As a self-proclaimed nerd, follower of current affairs, and newspaper trawler, I like to think I have a high level of interest in the world around me and the politics that comes with that. I definitely couldn’t name all the ministers in the paper, like one girl could in my A-Level politics class – she knew Alex Salmond’s birthday even. I’m not that keen, although I probably should be with my degree. I simply like to understand why things are the way they are, and then in turn, I feel I can moan about them without feeling like a moron, making blind statements like “I think the BNP should be the Prime Minister because of them Polish people getting our jobs”. Okay – a slight overstretch of the extent of apathy. Or is it?
I attended a family party a few weeks ago, and my cousin brought his girlfriend along for us all to meet (and my overly protective grandmother to judge – I digress). She asked me what degree I was taking, and my cousin then jumped at this chance to highlight how little his girlfriend knew of British politics. “Go on, who’s the PM?”, he smugly asked her. “Err.. Labour?”, she asked me, bemused. “See! She knows nothing!” he gloated gleefully. This led me to feel extremely disheartened that our future governments would be voted in by people who don’t know the difference between a Party and a Prime Minister; it also upset me that my cousin found it not distressing, but amusing, that his girlfriend was so blissfully ignorant, and unashamedly clueless about how this country is run.
You’d be surprised at how little people tend to know about the British government. Often, people who state regularly “don’t like them politicians, I hate them, I don’t trust none of ’em” could tell you no more than David Cameron’s name, and not actually name a policy that caused such distrust.
Worryingly, I found out that whilst at Sixth Form, the level of political awareness rose when people were let down by the government. Nick Clegg’s terrible mistake re:university fees made all of us much more aware of what the Coalition were planning, and not achieving. My school pushed for a mock election throughout all the year groups to try and get people interested in what each of the three parties could offer voters; people bunked from any assembly to do it, and even the politics students who were running for this campaign dreaded doing it because it was so difficult to stir up any enthusiasm from anyone. The problem was brought to my attention more so, however, when everyone seemed to jump at the opportunity to attend the protests organised by NUS when our headmaster permitted everyone the day off to attend. Nobody seemed interested in the positives beforehand, or even the prospect of free education at university; the real interest grew when that wretched fellow in the Lib Dems had lied to us!!
The general consensus is that all the Parties are the same. When my age group got our first vote, we mostly opted for the Green Party, because they’re the only ones who seemed to stand out and you can’t bash ’em for wanting to save the planet, really, can ya?! Maybe what needs to be done is not a lame promotion attempt by the government, of ‘DJ Dave and Nick the Nuttah’ rapping their policies and slating ‘that Ed Ball(sack) LOL!’ in an awful attempt to get today’s youth onside with the use of hoodies and talk from the ‘hood. No. What is needed is a genuine appeal from the MPs to not only the younger generation, but people who maybe find politics dull and overwhelming, to create bitesize nuggets of information, digestible by the masses. Question and Answer sessions where politicians don’t claim to listen to views, but instead actually listen, and then take these suggestions through to the Commons where people can see evidence that their voice is heard – an adjusted Question Time even!
Enough rambling and avoiding of questions – people hate you more than parking attendants when you’re a politician. Get to the point, accept that actually, sometimes, the masses (or ‘plebs’ – no names mentioned) can actually have some ideas worth listening to. Politicians are representatives – not paternal carers for the nation as a whole. Yes, they’re elected because they are more in the know than most about the workings of government. However, they are there to put across the wants of the people: henceforth, low and behold, democracy (another issue in itself… maybe another time).
Maybe apathy could be avoided, if the Government and Opposition approached the people more readily; doing a meet’n’greet in Asda in New Malden isn’t enough nowadays. People shine to Boris Johnson because, despite his Oxbridge background, he seems accessible and a ‘great guy’. No lofty, unapproachable air about him – just him, his mop of hair, and a zipwire. Conclusively, I reach the point that British interest in politics is waning, and in a big way. Let’s just stick Boris Johnson into Downing Street, and maybe we will recapture a little interest. Either that, or actually get Mr You-Can-Call-Me-Dave and his spineless henchman, Clegg, to re-think how the people should be listened to, and how their mishaps tarnish all other politicians reputations, putting them out of, to use a Ben Stiller related concept, ‘The Circle of Trust’. Actually, maybe we should just forget Stiller, and link it to De Niro.