Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Consumerism and Exitism

As the latest installment of a long line of them, there is a really, really excellent post over at Freemania about (among other things) the way that consumerism has altered public expectations about how politics is conducted, and 'exitism' - the mirror image of the 'entryism' that dominated Labour politics a quarter of a century ago. It is - I would add - quite a long post, but I'm in no position to criticise him for that, am I?

It's very good indeed, and it has some good quotes in it as well. His conclusion is well worth thinking about - and extending:
"We have to ... be reasonable in making political demands. It would help, too, if politicians, pressure groups, business and the media would show more maturity and humility."
There is something else that they could show as well. In the case of politicians and the media, anyway, it would help if they could show some leadership. Not necessarily leadership in the sense of forcing their own conclusions through, but a leadership in which they acknowledge the collective position that they are all in instead of an opportunistic pretence that they can use these circumstances to steal a march on their rivals (in the case of politicians, their rivals are their opponents. In the case of journalists, the rivals are the politicians).

That they need to understand at what points they should be meeting new expectations placed upon them (and politicians in particular really do need to put more effort into understanding how they can improve the quality of dialogue that they have with the public.

In the past, neither the public meeting or the doorstep have been very good places for politicians to address people's concerns. The internet, however, has changed all of that substantially. It is possible to have a sensible and moderated discussion online, but it requires a bit of planning. Being conversational is something of a learned skill - and many of the MPs that I've met when I used to work in that sphere didn't get where they are today by mastering this offline, and show no interest in using new technologies to overcome their old flaws.

1 comment:

Ivan said...

One of my pet hates is politicians in power using the term 'national debate'. As soon as one is called for on any subject, you know that you will never hear about that subject again until the pre-ordained conclusions and legislation are rolled out. As you say, politicians need to be more mature and more able to actually have conversations with the public.