Friday, April 30, 2010

Dangerous territory... politics

This is and has always been a learning blog. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that a general election is less than a week away, so I suppose it had to crop up at some point.

The Chairman of the Reed Group and my boss, James Reed has done some interesting little interviews of the three potential Secretaries of State for Work and Pension, which are posted on our jobsite. In them he asks each of the candidates the same five questions so you can compare their answers.

How on earth am I going to make this relevant to learning...?

Well, the thing that has been making my blood boil over the length of this campaign is the degree to which we are all complicit in allowing the three major parties to get away with adversarial positioning rather than actually testing their assertions.

A couple of quick examples:

Not safe in our beds: overall crime and nearly every individual type of crime has never been lower since records began. It has been falling consistently since 1996 (if you don't believe me go look at the British Crime Survey data). But you wouldn't know this from any of the major parties... Broken society? Words fail me!

This is going to hurt... but I'm not going to tell you how much. As Greeks are on the edge of open revolt against the further cuts in public sector pay and increases in taxes that are being placed on them as conditions of support from the EU, we in the UK blunder on naively assuming that our economy is much sounder than Greece's. Do you know how big the UK's structural deficit is? (If not click here). All the three main parties seem to be trading insults around the £6bn that Labour is accusing the Tories of threatening to cut straight after the election. Yet the Institute for Fiscal Studies has criticised all three of failing to disclose their real plans. (It's well worth reading Stephanie Flanders on the difference between British and Greek debt if the above worries you too much)

They are all behaving like embarrassed parents, who when confronted by a child who asks an awkward question they don't want to answer point into the distance and say, "Woo! Look at that! Shiny!"

My point is, if you are ever going to learn anything of value, don't accept what you are told. Go and check for yourself...



1 comment:

Gordon said...

Hugh,

I currently live in the most marginal seat in the country - we made the front page of The Daily Mail today - which also happens to be the most affluent - it has the highest concnetration of millionaires outside of the Sq Mile and one of the highest on earth.

Something that is worth noting is that a mere 20 metres from my front door is the mansion residence of the late John Smith MP, who interestingly was the MP for my childhood area, one of the most deprived areas in the UK. I have the honour of being the only guy from my primary class not in prison for murder and or drug dealing. Having delivered newspapers at 6am in Siberian winters to buy my own school textbooks so i could teach myself my A Levels whilst Mr Smith fawned in the lap of luxury is an irony which has not been lost on me.(Lady Thatcher's portrait which resides over my workspace has been a constant guide from the age of 15).

Hence, your point about politicians arguing like kids to avoid talking about the debt has been similarly at the front of my mind throughout the whole campaign.

Here, and throughout much of Edinburgh, it is a two way race between Lab/Lib or Lib/Con. As a media studies scholar, the one thing that I have consistently noticed throughout the campaign, particularly in the famed debates, is the Nick Clegg has been the only person who has said almost every time this comes up, 'let's get every chancellor, party leader and every major employer, such as Mr Reed in a room and talk about this openly and honestly. Of course, the Tory press machine has done its absolute to silence this and for a very good reason. The prospect of a hung parliament scares them senseless becuase they know that it will mean the most radical reconfiguring of politics in the UK since Cromwell.

The point I am trying to make is this: like Greece, which I personally think should have been ditched from the Euro two years ago never mind two days ago, denial only leads to much more bitter medicine in the long run, and even then that doesn't always work. Hence, if we can LEARN, to keep in tone with your blog, anything from this election it is that quite simply perhaps the singluarly most responsible and adult thing anybody can do is to (a) not read any paper which is patently biased (b) actually read the manifestos (c) get out and actually vote.

However, I must be going, Paddy Ashdown is waiting for me at campaign HQ with a pile of leaflets and about 4000 numbers to call before Thursday!