Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quality or quantity?

"Voters, offered a list of policies, can't tell which party is putting them forward. People think the national insurance cut is a Labour plan, and that restrictions on company takeovers are being proposed by the Tories. That's a sign of how little attention most people pay to politics and how much of their reaction to it is shaped by emotion and instinct, not rational analysis."

This is an offering from Julian Glover in The Guardian on the nature of politics and the difficulties in changing peoples' minds. Commenting on the difference between the 2005 election result and the current polls, he observes that:
... all those speeches, conferences, rows, a boom and a huge bust, the end of one war and the worsening of another, three Lib Dem leaders and two each for the Tories and Labour – have shifted just three percent of voters from one party to the other. It's a chilling fact for anyone (such as me) who has spent those five years following and writing about politics in sometimes hyperbolic terms.
What does not seem to have occurred to Mr Glover is that changing minds might have something to do with the quality of the words – or the ideas behind them, rather than the quantity. And if people are mixing up policies, since all the parties look and sound so drearily similar, is it a wonder that people can't tell them apart?

Then to dismiss peoples' reactions as "shaped by emotion and instinct" then comes over as a tad patronising. I see more "rational analysis" out on the streets than I do either in the media or in the political élites.