Saturday, July 23, 2011

Discussion Thread: Politicans

NIGEL: Surely, the first fact that we must face is that all three parties are stuffed with aged tub-thumpers and super-annuated windbags. To most intelligent people, politics are synonymous with claptrap. To be a candidate is to submit to a personally humiliating experience, in which the set smile freezes on your face like a grin on a corpse. Dead ideas. Dead thoughts. Dead slogans. All of them sicked up on your doorstep. No wonder people are disgusted by this gruesome charade, this withered apology for the passion and compassion which ought to be slicing through all the apathy, bewilderment and cynicism which even the antediluvian [conservative candidate] here tonight realizes is there.
Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton 1965 - Dennis Potter, screenwriter and disillusioned Labour party candidate (defeated) rants via his author avatar.

I am David K(ames) or Abstract (these nom de internet suck, I know, but my real name is even more google searchable and boring)

It was my foolhardy suggestion to consider what we look for in our politicians as people - that is concentrate on character, rather than issues (as we are not supposed to do) and how this feeds into what the role of a democratic representative ought to be.

I am currently involved in selecting a candidate for my House of Commons constituency, so I guess I'm thinking about the sort of person who would be a national Senator / Representative in the US system, rather than a President (I'm keen to hear if you guys look for different qualities for the different posts.)

To begin with the basics:
you really want someone:
>who can be trusted not to fill out their expenses form creatively - even when no-one is looking...
>who wont sell their influence or privileges as though they were a taxi cab
>who, even if their phone was hacked, would be found getting up to nothing more embarrassing than most of their constituents (this means that if, for example, they were taking nude pics of bits of their bodies, they only sent it to individuals who had previously consented to receive them.) I don't mean by that to exclude the kinky and the queer from elected office, but hope that people keep things safe, sane and consensual, legal and non-monetary. The problem with these requirements is this - you cant be sure of someone's nature until they've been tested. I'm not sure what you can do to solve it beyond being very angry and unforgiving towards those who do abuse the public trust.

The diversity and equal opportunities question is generally a bit more problematic. Parliaments and Congresses are the great forums of the nation, but have a tendency not to look very much like the nations they represent. This is a special problem under first-past-the-post in single member constituencies; the majority-ethnic men tend to be the ones who put themselves forward, finish first in selection process and win elections, and because there's only one spot to give away, he gets it. Politics tends to lag behind social trends in general, due to the electoral cycle and the need to get 51% of people on side before something stops being an electoral disadvantage - but the continuing limited representation of women is troubling.

I am a member of a/the Labour Party, so I'd also like to put a word in for the representation of the non-professional, the state-school educated, and non university-graduate of whatever race, colour, creed and sexuality. It would be nice if a decent proportion of those who aspire to administer/slash the bureaucratic (my spell check suggested "aristocratic" - do computers make Freudian slips?) systems of the welfare state knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of them or work in organisations where it's painfully obvious that value is being extracted from your labour.

In fact it would be nice if politicians had something *outside* of politics they cared about, instead of being monomaniacs for "public service" and with some experience of working seriously outside the political/activist/lobbying/media bubble. This is why I don't like voting for anyone under 30 - No-one I know who is my age is a really rounded human being, and we're all in the midst of our early life struggles - from which we hopefully emerge happier, sadder, wiser, better people with more insight and imaginative sympathy - but I can't see any of us coping with the electoral process at the same time.

I suppose the thing you really want in a representative is someone who can square the circle willingness to go through the indignities of popular election with willingness to (every once in a while) face down the mob inside and/or outside the chamber and vote for something right, or even something unpleasant but necessary.

I guess what I'm saying (at length) is this: I want President Lyndon Johnson - and I want the Lyndon Johnson of the TV Ad to be REAL thankyou ;-)

OK - over to you - I swear I write much better when I'm commenting, it's probably a dyslexia thing...