"Now call me an old cynic if you must but could one of the reasons that people 'feel powerless' is because they are really rather powerless - with regards to basic democratic stuff like who governs them, for example?"He then turns to Hillary Benn pledging to join the army of 'listening' politicians:
"Let the debate begin. Let us discuss ideas. Let us talk straightforwardly about the future we want."Thing is, I think that Shuggy IS being an old cynic here, bless him.
Ooh, ooh - can I go? I'd like a future where you lot talk less shite, please.
Of course politicians will always promise to listen, and always pretend to be doing it already. But if they actually *do* start listening, they will find themselves on a fools errand, because there isn't really much by way of a decent conversation going on anywhere (outside of the usual rarefied little circles - and even then, it's mostly poisoned by The Ideology of Applied Adolescence(tm)).
And if they are tempted to get involved, they are massively disincentivised from doing so by….
- A spectacularly dishonest journalistic profession that usually strikes a fine balance between misrepresentation and simplification
- Single issue pressure groups that target anyone who displeases them
- Political parties who worry about reflected ignominy
- Our old friends, the constipators and the other poky little fingers of permanent government
To illustrate this, last night I met a bloke from Messagespace. This is a marketing widget that the high-volume political bloggers use to make a bit of money from ‘advocacy advertising’. He gave me a number (that I now completely forget - prompt??). It is the number of visitors that political blogs get each month.
The only thing I do remember about it is that it wasn’t very high. And even allowing for the logic of ‘The Long Tail’ and the fact that most page impressions on political blogs aren't on high volume sites, ours is not a large inclusive conversational culture. Listen, and you will mostly hear people talking bollocks.
Now I understand that the world doesn't end with blogging. But this surely illustrates something that most people who work in politics have suspected for a long time. That the vast majority of the population are usually shy of any contact with the smallish political class, and that the twain never really meet.
So, politicians only really have the option of listening to the usual suspects (again!), or dabbling in the dark arts of opinion polling (boo!) or focus groups (boo!). Or, of course, they can try and start a conversation of some kind – in a way that won’t completely blow up in their faces (trans: spin).