Benjamin Ellis

Benjamin Not Ben – Jamin on the Net

We Didn’t Vote for Hanging!

This isn’t a political blog, nor is it a news one. It’s my personal blog, but today I’m feeling a bit “ranty” – it’s the ‘meeedja’ you see. Not all of them – I’m privileged to know some great journalists, who do a fantastic job serving the public and covering stories in interesting ways. However a minority seem to be turning into a bunch of muppets, and have taken over the airwaves. Or, at the very least, some otherwise sane people have serious lost the plot in their coverage.

Myth 1: The British Public Voted for a Hung Parliament

Seriously. I’ve been wracking my brains on this one. I remember going into the polling station. I remember voting. Really. All of it. What I don’t remember is a big box I put my cross in that said “give me a hung parliament”. Nor do I remember colluding with people in adjacent constituencies, to say “I’ll vote this way, you vote that way and you vote that way, so we each send a different representative.” Despite Steve Jobs best assertions, there isn’t an app for that.

What has happened is not “the fault of the British Public” – it is the failure of the political parties, and the media that have conveyed their messages, to convince a majority of the public that they, uniquely, have the right answers for the problems that face us as a nation. But boy did they ever try to! To be clear: We, dear political editors, did not vote for a hung parliament.

Myth 2: The Markets Demand…

Over the last few weeks the markets have dramatically transitioned from a place of exchange operated by traders and exchanges, to anthropomorphised monsters with demands and wishes. “The markets demand this”, “the markets demand that”. Dear journalists, the markets demand nothing. If they are a mouth piece, then they are a mute one. Their movements and indexes simply indicate the hopes and hedges of a vast array of traders. You know, like the opportunistic ones that trashed the global economy with complicated derivatives based on unsound debt. Traders depend on predicting the future, and uncertainty makes predicting the future harder, and just a little bit more exciting too. That temporarily leads to greater flows, and with that, volatility. I have yet to hear a trader bleating about this. For them it is a greater opportunity to make money, all be it a very temporary one.

It is arrogance of the highest order to attribute all the movements of the market to what is happening in and around No. 10 right now. If the political commentators could take their heads away from their bottoms for a couple of seconds, they might notice that the Eurozone is having a bit of a headache right now. Apparently there are other countries in the world, like Greece, Italy, Ireland and Spain. Those countries, and others, are just about to discover the joys of quantitative easing. You know, that magic new word from last year that caused so much angst in the press here. The markets demand nothing from us. As a country, we demand low rates of interest for capital, but that is a whole other story.

Myth 3: We Have an Unelected Prime Minister

Perhaps the political editors have been watching too much CNBC and CNN. In the words of the song, “This is not America.” Once again I cast my mind back to my ballot paper. I recall-not the presence of the names Brown, Cameron or Clegg there in. Nor do I remember taking part in the party system that, rightly, chose those leaders. Nor do I recall, in the history of our country, any right to a re-election should a party change its leader. We do not vote, nor have we ever voted, for our Prime Minister. Over the centuries, we have fought and died for the rights we enjoy today. Those rights extend to being able to select an individual to represent our local population in a house of representatives (historically from our local population, although now we seem less fussy – with many MPs are unable to vote for themselves as they live outside of their constituency).

In our system all of those representatives choose to operate as a collective (a political party), with the occasional individual exception, and that second level of representation is implicit in our system. However, please note, there is little to stop your MP switching to another party when they take up their seat. In that sense, we barely vote for a party, let alone a Prime Minister. The general public in the UK has never had the right to elect a Prime Minister, and indeed, many of our Prime Ministers have been selected mid-term – making a mockery of the assertion that the general election process is has been co-opted into a presidential race. Even in the age of the leader’s TV debate.

We Have the Right to Expect…

I do believe that, as a public, in times like these we have the right to expect accurate, non-partisan reporting. This is not a game. It is the future of our country. As a public we deserve access to the facts, coherently presented in a well structured narrative. For me, I think the most disturbing thing to come out of this whole election is not the electoral result, it is the behaviour of a number of political editors and a number of journalists. I’ve watched Sky’s Adam Boulton lose the plot, multiple times, and the BBC’s Nick Robinson thrust words into people’s mouths and minds that weren’t even close to being there (and his Conservatives roots have irked some – I defy anyone to find balance in Nick’s blog post). Both have engaged in talking over elected representatives who were simply trying to make a point. The tables of political interviewing have been firmly turned, or perhaps been over turned. Rather than manipulation of sound bites, how about a bit of mutual respect and decency? At times some journalists have shown utter contempt for public political opinion.

