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Idealism, Realism and Cynicism

How often to those involved in British politics hear the words "you're all the same- just in it for yourselves"?

The contempt for politics and politicians- never far away even under normal circumstances- seems to have become a mania of hatred- and is irrespective of political party.

I can understand a certain scepticism about what politicians can actually achieve, in fact I think it is healthy, but the hatred of all things political is extremely corrosive and could undermine the very basis of our free society and way of life.

What politicians might do to change perceptions is to inject some courtesy into the way that they interact with each other. If our politicians took each other a bit more seriously, then the yah-boo-shucks of the House of Commons at its worst would not be the fist image that people have of politics, but a rather more serious view.

If we begin to think that politics is irrelevant, then the very fabric of our freedom becomes vulnerable to simple populists and authoritarians. The lack of respect for our constitution and our ancient liberties is at the route of Liberal disagreements with the ethos of both Labour and the Conservatives, but the response that we get is not usually a considered discussion of our criticisms, but an infantile "even if you have a point who cares? You can't win anyway". It is this puerile dismissing of serious arguments (that all parties are guilty of, I admit) that turns off most people from politics.

Most people who are politically active are not selfish or greedy. Many political figures that I profoundly disagree with hold their positions from feelings of deep principle. That there are people in politics like the Wintertons, whose behaviour is rightly condemned, should not distract from the worth of the vast majority of our elected representatives.

So, a resolution for the new political year: I will (try to) engage in argument and not invective.

Comments

Steph Ashley said…
It's a tricky balance, isn't it?I do wholeheartedly believe that there are very few, if any, politicians who are in it for a career and not because they genuinely think they are doing the right thing, and I like to chat (cautiously) with local members of other parties when I encounter them at counts and while telling.

On the other hand though, if we get too chummy, that may well fuel just as much apathy - why vote for any of the politicians on the ballot paper if they're all mates and you can't tell the difference between them? And we do need to establish why we're right and they're wrong, when we are and they are.

I don't think it's as clear cut as people seeing yah-boo-sucks behaviour and deciding politicians are a bad lot. I don't think the majority of people see enough politics to see the adversarial nature of it. I think a bigger factor is that people are rightly grumpy when they don't see a politician for years and then -boom- there they are at election time when there's something they want. Which is why I think in the areas where Lib Dems are following a good campaign model, keeping in touch year round, that grumpiness ought to be less prevalent.
Tristan said…
There's a difference between believing all politicians are in it for themselves and thinking politics is unimportant.

Its quite possible to believe the former but recognise the power that politicians have over us.
Newmania said…
.I’m not sure I would be as confident as you that if rational people sit around debating they will get things right. But then you have always had an essentially 18th century in outlook. I daresay it would rational for us to cook our dead parents and eat them to save on beef and global warming . After you

“The lack of respect for our constitution and our ancient liberties is at the route of Liberal disagreements with the ethos of both Labour and the Conservatives “

How you acquire the brass balls to say this will have me pondering for the long Winter evenings to come …
You are the very people who have sold out the Constitution by saving Brown over Lisbon and then when it was quietly in the Lords just supporting him without the cock and bull story about wanting a different question. You have not helped defend any Liberty from smoking to fox hunting to freedom of speech . Throughout the 90s you proposed tax rise great than labour’s ballooning state and were not there to be called the nasty Party for suggesting people are free to spend their own money. You have not therefore earned the right to a hearing . The wind blows our way and you bend with it . Clegg was discussing power sharing with Brown during his bounce. What you “say?” is not everything , what you do counts as well and who you are .People are not the fools you take them for. Its called “previous”
Do you seriously think Nick Clegg is so stupid as to suppose he can sustain tax cuts now if he really had to . I `ll pay him this compliment ,he is a little less dumb than that, and do you seriously suppose this is not to try and keep the 80% of Liberals seats that are ex Conservative ? Come on.
Furthermore from Simon Hugh`s “infamous “Straight choice for Bermondsey” by election by which he dished Peter Tatchell , ironically as it turned out , the Liberals would be admitted by both labour and Conservative to operate the nastiest street level strategies of anyone . They are “Good campaigners” would be one way of putting it I suppose but on some rational high ground .I think not .


You imagine don’t you that you are an intellectual and that by applying cunning arguments and reason you will make things better. Perhaps you do not know everything ,perhaps there is a wisdom encoded into the loyalties those you despise which they and you will not discover until the latest round of disastrous unforeseen consequences . Perhaps it is you that cannot hear ?

