Why do the things that get politicos in huff fail to stir the average punter?
Another week, another embarrassing revelation from UKIP. This time it appears that the party’s former Commonwealth spokesman may have have headed up a notorious kidnapping gang in Pakistan. If true, UKIP will add weight to accusations that UKIP are failing to check up on who they allow into the party.
But here’s the odd thing; gaffs and faux pas bumble out of UKIP with the reassuring regularity of a conveyor belt, and yet it does nothing to seriously dent their popularity or arrest their growth. Bongo Bongo, Slutgate, Divine Vengeance Floods and even the party leader rubbishing the manifesto have all slid off of UKIP like so much water off a ducks back. To be sure, part of this will be UKIP’s unique position as being the anti politics party, allowing them to wear their amateurishness as a badge of honour. True also that UKIP are somewhat polarising; their supporters don’t care about/maybe even agree with the un-PC comments, and those who feign outrage would never support UKIP anyway.
But this goes beyond UKIP and its foibles. For the truth is that scandals don’t have nearly the same impact on the electorate as they do in the minds of politicians and those who follow them.
Take Chris Huhne, disgraced Lib Dem MP sent to the clink for avoiding points on his license. In the by-election that followed the Lib Dems held the seat, with the opposition party coming fourth. Then there’s Falkirk, where an entire party machinery is in the dock, albeit in the court of public opinion. Yet does anybody doubt that Labour will hold the seat in 2015?
The biggest political scandal of recent years, maybe ever, was that of MP’s expenses. This was a wholesale plundering of your money by a few hundred chancers who either didn’t see anything wrong, or thought they could get away with it. Yet how many were deselected? How many will lose their seats because of their expenses? Counterintuative as it may seem, the expenses scandal may actually have improved the life expectancy of many political careers. Because seemingly every MP was at it, politicians in general have became tarred with the same wearily resigned brush by the public. When it comes to being an object of public loathing, it seems there’s safety in numbers.
All this points towards a divide between politicos and inhabitants of the real world. Tribalism, point scoring, and synchronised ‘outrage’ are our bread and butter, especially on social media. This is not entirely new; a century and a half ago politics was the preserve of the middle class, with the working class too busy trying to not to die. And while we’re clearly not at that stage, universal suffrage was supposed to end that divide forever. Everybody has a say in how they’re governed, so everybody should be interested, right?
I believe people are interested, just not in a way politics geeks and pundits recognise. We look at parties, factions, ideology and philosophy. Real people look at their experiences and their situations. And while we roll our eyes when somebody uses personal anecdotes as evidence, it’s how an awful lot of people form an awful lot of their opinions.
Not caring about ideology or the latest offering from a think tank doesn’t mean you’re interested in politics.
A short time ago I pleaded with fellow libertarians to take a reality check, but I think all of us interested in politics, especially the young, would do well to step out of our playground (and let’s be honest, that’s what it is) and really look at the country we claim to know what’s best for.