Politics Magazine

Hyperpartisanship and Apathy is Killing Our Politics

Posted on the 09 January 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Hyperpartisanship and Apathy is Killing Our Politics

Posted: 09/01/2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Conservatives, democracy, democrats, Elections, Labour, Partisanship, philosophy, Politics, republicans, society, Turnout |4 Comments »

Three items of news hit the press today that reflect a key issue that exists within our political system. In the UK, the Labour Party has briefed the press that its leader wants the weekly spectacle of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to become “more serous” given that it has become “out of control” as heckling and shouting between parties in the House of Commons has reached the point that MPs and journalists cannot hear what is going on. Also, in an interview in the unofficial Labour newspaper, New Statesman, that the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has made clear overtures to Nick Clegg in forming a Lib-Lab coalition post-2015. Hmmm. My opinion on that at another time.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, an email has been leaked which shows that an aide to Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, abused his authority by partially closing a key road bridge in order to inflict traffic chaos on the borough of Fort Lee. Why? Because its Democratic mayor failed to join many of his colleagues in endorsing the moderate Christie’s re-election campaign. This is partisanship taken to the extreme. It appears that Christie had no knowledge of the plot, which severely inconvenienced several thousands of Americans. Ironically, the move is now going to cost the Republican governor, not the Democratic mayor, votes.

The sheer aggression on display at our Prime Minister’s Questions and the disturbing malpractice taking place in the US to score party political points are the products of political cultures with much in common. In particular, it is the two-party structure and the media orientation that has produced this toxic ultrapartisan culture. To much of the general public, all they see of their political representatives is them yelling at each other in what is supposed to be the forum of the nation; giving interviews in which they say things that are either meaningless or insincere when they are supposed to be answering the real questions; and leaving the status quo broadly untouched and breaking manifesto pledges constantly when they are supposed to be offering the people choice in a multiparty democracy. Why do these people hate each other when they are indistinguishable?

Does that sound unjustified? It may well be, but it’s a school of thought that is followed by many people. There’s a political joke that goes:

Vote for no-one!

No-one will defend your interests.

No-one will keep their promises.

No-one will stand up for ordinary people.

If No-one was a political party, to judge from turnout figures, it would have won several recent US presidential elections, form the Opposition in the UK (perhaps after building a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2005!) and it would dominate local government. We might or might not agree with the millions who neglect to exercise their democratic duty, but we must recognise that they represent a horrific failure of the political system to inspire, communicate with and represent the people. I think that more mature debate between rival parties is a useful way to start moving on from this failure.

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