I enjoy your stuff on ‘abroad’( shudder) and the economic bits are interesting these sulky bits are just the icing on the cake really . A pleasure

PS My Blog is now back..
Newmania said…
.I’m not sure I would be as confident as you that if rational people sit around debating they will get things right. But then you have always had an essentially 18th century in outlook. I daresay it would rational for us to cook our dead parents and eat them to save on beef and global warming . After you

“The lack of respect for our constitution and our ancient liberties is at the route of Liberal disagreements with the ethos of both Labour and the Conservatives “

How you acquire the brass balls to say this will have me pondering for the long Winter evenings to come …
You are the very people who have sold out the Constitution by saving Brown over Lisbon and then when it was quietly in the Lords just supporting him without the cock and bull story about wanting a different question. You have not helped defend any Liberty from smoking to fox hunting to freedom of speech . Throughout the 90s you proposed tax rise great than labour’s ballooning state and were not there to be called the nasty Party for suggesting people are free to spend their own money. You have not therefore earned the right to a hearing . The wind blows our way and you bend with it . Clegg was discussing power sharing with Brown during his bounce. What you “say?” is not everything , what you do counts as well and who you are .People are not the fools you take them for. Its called “previous”
Do you seriously think Nick Clegg is so stupid as to suppose he can sustain tax cuts now if he really had to . I `ll pay him this compliment ,he is a little less dumb than that, and do you seriously suppose this is not to try and keep the 80% of Liberals seats that are ex Conservative ? Come on.
Furthermore from Simon Hugh`s “infamous “Straight choice for Bermondsey” by election by which he dished Peter Tatchell , ironically as it turned out , the Liberals would be admitted by both labour and Conservative to operate the nastiest street level strategies of anyone . They are “Good campaigners” would be one way of putting it I suppose but on some rational high ground .I think not .


You imagine don’t you that you are an intellectual and that by applying cunning arguments and reason you will make things better. Perhaps you do not know everything ,perhaps there is a wisdom encoded into the loyalties those you despise which they and you will not discover until the latest round of disastrous unforeseen consequences . Perhaps it is you that cannot hear ?

I enjoy your stuff on ‘abroad’( shudder) and the economic bits are interesting these sulky bits are just the icing on the cake really . A pleasure

PS My Blog is now back..
Cicero said…
Newmania- only in Britain is a word for educated people ("intellectual") used as a term of abuse. Would you prefer that people did not seek to find informed ideas, backed by evidence. Liberalism- as I often note- is at least a coherrent ideological point of view. You may choose to disagree with it, as both of us would disagree with Socialism, but at least we are clear about what we beleive in and what we stand for.

The implication of Liberalism is that the state should be accountable and open. It should therefore also be as small as possible. Under the urent circumstances, the tax burden is unsupportable. There need to be drmatic tax cuts and a shap reduction in the size and activity of the state. In the face of the gathering economic cataclysm hitting this country, it is now an urgent priority- it is not cheap populism, there is literally no alternative.
As for Europe- we will just have to disagree. Your party, I predict, will not only accept a version of Lisbon, it will in office adopte several positions that today it publically opposes. At least the Liberal Democrats say up front what we intend to do.
As for the future election result, it is still two years away: let us see what the meltdown of Labour does, shall we? It could lead to some surprising effects: including gains in Conservative seats too.
Newmania said…
You sell yourself short Liberalism , is lots of coherent points of view . I disagree with every syllable of that comment but in framing a survey of ideas and rationalism I became so pretentious I started to dislike myself .
Anonymous said…
I don't trust the Lib Dems any more. I read on the liberal youth forum the Lib Dems are currently on a crusade in parliament to ban the sale of cannabis seeds http://forum.liberalyouth.org/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=15829

When I wrote to them last time they told me they supported what amounted to de facto decriminalisation (which was the reason I voted for them).

It's like they're trying to send one group of voter one message and another group a completely contradictory message in an attempt to appeal to both groups.

Bottom line is none of us can trust them, they will say or do anything. They'll stand for anything and believe in nothing.

Next election I'm spoiling my ballot.
Cicero said…
Anonymous- I guess you havn't read much of this blog, but an issue like cannabis is more than just giving people the unfettered right to smoke. Personally I am libertarian about this, but the majority across all parties are not.

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