Whitehaven News column – 24th April 2014

We get the politicians we deserve
I was once caught in the middle of an argument between two trade unionists; one who claimed that the representation he received in the workplace was rubbish, and another, a trade union representative, who told the complainant that he received precisely the representation he deserved. The trade union rep didn’t work in the same place as the aggrieved trade unionist, but both of them were right. The lesson is, if you aren’t involved, if you aren’t engaged, if you think the problems facing you are up to someone else to sort out – then you are never likely to solve the problems you face.
All of which brings me to how modern politics is increasingly practiced. It isn’t just the sound-bite culture of politics that causes so many people to switch-off and turn away from the real arguments about the real issues that affect their lives; it’s the shallow, trivialised way in which the national media (the BBC in particular) reports politics and political arguments. Latterly, though, the way in which politics is practiced and reported has taken a nose dive in some quarters – this new low is best illustrated by the practice of certain political parties claiming that black is white, that white is black and in their belief that if they repeat certain claims frequently enough, then these claims will become ‘facts’ in the mind of the public.
David Cameron’s patently false claims about the NHS aren’t the worst manifestation of this (bad as they are), nor is Michael Gove’s constant demonisation of the teaching profession. No. The real jaw-dropper doing the rounds at the moment is the claim of Nigel Farage to be an ‘anti-establishment’ figure. You’ll remember that a UKIP councilor recently blamed the winter flooding on gay marriage legislation, but the claims of the UKIP leader to be ‘anti-establishment’ strike me as even more incredible. Nigel is a public-school educated, former commodities trader. The son of a stockbroker in the City of London, he left the Conservative Party in 1992. If that’s the CV of an ‘anti-establishment’ figure, then this comprehensively-school educated son of an instrument mechanic is next in line to the throne.
Why does this matter? It matters because, like the disgruntled trade unionist, if you don’t pay attention, if you swallow the first line you’re sold, then you will end up with the representation you deserve.  In January this year, Nigel described his entire general election manifesto from 2010 as ‘drivel’. Going further he told the Telegraph in the same month that he wanted to cut spending on pensions and the NHS. Hardly good news for our ageing society. Then there’s the little matter of what the vast majority of people in Copeland want to see: NuGen’s successful development of the new nuclear reactors at Moorside. Being part of the EU makes working in the UK a far more attractive proposition for US and Japanese companies, and sending out an aggressively anti-European message to the very people upon whom most of our nuclear ambitions depend – namely the French – doesn’t represent a clever approach with the best interests of the people of West Cumbria at its heart.

Buyer beware; as ever, the choice is yours.
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