Wallace Stanley Sayre is quoted as saying "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." I would paraphrase it to say that "Party politics between, The Tories and Labour are so petty, personal and disengaging because the differences between the two are so small." Not quite as pithy but no less true.
I have always considered myself to be fairly engaged in politics but find myself struggling to remain so. We live in a time when the differences between the Labour party and the Tory party are not so much differences in vision but differences of degree. Labour want to privatise the NHS a little less than the Tories do. Labour have committed to departmental spending cuts in 2015/16, the Tories say they will cut more. The Tories won't touch any of the benefits for the elderly, Labour will only bring in means testing for the winter fuel allowance.
Because the differences are so few and so small, the arguments about them are more heated, verbose and disengaged from the daily lives of the British people.
It is hard to say who is really to blame for the smallness of our politics. It is easy to blame the current breed of professional and entitled politician, who see public service as another path to enrich themselves. Illustrative of this attitude was Sir Malcolm Rifkind who believes that he is entitled to more money than the public pays him, because he could have made more in the private sector. Those who defended the need for MP's to have second jobs in order to widen their experience, missed the simple point that these professional politicians, should get their worldly experience before entering the Palace of Westminster not after.
Is it the media who are to blame, whether it is partisan or neutral, traditional or new media so much of the coverage is about the horse race, about reaching consensus between the in-crowd of politicians, journalists and political pundits. A race to define the political winners and losers every single hour of the day, fed by a closed loop of reporters, pundits and politicians twitting each other their hot take, in a frenzied bout of mutual onanism, until orgiastic consensus is reached, on any semi controversial utterance and misstep by a politician. Along the way forgetting the real life impact of policy on peoples lives, further disengaging the British electorate from the political process.
Or is it us, the electorate who are to blame, allowing ourselves to be led by the nose. More concerned about how Ed Miliband eats a bacon sandwich than his policies to deal with youth unemployment in this country. More concerned that Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit in a speech than a discussion of whether such a focus on cutting the public deficit is even the right answer to a crisis caused by issues in the banking sector and private/corporate debt issues. More concerned with David Cameron's ability to deftly side step difficult questions on the NHS, than his ability to resolve those difficulties.
Politics has become a day to day, point scoring exercise, where men(mostly men) with limited vision are trimming at the edge of a dark forest, attempting to convince us they can carve a path through the darkness. Where the Prime Minister of the day looks at the TV debates, not as a chance to defend his record against robust questioning and set out his vision for the future. The Prime Minister looks upon TV debates not as a man with a vision and a dream for the country but as Jose Mourinho would a game of football, assessing the best, most effective winning strategy, the beautiful game be damned.
Politics is a game and we the British people are losing.