GE17: an election breathtaking in its shallowness

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Martin Sime says the issues that really matter have been pushed out of the way in the rush to the polls

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6th June 2017 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

Back to basics is an old slogan which just about sums up the election so far.

Both Labour and the Tories claim a return to their roots, core principles and values whilst the LibDems want to legalise cannabis.

Politics and elections have been boiled down into some very simple things.

What’s in it for me? The narrowing of debate into a contest for personal advantage has always featured highly in the media, especially with the Daily Mail and the BBC. We are invited to choose on the basis of what makes us personally better off.

Martin Sime

Martin Sime

That’s politics for you - a rum game of spin built around a contrived media circus

150 years ago in the rotten boroughs it was commonplace to hand out cash for votes. The deal now isn’t that much different with promises to cut tax and increase government spending competing with each other for our affections.

I find the shallowness of it all quite breath-taking. We barely stop to think about the huge challenges we know need to be faced - pollution, climate change and obesity don’t get much airtime.

We are never encouraged to think beyond what political parties will do for and to us. There’s no space to contemplate what kind of society we need to engender and how we might get there.

So it’s just as well we are not holding our breath waiting to find out what’s in it for the third sector.

The SNP has - and they get us more than most – mentioned us once in its manifesto. Not a word from Scottish Labour, patronising gibberish from the rest.

Unlike 20 years ago we don’t figure on the radar of this election at all. There isn’t a sector constituency to be courted, a set of interests to be nurtured or even a shared ambition to be realised. That would be ok if the political caravan had moved on to more important things, but it hasn’t.

It’s better to worry about the people we serve than to join the queue of self-serving interests looking for a back-hander. And here the evidence is clear. We’ve got into a right fankle about means testing winter fuel allowances but, with 10 times as much money at stake, everyone is ignoring the £2 billion of welfare cuts to be stolen from the pockets of the poor in the next few years. Rising inflation and frozen benefits means more emergency food and all the rest.

Then we have joined-up attempts to make the national question toxic, which all seem pretty vacuous to me. Imagine running a campaign saying vote for me so you won’t have to vote about the future of your country for the next 35 years. A referendum every other Friday would encourage our politicians to behave.

Everyone seems to agree that this has been a difficult campaign for the SNP - the strength of the English Tory majority just isn’t their fight. As usual, the media struggle to cover domestic policy differences so the U-turn on social care will have left many Scots confused and worried. Devolution and UK elections look increasingly like ships passing in the night.

This may also be the first election where getting 50% of the popular vote in Scotland is described as a humiliation, whereas getting 40% in England is a triumph. But that’s politics for you - a rum game of spin built around a contrived media circus.

I’m wary of making predictions but haven’t yet shed my belief that we are going to end up much where we started, which would be a crushing defeat for the whole snap election enterprise.

Now that’s what I call a result!

Martin Sime is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

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6th June 2017 by RealFreedom

SNP sock puppet

9th June 2017 by Rose Burn

Surely the election in Scotland was very different to the election in England and Wales, indeed it was more akin to the election in N Ireland. People saw it as a constitutional issue to address as that was the question posed by the SNP and answered by the degree of tactical voting we saw in every constituency. Long term issues can now be considered as the constitutional ones have been answered.