What are the parties actually offering? What is this party’s view on the
environment? What is their view on Iraq? We don’t make much of an effort
to learn about the issues unless they really matter to us. As students we
pay a great deal of attention to what will put us out of pocket: high
tuition fees, lower students loans and a whether times are going to get
tough for us. The environment, pensions and housing benefits are issues
that just fade into the background as their importance is minimal to us.
We focus instead on the politician as a personality, rather than the party
as a policy.
We do see some of the issues behind the face. However, these are issues
which the parties see as election winners, for instance, the economy, the
NHS and crime. These are the big issues that they believe by targeting
will give them a resounding victory and make them the popular party. They
are are hand-picked, devised in the back rooms of the party campaign
offices and aimed to directly persuade voters that they are the best ones
to run the country.
This year has seen an even greater reliance on the personality and not the
policy. The focus on single political leaders has never been so apparent
in British politics as it is now, with the televised debates giving the
parties a single face on which they are associated: that of their leader.
Just as American politics is the election of a single leader, rather than
the election of a party, British politics is starting to follow the same
road. It has become a focus on personality, with a side serving of
policies to sweeten the deal. This has been even more emphasised by the
new social networking sites and the increased use of the Internet in the
campaigns of the parties. WebCameron is the perfect example of the
political leader using YouTube to give viewers the chance to put himself
forward to the people of Britain.
Politicians like Boris Johnson, the famously clumsy Mayor of London, play
on this to their advantage. The character of Boris, as the friendly,
jolly, but slightly haphazard politician is something that attracted
people towards him and helped him to beat the previous Mayor, Ken
Livingstone, and thus make Boris one of the most powerful men in the
We need a return to the days of the faceless politician. We need to see
the real politics and the real beliefs behind the politician and the
party. But in this age of 24/7 news coverage and widespread internet use,
these days are long gone. They need time to look past the veneer of
airbrushed photography, catchy one-liners and charismatic leadership and
look at what the parties are truly promising. No gimmicks, no cheesy
smiles, no cheeky one-liners. Just pure and simple policy.