Frequently politicians are criticised for being so preoccupied with trying to get re-election that they aren’t really doing their jobs any more. They constantly have one eye on the next election. Obsessed with opinion polls. Reacting and responding to every hyped media driven controversy, crisis, craze or fad (Pasty anyone?). Actually trying to solve the problems of the nation to the benefit of all seems to come in a poor second place. “How can we do anything if they only get one parliament?”, I hear them cry. Well its irrelevant because they don’t ever get round to do anything anyway. Too busy chasing that second parliament, then the third…
Perhaps I am being unfair, after all they do get something done. However, George Osborne’s (current UK chancellor) comments today make me think that I’m not being totally unfair. When talking about the recent budget he said, “When you get close to an election you’re going to be very focused on what tomorrow’s headlines are and what the opinion polls are saying,”. The context was essentially that the next budget was going to be a dull one. You don’t want to do anything to upset any of the electorate, no matter what the country actually needs.
The thing that annoys me is that this statement perhaps revels more about Mr Osborne’s thinking than it at first appears. He is clearly saying that the next budget will be mostly about getting re-election. Either by being boring, so it doesn’t damage the chances of the Conservative party, or perhaps they might have enough money to cut that top rate of tax again…? The other thing that can be assumed is that having the future need for re-election in the back of his mind is shaping his current thinking. In order to have a boring budget next time, what must be done this time? How often then do our elected politicians sit round the cabinet table and rule out a course of action that is possibly the correct one because it would upset their core vote.
Is it too much to ask to have a chancellor that gets up every day and thinks, “What do a need to do today to ensure the prosperity of as many people as possible?”. Oh, and his next thought shouldn’t be, “I need to ensure my re-election of course!”. I know, dream on. What kind of insane utopianist am I? Where would the democratic societies of today be if the people that we entrusted the stewardship of our nations worked only to serve the interests of the majority (who elected them), without a thought to re-election. If they didn’t, and they did a good job, then they might well get re-election anyway.