In case you don’t know already, which seems highly unlikely, the general election is just around the corner. Journalists are waiting eagle-eyed for any political slip up whilst politicians are busy polishing manifestos and practising the party line. The upcoming election also means that the party politics game is in full swing, and it’s incredible predictability means the game can be aptly condensed to a just a single line; “do you remember those awful decisions [insert party here] made, you know, way back in [insert date here], well just in case you’d forgotten all about it we are the only party that you can trust to fix it”. Whilst these tête-à-têtes usually lend themselves rather well to entertainment, they also operate as potentially dangerous diversions; the media and the electorate find themselves discussing the latest political fallout as opposed to the policies that deserve far greater attention than they receive.
These tête-à-têtes usually rest upon personal quips and carefully selected statistics, thus tactfully avoiding whatever uncomfortable questions are circulating at that time. It’s frustrating, unnecessary and entirely common, but most importantly in benefits those in positions of power…
In 2014 Adam Curtis created a short film titled “Oh dear”-ism II – Non-Linear War”. It considers the information we are fed, the rise of Vladislav Surkov and the relationship to modern art. It’s a compelling watch that raises questions about our own political environment, the contradictory information that is received daily and who stands to gain from it. Take the political saturation of statistics for example; we are told by one party that the deficit has been cut in half, though we are told by another that it has significantly increased. Who do we trust? Next we are told that public funding has been cut, whilst another tells us that public spending has increased. Again, who do we trust?
The answer is that we can’t, irrespective of who or what party. Everyone has a statistic to rebut the one before, but all that serves to do is unsettle. No one knows what is true, what is false, what is manipulated and what is un-doctored. It should be a scandal, but it is incredibly difficult to determine what and who is actually wrong when another will tell us the complete opposite – how can you fight against something if it’s constantly shifting, if you’re not sure what exactly it is that you’re rallying against?
So the status quo remains, the tête-à-têtes serve their purpose and the voter is left to negotiate uncharted waters alone. But we shouldn’t just flounder and accept what we are told. The general election is the perfect time to seek out information for ourselves, challenge and query manifestos, policies and promises. And so if you haven’t already, register to vote. If you don’t, as Nick Clegg put it, it would be like going to Nando’s, not ordering and then complaining about what you were served.