This is not the media’s election. It is ours. We have sent a message via our representatives, and it is this: None of you, or your policies, represent us all as a nation. We have different opinions, different priorities and we want something different than we have had in the past, because we are different than we have been in the past. Our actions require that your action, dear politicians, is to work together. You need to make the hard decisions that need making to steer our country through the aftermath of an economic crisis that is still unfolding. As a nation, we do not agree that any one the parties has it right.

In the mean-time, dear political editors, this is not a sixth-form debating society. The public is not stupid, at least no more stupid than they are misdirected into being by incorrect, spun, sound-bite reporting and the insertion of words and thoughts into the minds of others, and inanimate objects. Get yourselves a good night’s sleep, and, as our unelected representatives, concentrate on getting to the facts, getting beneath the party spin, rather than regurgitating it, and representing our nation, with a coherent voice, to the outside world.

Posted in Thinking 4 years, 2 months ago at 10:02 am by Benjamin.

15 comments

15 Replies

  1. spot on, mostly.
    re ‘the markets demand’ – how do we stomach that! imagine the furore if it were ‘the unions demand’ ;)

  2. Good rant. I am beginning to despair of the % games. “75% rejected your party” “Only two parties saw their share of the vote increase” “More people voted against you than for you.” Only 68% of those eligible voted, for Christ’s sake, and the missing 32% are regularly added to the supporters or rejectors of this or that tribe.

    68% is an increase, and that is I suppose a good thing; but still that means the “nation speaking” is only two thirds, and until that is addressed – by increasing engagement, making it easier to vote, by reforming the mechanisms root and branch so that it’s not a once-in-5-years-or-so process – as a country, we’re political sleepwalkers.

  3. Benjamin Ellis May 11th 2010

    My favourite overheard quote for the day: “people will not vote for capitalism, but they will vote for democracy” – I shall have to find who it was by!

  4. Excellent comment – well reasoned and presented!

    Further to your well-made points, i’m astonished at the hypocrisy of:

    1) Anyone saying that any ‘leader’ has been rejected, carefully ignoring that by the same argument theirs has as well.

    2) Any argument made against any given coalition being “undemocratic” merely because your chosen party isn’t in it. This is the electoral system *you* are arguing as “not in need of reform”.

    3) Any commentator talking about ‘best ideological fit’, assuming a stereotype of any given voter unmeasured by an archaic electoral system. AV or STV would give you that data, hence the argument about it being ‘more fair’.

    That felt good.

  5. @Dean Whitbread

    Nicely put – was trying to say something similar :o)

  6. John Sargent May 11th 2010

    Many people did vote for a hung parliament though or at least voted tactically to stop a Tory victory. There were vote swaps going on via Facebook at least. I agreed to vote tactically in my constituency in exchange for someone doing the same in another.

  7. I voted as I did only because I could be sure the Labour candidate wouldn’t win. Had he been in with a chance I may have voted tactically to give the best chance of blocking him.

    Benjamin is quite correct – we don’t vote for the PM. I think perhaps we should though. It would be simpler than trying to divine the wishes of the electorate through Parliament. Given how strong party discipline is, with a clear majority the Commons are little more than a very expensive electoral college to select an executive.

  8. For me, the fact we have to vote tactically is a sign that the system is broken, or at least not transparent.

    Someone pointed me to this video (from 1987!) by John Cleese:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUKMa1cYHk

  9. Well spoken.

  10. Oooh, excellent. I’d missed this post, and now it looks like my own rant is potentially a reaction to yours. And yours is, as usual, very eloquently put. Nice work, sir!

  11. Benjamin Ellis May 12th 2010

    I think many of us were thinking the same thing at the same time. That’s not a bad thing :) – Enjoyed your post.


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