The Cock-fighting, cockpit of Politics

I have just done a very positive blog about politics so let me follow up with a negative one. Readers of my blog who know my diary know that my blogs often originate whilst I have an evening to myself in London. Being unable to pursue my hobby (annoying my wife if you want to know!) I sit over a pint and ruminate on things which I have seen.

Last night’s ruminations over a pint of Waggledance were about last week’s council meeting and Prime Minister’s Question Time with a side trek onto BBC’s Question Time programme. I think all three are a waste of time with a general rule that the bigger the meeting the less use it is!

Let’s start with PMQs. These are really duels between two men in which one tries to beat the other. Coming with mock, phony or inaccurate statistics they start with the assumption that the other party is always wrong and that their party is always right. It’s just as well that these are only word duels because the level of myopia and lack of memory is truly alarming. Let’s take energy prices where Ed Mill band’s lack of memory beggars belief. Complaining about the cost of energy when as Secretary of State he did nothing about the cartels and was the first to level green taxes is amazing. I just use that as a topical example but every leading MP and every leading councillor including me regularly glosses over the past or tries to reinterpret it in a favourable way.

Then let’s turn to Liverpool Council. There it is usually the Elected mayor and I doing most of the speaking with the Tuebrook Labour Party chipping in and the Green Party moving something very nice but either unworkable or incomprehensible. We save the best to last. 15 minutes of mayoral ranting about nothing in particular last time complete with bar charts! This is theoretically ‘Mayoral Announcements’ which should rightly be part of the council agenda. However, there was not one announcement in what the Mayor had to say only some rehashed budget figures almost the same as the ones he gave us at the last council meeting. This diatribe was totally pointless. There were no public there; the press had long since given up and gone home so we were treated to 15 minutes of total drivel delivered to the most partisan audience in Liverpool.

BBC Question Time is so predictable when the party politicians are on it. Drilled to perfection by spin-doctors in advance it is only if you get the occasional free spirit like Jack Straw or Shirley Williams on that the programme comes to life. I often think it would be much better if there were 5 members of the public on the panel and the audience was composed of political bigwigs. At least in that way we could ensure that some parliamentarians had some contact with real people from outside the Westminster bubble.

So I feel that in the round politicians do not present well tot eh public. I believe that we are a major cause of political disillusionment. We have great difficulty finding good candidates because people do not want to enter such a loathsome system. People have not been put off politics by what we do but they have been put off party politics. Go into a school, or a pub or a community centre and you will see lots of people debating issues and in many cases preparing to do something about those issues. But ask them to become a councillor or even to help a councillor and they treat you like a modern day leper.

So what can we do about it? Well firstly abolish PMQs. It is this outdated model which is setting the tone for the rest of the political world. The reasoning goes that if you want to rise to the top of the tree you have to be as rude and opinionated as those parliamentarians. Change BBC Question Time to let ordinary people answer and not ask the questions. In the council I will no longer respond to the drivel of Mayoral Announcements. If no-one listens to the Mayor why should I bother responding.

But these tiny, tiny steps are not enough. All of us in politics including the media who report and encourage us ought to be involved in a review of what we do and how we do to find ways of being more inclusive and less exclusive.
A failure to make fundamental changes in the way we work will see the self-proclaimed ‘Mother of Parliaments’ being seen as a tedious old crone and our levels of electoral involvement withering still further.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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One Response to The Cock-fighting, cockpit of Politics

  1. joeddj says:

    Cllr Kemp you say ”the Mayor’s” announcements are ”drival” implying he talks – twaddle, claptrap, balderdash, gibberish, rubbish, mumbo jumbo………..” how very observant of you….. 😉

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