Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Almost there

Our rulers are in denial about the big issues and are seeking refuge in the little things. So says Alice Miles in today’s copy of The Times (online version).

She notes that the voters are likely to give Prescott a bloody nose over the North East elected regional assembly referendum, and correctly identifies the "no" movement as "a rejection of authority itself" and of party politics as well.

"The 'no' campaign", she writes, "specifically branded the assembly not just an expensive talking shop, but a talking shop for party politicians." Hence Labour's campaign co-ordinator, Alan Milburn, saying this week that the general election campaign will be "as much fought locally as it is nationally. Messages about the record of national achievement tend to mean less than what is happening in Darlington, Derby or Dartford."

"Everything is smaller now," Miles observes. "Mr Milburn on Monday listed what he saw as the critical election issues. They are: crime, pensions, childcare, choice, equal pay and social mobility. No health, no education — although the choice agenda plays into both. Their absence from that list is in itself an amazing development, after two elections dominated by those public services."

"The next election will be, instead, about the little things, a scatter of issues that lacks any coherence and ideological purpose," she adds. "It is as if the Government has given up on the big things, and taken refuge in the little ones. Making the next election, unlike the big US poll, lots of very little ones."

That is, of course, what Milburn wants but, despite what Alice Miles may think, he may not get it. That is what the NE "no" campaign – the peoples' campaign - was all about. We are fed up with party politics that has politicians seeking to set the agenda, telling the voters what they are concerned about, and what to vote for.

Having given up many powers to the European Union, and set to give up many more, the Labour government has very little left over which it can exercise control, so must focus on the tiny things that it can still influence. Hence, the obsession with hunting and the attempt to ban parents from smacking their children.

But more and more people are looking at the world around them, and then looking at the closeted, narrow-minded vision of Westminster, and fail to see any connection – because there no longer is one. They actually want opinions, and government, on real issues and not just those which the politicians feel comfortable with.

So, while Alice Miles may finally have noticed that the politicians have retreated into their own little fantasy world, she has not yet fully understood why the people are ditching their politicians. However, she is almost there.

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