Azara Blog: The internet is partly to blame for making voters disillusioned with politicians

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Date published: 2006/11/18

The BBC says:

Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a "crisis" in the relationship between politicians and voters.

Matthew Taylor - who stressed he was speaking as a "citizen" not a government spokesman - said the web could be "fantastic" for democracy.

But it was too often used to encourage the "shrill discourse of demands" that dominated modern politics.
Speaking at an e-democracy conference in central London, he said modern politics was all about "quality of life" and that voters had a "very complex set of needs".

The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.

"We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," Mr Taylor told the audience.

Like "teenagers", people were demanding, but "conflicted" about what they actually wanted, he argued.

They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.
He went on: "At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.

"It seems to me this is something which is worth calling a crisis."

The internet, he told the conference, was part of that "crisis".

Amazing, everything is a "crisis". Well if the internet is part of this "crisis" it is but a small part of it. The major contributors to the "crisis" are the ordinary (so-called mainstream) media, such as the BBC, and the politicians themselves.

For example, just listen to Radio 4's Today, BBC radio's flagship programme for the chattering classes, any weekday morning. A fair fraction of the segments (other than the trivial ones on some joke subject or on sport or weather) involve some special interest group pleading for more money for their special interest (always in "crisis", like everything else in the world). The Radio 4 presenters never (or rarely) ask whether the money is worth spending, and what else should be sacrificed in order to fund this special interest. No, the job of government, it seems, to to spend and spend and spend with no thought of where any of it comes from.

And the politicians are no better. They never tell people that if they want something they will have to pay for it. No, the politicians will deliver services people want but someone else will pay for it: car drivers, smokers, families without children, the "rich", you name it, but never the people who want the services. Of course in the real world the voters soon discover that there is no such thing as a free lunch (especially after the government has wasted much of the money on bureaucracy and consultants), so end up being rather cynical. Unfortunately the somebody-else-should-pay-for-everything-I-want premise is the keystone of political discourse in the modern world. This "crisis" has nothing to do with the internet.

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