Are we hypocritical in our expectations of politicians?(44 Posts)
Two stories this week have made me question this.
(1) Gordy Brown makes U-turn on inane decision to scrap childcare vouchers. Was criticised for scrapping them, now criticised for changing his mind.
(2) Barack Obama takes long time to consider important decision on (Afghanistan? think so - I missed the start of the news report). Criticised for taking his time and not making a quick decision.
What would work better for our nation - a leader who makes snap, crap decisions and then refuses to budge? A leader to makes snap, crap decisions and then admits they were wrong and puts things right? A leader who considers important issues (NB: I am not saying ALL issues) carefully and then makes a (hopefully) wise decision? Was it Dougie Hurd who used to do the latter, and was criticised for taking his time, then once he'd made up he's mind everyone apparently went: 'Oh, yeah, you're right actually.' It was some Tory in the Thatcher era, according to Broadcasting House.
We criticise our politicians for hypocrisy but at the same time we often seem to use astonishing sleight of hand to allow ourselves to be just as hypocritical - just so we can carry on finding things to criticise. Would we accept this sort of behaviour from our children??! I jolly well wouldn't - it would mean 2 minutes on the naughty step and Chuggington banned for a whole day.
(By the way, I am not making a statement about the outcome of the decisions of the politicians I've mentioned; rather, I'm discussing our expectations of the decision-making process. Oh, and anyone who wants to facetiously say 'would you want a slow decision-maker leading us through a war?' - I've already dealt with that in my 'NB' point above.)
notcitrus, I think you've gone a bit native in the opposite sense to Yes, Minister. What MPs were getting up to was plain wrong. Tony McNulty claiming for his parents' house, that married couple claiming both their houses were second homes, people flipping second home designation to sell on at a profit, Mr Moat, Mr Duck House... it was clearly wrong, wrong and wrong again on a massive scale.
Lots of other people may have been doing it. That doesn't make it right. I was taught that at my mother's knee, am amazed it apparently had to be spelt out to the people in charge of making the laws the rest of us have to obey. FGS.
If us mere citizens who pay their salary and allowances had got up to one iota of the eyewatering stuff MPs have done, we'd have been up in court and no-one would have had any sympathy for us.
I've known plenty of MPs who did go into politics for the right reasons and who are decent human beings. But no-one with an ounce of morality or a morsel of common sense could possibly defend what their colleagues were up to.
(Although personally I felt Ian Gibson was very badly treated indeed - not a friend of mind but someone whose work I admired and who did very little wrong IMO.)
coffeeaddict - I am, of course, making gross generalisations about parliamentary politicians. I know one local politician who is genuine and will most likely get into Parliament next year...and once that happens, sadly it's only a matter of time before all that integrity vanishes.
Ali, I've not said anywhere that they shouldn't be judged, but I am saying that we are hypocritical in the way that we make those judgments.
Grendel - interesting about the politicians/ questioning catch-22, I didn't know that.
edam - it may have been wrong, but it's just not very important. Far more money is wasted by government in other ways - it would be more useful if this was the focus.
But to address the OP - it would require a complete restructuring of politics, but I'd like to see a more empirical approach to policy. So don't pretend you know that a policy will be a good thing. Say we think policy X will do Y - we'll review in Z years and if X is not doing Y it will be removed from the statute books and rethought.
I've been thinking about politicians regular inability to change their minds, even when wrong (childcare vouchers being an exception to this), and I believe a lot of it is down to media training. They are told and trained that they need to be seen to be strong and made of stern tough, to show that they are true leaders, know their minds and can be relied upon, to some/many this means sticking to their guns. This of course makes them look utter tits on a regular basis, hence my previous comment on respect.
I don't know this for sure, but have summised it from my own observations and reading.
oookimaflip - I like that idea.
who's oookimaflip?? I of course mean ooojimaflip!
Excellent thread chaps.
I've long agreed with the OP's observation.
It really does my head in how the media (especially newspapers) report everything as terribly dramatic, blow things out of proportion and criticise for the sake of it.
The tone they set is insidious - creeping into the public consciousness so that we are more likely to view the world in the same way.
When you've grown up with this way of viewing the world displayed all around you, and you have to do your own reading around in order to interpret the news yourself, it makes understanding what's really going on pretty hard work!
I don't think the media does either the public or politicians any favours. Everything (as someone else said) is presented in a very simplistic and sensationalist way.
I also think that both the media and politicians are guilty of assuming that the general public are pretty thick, and therefore cant be trusted to understand most issues, hence the slipperiness. And although interviewers like Paxo are obviously very bright, they have created a general assumption that everyone but everyone is lying, which I dont think is very helpful either.
Yes I agree with the OP.
A lot of political reporting is quite good on its own terms, but the sort of feeding-frenzy topic that has no reality in it drives me mad - particularly LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS my absolute bugbear. 'Today X has unequivocally ruled himself out but rumours in the HofC have continued to circulate re his potential candidacy' - THAT'S NOT NEWS it is GOSSIP. Tell me when something has HAPPENED.
Sometimes I wish that all news consisted of Charlotte Green reading out a brief handwritten note from the minister concerned. Or even a tweet - I would rather know that the minister was having trouble understanding a memo about genetic therapies and did anyone know what achalasia means, than about some future speech saying - erm - not very much, that someone hasn't even made yet.
choosy - you've reminded me of something which a former boss of mine said once. When people in companies start off at the bottom, they are the hands-on people doing the stuff, so their time and energy is constantly occupied. The further up the ladder you go, the less stuff you actually have to do, so instead you start to create stuff to occupy you - otherwise known as that bothersome bugbear of working life: office politics.
I wonder whether journalists are living in a perpetual state of office politicking. They are not making the news, they're not being the news or doing the stuff (well, unles they're one of the far-too-many egomaniacal personal comment writers); they're meant to be finding it somehow, somewhere. With the huge increase in competition across journalism in the last 10 years or so (internet, 24 hour news, digital radio, etc), I imagine that having staying power in this job is even more critical, hence the reason that every cough and tickle is elevated and over-inflated into a major news story. They will do anything to get their paper/ channel/ whatever noticed, and as a result the public is frequently dished up low quality crap that nobody should really give a monkey's about. It also makes it harder, as someone said earlier, to discern real news from guff.
yes, the media are prone to make everything dramatic. Good news is often no news. But I think all politicians get moulded by the job. Go in as idealists and come out into the House of Lords.
Why are you resurrecting threads from 2009???
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