Martin McCauley writes from London: The approval ratings of the coalition government have hit a record low. I wonder why. Perhaps it is that the Tories and Lib Dems seem so alike. Does Ed Miliband’s Labour show up on the radar? Of course not. So what has happened to British politics to make it so uninteresting at a time when the nation is fighting for its economic survival? One would expect a vibrant debate about the economic policies which can rescue the country’s fortunes. The buzz word is fairness. Heard any good speeches about this topic lately? I thought not.
So is there a politician in the world who is capable of making you sit up and think? British political speeches are directed at the largest possible group in society. Needless to say that is the middle class. It will decide the outcome of the next election. The PR people advise that certain words have to be avoided. The easiest way to win applause is to attack the opposition. The problem of the Coalition is that there is no opposition today. It has no ideas to project. Perhaps it has something up its sleeve but is careful not to reveal it. The government might steal it.
So the usual round of political debate is based on generalities and sweeping statements about a better tomorrow. And also saying the opposition is clueless. Yawn. Yawn. The Tories had a plan to reduce housing benefit by moving the jobless up north. The cost of living there is much lower and it would save the state billions. On reflection they decided that it would entail too much upheaval. Policing the demonstrations against the transfers and paying bailiffs to oust the recalcitrants would cost more than the savings on benefit.
Back to the search for a politician who can attract your attention and make you reconsider your basic beliefs. Yes, there is one. He made a speech recently which grabbed my attention. It was, of course, drafted by his speech writers but they caught his mood exactly. His core argument was that if we do things together we can do more than trying to do everything ourselves. Businesses are better off if the average person has more to spend. Being in work is better than standing at street corners with nothing to do. A fair standard of living for the elderly and infirm makes us all feel better. Banish the guilt of having plenty and seeing someone begging in the street. Instead of mudslinging and name calling, let’s cooperate and see how much common ground there is between us.
The name of this eloquent, thought provoking politician? Barack Obama. Surprised? I was. I always thought he was the great con man who could manipulate words to win votes. Then he sat back and waited for the next sucker he could fool. Not anymore. Small government, the motto of the Republicans, is a route to disaster. Government needs to build the infrastructure to make America work and play. There is no point leaving it to the market. It will only provide what is profitable. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a capitalist but the new capitalism has to be nurtured by government which has a clear vision of what it wants for the whole community. Not just for its supporters.
So the moral of this tale? PM Cameron should send his speech writers to Washington to learn from the masters in the White House. They need to formulate simple, direct prose. The goal is to embrace the whole community and inspire hope for the future. Go to it!