Left to pollsters, right in the polling booth

The problem of opinion polls being wrong because the right wing vote is often under estimated has blighted polling for many a year. Voting for right wing parties can often be socially unacceptable so some folks don’t admit to doing it.

If you live in a rock solid Labour area which has returned Labour MP’s and councillors for as long as anyone can remember are you going to admit that you’ve just gone out and voted for another/different tribe? I use the word tribe deliberately as that’s what politics in some areas is like and I’ve commented on political tribalism before of course. People don’t like standing out from the crowd, they don’t like being unpopular they want to be seen to be following their friends, family and fashion. But it goes even deeper than that sadly. In my 40 years of active politics in the cause of liberalism I’ve met folks on the doorstep who are trying and sometimes failing to vote the way they want because of family pressure.

I recall calling at an elderly lady’s bungalow a few years ago now having got the Council to sort out a street lamp that had been bust for ages. She said she wanted to vote for me but in the conversation which followed it became very clear she was more than a little worried about her family finding out she’d voted against a Labour candidate as voting Labour was compulsory in her family. I had to promise her I’d not tell anyone what she was intending to do in the ballot box and reassure her that no one could find out from her ballot paper!

Right wing populists, like Johnson or Trump or anyone of their ilk, have an advantage in that they are prepared to say anything to gain support, in Trump’s case literally anything it seems. They are also very good at playing to voters prejudices sending out messages they will want to hear. Johnson is just a populist entertainer who is utterly out of this depth in responsible politics, Trump well beyond that, way, way beyond it……

There have always been populists in politics, it attracts attention seekers of all kinds, but it seems of recent years the attention seekers now have no boundaries at all. They’ve also realised that often their supporters are not interested in facts; they don’t care if much of what their political hero says is nonsense or lies. If the message is what they want to hear then it’s well received. The poorly educated, easily influenced and those who don’t have enquiring minds can be manipulated and they certainly are.

On the left the populists are generally more subtle, like bandwagon jumpers following the crowd their objective is to be saying the right thing at the right time. However, like with the far right the far left has its own brand of fantasists with their own set of conspiracy theories which they like to peddle to the easily influenced.

The problem progressive politicians have is how to counter the simple messaging of the populist conspiracy fantasists. Facts don’t cut it as they’re often long and boring explanations which whilst true will be dismissed by folks who want to blame whatever their ills are on immigrants, refugees, idlers etc. etc. But then you look at the leaders of supposedly progressive parties in the UK and most of them are totally uninspiring, no fire in their belly, grey middle aged men in grey suits. How on earth are they going to cut through?

There’ll always be voters who say one thing and do the opposite thereby misleading pollsters and let’s not forget that some voters will deliberately lie to pollsters. But my point here in bring in the kind of politicians we have, particularly in progressive politics, is that without inspiring alternative messaging the Johnson’s & Trump’s of this world will continue to flourish. What’s more some voters will not be brave enough to say that they voted for the populist right as doing so is just not socially acceptable.

H L Mencken wrote that for every complex question there is an obvious answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

H L Mencken wrote that for every complex question there is an obvious answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

And you know, probably never has a more true word been spoken especially if you look at our troubled times in 2016.

Remember the simple answers that the Brexiters poured all over the UK electorate to manipulate them into voting to leave the EU?

Remember the simplistic answers Trump gave the US electors to get them to vote for him?

Or how about ‘Brexit means Brexit’, just about the only thing of note our Prime Minister has had to say about the result and dire consequences of the EU Referendum. Trouble is that off the cuff phrase is not clear, obvious or simple but it certainly is wrong headed!

Daily we are bombarded with simple solutions to the most complex of problems. Sadly, some of us actually do think that there are such simple, obvious and clear answers. Indeed, we don’t even bother to think about why, or at whose behest we are being sent the simple solutions that fit with our preconceived prejudices.

We don’t know the solutions the vast majority of the time because we don’t have all the information required to make clear headed judgements on hugely complex matters of public policy. On that basis isn’t it nice when some media outlet or politician after power saves us the bother of thinking it all through.

Democracy only works well if the vast majority of the electorate has a reasoned understanding as to the consequences of their votes. Democracy does not work at all well when those in power or who seek to be in power, together with a media on their payroll, seek to convince us of simple, obvious and clear solutions. Such solutions will invariably be wrong, misleading or down right dangerous.

The solution? Be informed, question any information you get from the media and popularist politicians. Better still stop taking the ‘advice’ of biased media outlets.

With Thanks to Bob for reminding me of Mencken’s quote.

Spinning so fast it’s a blur – Tories utterly paniced by UKIP

You can tell when political leaders are feeling the heat as they will claim just about anything to keep their heads above water.

What with the Tories, and indeed Labour, having their heads pushed under water by UKIP’s mixture of popularism, racism, socialism, nationalism and just about any other negative ‘ism’ you can think of the Tory leadership is desperately claiming black is white over the EU invoice that the UK is being told to pay. Labour on the other hand is trying to keep UKIP leaning supporters on side by agreeing with UKIP over this bill that has presented been for settlement.

Cameron a left wing Tory, who is in favour of staying in Europe, is being pushed by those Tories on the verge of defecting to UKIP and is all but being held to ransom.

But poor old Miliband, as if he did not have enough trouble keeping his head up in the deep end of Labour’s own churning pool, is seeing his ‘working class supporters’ threaten to march off to UKIP’s tune as well.

It’s amazing to see how UKIP, who seem to stand for just about anything folks are upset about, can cause such panic in the political classes. Just imagine them in Government; right wing ex-Tories, socialists who have given up on Labour, racists, anti-Europeans, popularists for what ever the flavour of the days is – well at least it would be entertaining! Trouble is our economy would soon be in utter ruin again and climate change would not be tackled at all.

Our political leaders would be well advised to start telling the truth about the economy and our desperately fragile environment because they have only got themselves into UKIP’s deep hole by being economical with the truth. Trouble is where are the political leaders who folks would listen to and trust? John Smith, Charles Kennedy……….