas masters, and you have sold the people of this country down the river. And still you play junior fart club between yourselves. Why don't you recognise that you are all finished. Come the next General Election, you will each get a share of the lowest turn-out ever. You will all be virtually wiped out. Surely George Galloway's triumph has shown that very few people are listening to you anymore. Your political parties and your posturing and political pimping no longer mean anything."

These comments were posted on the hugely popular community forum by a regular poster just a moment ago.

I would dearly love that his sentiments were true. Party politics continues to give an increasingly bad account of itself (some of the political posters on that forum are a particularly shining example of everything that is sick about our political process today). George Galloway's astonishingly resounding victory at Bradford West should give anybody who values democracy and integrity in politics, whether they happen to like Galloway or not, a sense of hope that the voting public is finally beginning to shed its chains.

But my enthusiasm is tempered by a sense of deja vu from past events that are by no means dim and distant. Shortly before the most recent general election in May 2010 there was a general sense that people were getting fed up like never before with the party politicians. The expenses scandal, both locally and nationally, left a very foul taste in the mouths of those who ought to be able to look to their self-proclaimed political masters for inspiration and example. There was much talk from the pollsters of a Lib Dem bounce (okay the Lib Dems are establishment party politicians as well, but a move to them would be a move away at least from the Janus-faced beast that is the two-party duopoly).

So what happened? As always the two major parties were given the lion's share of the support. The Lib Dem lion roared scarcely at all. At local elections all over the country independents and small parties were buried under a tidal wave of general election ovinity. In Brentford and Isleworth the much discredited Labour MP lost her seat to her Conservative opponent, but with a percentage swing against her that was actually lower than the national average.

So was Galloway's extraordinary victory in Bradford an aberration, or a sign of things to come?

Was, indeed, the triumph once again in 2010 of the two-headed monster an assertion that it will always ultimately triumph no matter what, or was it the swansong of a dying political establishment?

The last throes of a dying animal - violent, dangerous, but ultimately futile?

The common determining factor throughout is the mass media. It was the national media that teased us and tickled or palate with its mock indignation when our politicians were discovered with their collective snouts embedded firmly in the trough before the same mass media, as the general election drew closer, overwhelmed us all with news and images from the big party campaigns and persuaded us all that there really was no alternative after all.

It was the national media that lured voters to vote nationally, even at the local elections.

It is worth noting that the same national media all but ignored the parliamentary by-election that took place in Bradford West.

So I sound a note of caution, but that does not mean there is no hope. For the national media too is fast taking on a different character, with the Internet inducing more interactivity, the explosive growth of social networking and the steady but constant growth of alternative news channels. Just as the power of the two-headed monster over our political life is waning, so too is the relative influence of those who have traditionally controlled our sources of news and information.

The important thing is that politics is heading in the right direction, with politicians of all shades finding it necessary to at least pay lip service to localism and public engagement. Many of us are impatient for this process to reach its logical conclusion, but reach it one day it most certainly will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mayday mayday, election time
Glossy leaflets galore
Thundering through my letterbox
Strewn all over the floor

An endless stream, day after day
Every week for a month
Plastic smiles and sparkling pledges
Highly professional bumph

Hard to decide, too much choice
So many conflicting views
More cops, less tax and litter
Or no-go zones for booze

But vote we must, do our bit
Elect our kings and queens
Hoping for salvation
And more progressive regimes

Yet at the end, after the scrum
The victors camp is humming
Home and dry but suddenly
Their literature stops coming

Fancy that, fooled again
They said we really mattered
Overlooked and ostracized
Our good faith always shattered