Time was when we had a respect for the people we went to the polls to vote for. We believed what they told us. We admired the causes they stood for. We looked up to them. Occasionally, we worshipped them with a idolatry normally reserved for celebrities.
Exactly when was this, 1852? Even back then, I’m not entirely sure the electorate fell hook, line and sinker for everything Palmerston had to say. Actually, to witness political fandom at its zenith, we only have to cast our minds back as far as 1997. This is when a certain Tony Blair (remember him?) won a landslide victory.
The level of support he had was nothing short of incredible. He was the British Obama before Obama had chimed with America. Those first scenes of him walking along the road to Downing Street still resonate as having had an almost Messiah like quality. For millions of voters, he was a saviour of sorts; someone who’d make a difference to the lives of ordinary citizens. When he gave his ‘People’s Princess’ speech shortly after entering Number 10, he did so as every inch the People’s Prime Minister. Hindsight, however, seldom judges the holders of public office well and these days he’s viewed as one of the worst leaders the country’s ever had.
In essence, Blair and his cronies signalled the beginning of the end of any affinity we had with politicians. Ever since then it’s been a gradual and noticeable decline to the position we currently find ourselves in. The rot, the scepticism and the cynicism has reached such a degree that I’m uncertain it can be reversed. Our love-hate relationship with those who represent us has become one of pure unadulterated loathing.
Admittedly the whole ‘Spin’ culture, which persists today, didn’t help. It made us feel manipulated and played with. In short, we could no longer trust a single word that came out of the mouths of those in government.
As a consequence, with each successive administration, we’ve ended up feeling increasingly embittered and let down. Those of us, myself included, who were once wedded to politics now find ourselves completely divorced from it.
We are living in an era of democratic disillusionment. The wide-eyed and young who were briefly seduced by the attentions of Jeremy Corbyn, have even had their romantic visions of a brighter future dashed as they’ve quickly begun to realise that he’s no different from the rest of the parliamentarians out there. Any parents who previously flirted with Michael Foot, could surely have told their offspring that a dalliance with another elderly left-winger and his brand of socialism would only leave them similarly disappointed.
Of course, politicians by their very nature continue to talk a half decent game, but I don’t think I’m alone in sensing that they too appear to have lost interest.
Don’t get me wrong, they remain enamoured with the same things that have always been associated with politics - the power, prestige and influence. It’s just politics per se they no longer seem that keen on. They’ve become bored by the daily grind of governing, as if it were a household chore.
Instead of championing their own particular achievements, of which there are usually perilously few, they prefer to pontificate on the failings of others. And when they’re not criticising their opponents and revelling in the downfall of their colleagues, they’re frequently spending valuable hours defending their own ill-judged decisions or comments. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were in fact their own man or woman, but they’re not. Whether it’s the Tories with big business or Labour with the Unions and Momentum, politicians are forever running scared; terrified of upsetting those who pull their strings.
Almost daily, we’re being told that we are about to face the biggest peace time crisis in history, yet those in charge of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion are apparently clinically incapable of doing so. Regardless of which side they are on, they’re royally messing it up. Could it be that as with Strictly Come Dancing, politics can’t attract the top notch candidates it used to, with the result that we’re left with the dull, uninspiring and frankly second rate?
Put simply, the passion has gone out of politics and the question is how can we get it back?
Is it a new party? No Vince, it isn’t that. Is it a completely different voting system? No Vince, it isn’t that either. Is it the total abandonment of government as it presently stands. Hold on, good old Vince Cable doesn’t also want that, does he?
Who knows what any politician really wants. An easier life, probably. Well, join the club. But until they finally get their act together and figure it out, one thing’s for definite. We’d all be a hell of a lot happier without them.