This is not a party political broadcast. We all vote the way we want to, and many do not vote at all. But I am concerned about the way in which we make decisions to vote. Whilst political parties occupied similar terrain as in the Thatcher, Major, Blair eras the impact of the media was less significant as variants of the same neo-liberal market-led philosophies meant the choices were more to do with sound bites and personality than substantive policy difference. This is no longer the case. We have choices, stark contrasts in political futures which make this election one where we need to think for ourselves. How easy is it to be sure we hear the right messages and not a message wrapped around another more subliminal message designed to undermine the original message. One example of many illustrates this.
Just watched lunchtime news on BBC. Started with footage of Corbyn’s opening speech on the key issues. The commentary talked about this being great for a rally or demonstration but could it work for the country? It feeds into the image that Corbyn can lead a political demonstration but not a government. I have heard people repeating this, though the evidence about it is slight. Also the last time I looked at political demonstrators turned leaders need we go further than Mandela. One does not disavow the other but the seed is carefully planted. This then gets repeated ad nauseum and becomes the refrain of the ordinary voter who merely confirm a prejudice, it is not easy to do otherwise. Like them or not labour has many specific policies which are worthy in their own right so why spend time talking about the myth of the demonstrator rather than talk about real policies. There are three issues to consider: how can we get to what people are actually saying and meaning?; how can we stand back from the cloak which the media presents politics behind? And how can we know the unknown? Five tips:
Be sceptical of any attempt to direct your attention to single issues
Of course May will try and say this is all about brexit. But ask yourself why, when the brexit changes are going forward seemingly without the need for an election. The House of Lords, which the Tories have never sought to abolish, suddenly becomes an ‘unelected body’ because it does its job to question government Acts. But what is reported can govern our responses. But this is a general election and is not about single issues even if the media tells us so. 1979 saw the election distorted around law and order and other key issues were ignored. Or the 1983 election where the Falklands war dominated? Make sure you get behind the detail of the policies. What are the issues which concern you the most and what are each party saying about those issues? All the key concerns – the economy, health, education, work, railways, care system, minimum wage, pension triple lock, taxes – and many more. Seek out the detail.
Understand why Corbyn appears to be such a threat
Corbyn has broken the neo-liberal political consensus in ways which threaten big business and corporate dominance. You would not have noticed this under Blair because he was torylite and thus followed the same basic tenets. Corbyn explodes this and so the attacks and distortion have become more ferocious. Ken Loach analysed the early days of Corbyn and the media presentation of him and it was seen to be shameful. Robinson and Kuenssberg of the BBC are Tories with Tory backgrounds and it’s not just what they say it’s what they do not say. Labour has many reasonable policies and they don’t get debated. May has no policies other than I need to be a leader without opposition, hardly democratic, and refuses to talk to anyone. Yesterday did a session and refused to allow questions. This was an outrage for an election period yet not reported. Break free of these simplistic and distorting images.
Adopt a fresh approach to understanding the election, find the authentic voices
This is such a serious issue and it is vital to leave behind the main media and dig deeper. This means listening to campaigns on the streets and through social media get at the key issues. Compare the detail of the party manifestos. Make your own mind up, turn off the BBC and don’t listen to the Tory spin of the media. Seek authentic voices. Less than a week in and I feel for the future of this country. Please share and get people to find the true voices out there, the media will distort. It’s the weight of news around us which we do not fully appreciate. It’s all around us, on TV, on the radio, in the papers then repeated in the streets, cafes, pubs, it is hard to stand back and not be influenced by it.
Deconstruct the forms as well as the content of debates
May will spend the election like she has done since becoming PM bad mouthing Corbyn and refusing to answer questions. Replay any PMQs and you will see this plainly. She will focus on parodying Corbyn so that those at the periphery of him will believe it. Her hectoring tone belies a lack of conviction and policy. No evidence that Corbyn is weak as portrayed in the media, he has stood up to ferocious foul play within his own party, he has not flinched from his beliefs and he has continued to drive the same ideas and concern for people with integrity and honesty which is at the heart of my own philosophy. In May’s hands I could be without support from the NHS in the next two years they are crushing that service along with the public sector in general.
It’s has to be about policies not personalities
Americanisation of the political world has made elections a beauty contest, who presents themselves the best, wins. It is not only superficial it allows a good orator or a good PR team to stop the electorate thinking about the real issues e.g. Trump. May, and Cameron before her, did the same. It was that approach by Cameron which got the brexit disaster as he thought he could bully people as he had done over the Scottish referendum. Corbyn has never engaged in such tactics. He talks about policies not personalities. This makes him appear mundane and ordinary. What gets me down is the words I hear about Corbyn – delusional, weak, out of touch, unelectable, rudderless, detested etc etc – I really don’t know what evidence supports this. I am happy for people to argue against his policies but they never do. It’s smear, disregard or shout. For once we have an election based around actual ideas. There is clear water between them, argue it out like grown-ups. Corbyn never engages in personality politics yet he gets criticised as having no substance. The exact opposite is nearer the truth. No one says it better than Socrates:
“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
Seek out what you don’t know, look behind the headlines, debate the key ideas and leave alone the reductionism of personality politics.
My week in photos.