Thursday, December 22, 2005


Voter as Teenager?

The Guardian today carries an article about a briefing given by a 'Downing St policy analyst' in which he spoke of the contradictory demands of voters. It seems we want security and prosperity but in addition, reassurance in the face of constant social change. Blair is quoted as accepting the contradictions but claiming: 'once you have actually done it and got it through, if youy have improved the situation... that's leadership. I suppose the underlying message there is that Blair sees public disatisfaction as a preiliminary to be expected- real leadership entails ignoring the resistance and persevering, rather like a parent trying to feed a rebellious toddler.

A colleague of the same analyst suggested voters were like teenagers: 'unwilling to be governed by their elders, but not yet possessing the capacities, processes or institutions to take responsibilities for their own lives.' Consquently Britons are 'a conflicted population getting richer but not happier, with more money to spend, but not sure what to spend it on, or how to make themselves happy with that expenditure.' So we are all like silly teenagers? According to this article, yes.

The analyst sees the politician as a therapist, seeking to explain this complex world of finite resources and limited choices but then the media steps in and champions the cause of having one's cake and eating it. I think there is a bit of truth in this;but feel it's more to do with fellow citizens programming out information they do not like and absorbing only that which they do. So global warming is doubted as this makes so much of modern living uncomfortable. At the very basic level, people want to pay less tax yet still have world class public services. It can't be done but for three elections voters put in a party which claimed it could be.

Such a lament is understandable- the voter is a fickle thing and nothing can please him or her for very long. But by attributing such a volatile and irresponsible character to the voter, politicians might be seeking to do as they please while ignoring any cries of dissent as over Iraq, Education or whatever. If 'leadership' consists of ignoring public opinion the Tony Blair is some leader. This analysis sounds muddled and a rationalization of how dissent is ignored. I'd like to see the data, if any, on which it is based.

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