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Advice to Britain’s voters: elect the candidate, not just the party!

October 20, 2023

Britain’s Labour Party has inflicted two massive defeats on the Conservative government in bye-elections held on Thursday (yesterday as I write this). The media reaction is predictable: Labour is heading for a crushing victory in the next general election.

What people tend to forget is that these bye-elections came about because of the resignation of two senior members of parliament: Nadine Dorries, a former minister who didn’t distinguish herself in office and checked out of her constituency for many months after announcing her decision to resign, and Chris Pincher, a former whip who resigned after accusations that he drunkenly groped a male colleague, not the first such incident, according to media reports.

Which leads me to make an obvious observation, which I’ll make anyway.

One of the reasons why the government is failing is because of a lamentable lack of talent in its ranks, or at least through the failure to promote those who do have a modicum of talent, There’s no shortage of opinion on the causes: pay, high barriers to entry, selection processes, toxic working practices and social media abuse are chief among them. No doubt all are valid reasons. Isabel Hardman, a well-regarded political journalist, wrote a convincing book on the subject, Why We Get the Wrong Politicians, which I reviewed a few years ago.

But here’s the obvious bit. We elect these people. Or we choose not to. Or we sit on our arses while others cast their votes. Do we vote for the candidates who stand before us, or do we elect who The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Telegraph or some rabid pundit on the social media tell us to? Do we vote for Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, personified by their leaders, or do we pass judgement on the candidates themselves, their qualities, their track records and their opinions? Do we even take the time to listen to them? Do we figure out what questions to ask them?

Or do we just say to ourselves “well they’re all a bunch of shites, so I’ll just go for the one who seems the least shite”?

If we pay no attention to the actual people who want to represent us, rather than to the persuasion machines deployed by their parties, then we have no right to complain if those we elect turn out like Dorries or Pincher, or, worse still, the mendacious, the mediocre and the plain rogues who have led our government over the past ten years or so. Because those we elect are responsible, at least in part, for selecting our leaders.

So perhaps it’s well to remember in the run-up to the next general election that we, the voters, have our part to play if our democracy is to be worthy of the name. Whereas in yesterday’s bye-elections the parties presumably took some care to select the most attractive candidates, in the general election, thanks to the sheer numbers of candidates involved, the proportion of time-servers and dullards is bound to be higher. Of course, many of us are too distracted by our own problems to pay much attention to the details of what our representatives are saying and doing in our name. But for most of us there’s no excuse.

Time to pay attention if we don’t want another generation of wrong’uns crawling around Westminster on our behalves.

From → Politics, UK

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