Saturday, March 05, 2005

A point of view

Veteran warhorse political pundit and former liberal MP Brian Walden has been elevated to a new platform on BBC Radio Four in his new show A Point of View (Sound file).

In his ten minute talk last night he made two interesting points. Firstly, he ascribed the homogenisation of politics to the use of focus groups - in depth discussions with small groups of demographically selected people - by political parties to find the mood of the electorate. Indeed, he asserted that it was the finally discovered scientific form of revealing the general will. Hence, if the political parties have found the general will, it is the beholden duty (and electoral necessity) to align their policies with it.

Obviously, this isn't the first time that such a claim has been made. Soviet rulers asserted that their mode of democratic centralism - consulting a policy down and then deciding at the centre - allowed for such a feat as well. Of course, this relationship is passive, the minds of electors are studied as objects, and policies are parcelled and sold to them. i.e. what it lacks is debate.

Not, as Walden appeared to recall, the debate between electors and elected, with the latter leading and shaping public opinion, but any debate. The format of asking people questions cuts off, fixes, sterilisises opinions. The focus group relationship is not one of a jury pronouncing judgement on a policy, but individuals stating their preference without needing (or being wanted) to persuade anyone else of their choice.

His second idea - following from that - was that high abstention, then, is not a sign of a cleavage with politics and politicians, but of general satisfaction with general affairs. This, I suspect, is true. Partly. It also, though, is a recognition by many that there is only one policy, and it is not worth the effort of voting in the clone wars.

When a serious debate starts up in the electorate, that is when sides will be taken once more - the job of socialists is to try and promote such debate and provide consensus shattering ideas. Perhaps the bolosphere will provide a platform for such debate.


Blogger Darren said...

Erm - Walden was a Labour MP.

- Nitpicking Ed

11:07 AM  
Blogger Bill said...


So he was. oh well.

12:16 PM  

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