Yvette Cooper writing in the Independent about Ukip, accusing them of division and exploitation:
Farage is no fool and no fruitcake. He knows exactly what he is doing, who he is manipulating and who he is exploiting. It will poison our politics and pull apart our country if everyone gets dragged into his game……….But playing divisive and exploitative politics in pursuit of votes is not just immoral. It won’t solve the problems of the country and is something Labour will not do.
Farage and/or Ukip is no more guilty of manipulation, division or exploitation than any other political leader or party; all three appear to be an inherent trait in all politicians and political parties, especially when in pursuit of votes. Nothing illustrates this more than the point made by Richard North in his article about the public perception compared to the reality on the subject of immigration. at the end of which he poses the following:
Should policy-makers seek to educate voters – and thereby correct their perceptions – or respond to public perception, even though it is wrong? And, if they don’t do the latter, how do they avoid the charge that they are ignoring public opinion?
The cause of both – the need to educate voters and voters misconceptions – can, I believe, be laid at the door of our political class through their failure to be completely honest with the electorate. That failure is, I would venture, due to their reliance on ‘sound bites’. As an example, this morning the Telegraph ‘Morning Briefing’ contained the following:
David Cameron is back on the offensive with a column in the Times designed to put the focus back on Conservative tax cuts versus Labour profligacy. “Labour wants to put up taxes on people’s homes, jobs, pensions – even their deaths,” the PM declares; “Conservatives are committed to cutting your taxes.” “He’s raised taxes 24 times,” splutters Labour’s Chris Leslie.
It may be both are correct; but where are the facts to back these statements? What are the Labour policies that will raise taxation on homes, jobs, pensions – even deaths? What are the instances where the Tories have raised taxation 24 times – and why? If statements can be made – and statistics selectively quoted – just how can the electorate differentiate fact from fiction, thus allowing them to make an informed judgement?
Let us revert to Richard North’s article on the subject of immigration and consider Co. Durham, where I am currently. If we look at: County Durham Local Migration Profile Quarter 3 2011-12 we find that Co. Durham has a relatively small non-British population comprising 2% of the population compared to the average of 3.4% of the North East region. One could hardly say Co. Durham was awash with immigrants, yet what is the betting that any respondents in the survey from Co. Durham agreed with the general public perception on immigration? If that assumption is correct, might that be due to the respondents reliance on soundbites?
One now has to turn to the question of how people assimilate information and someone of my acquaintance spent 18 years in the teaching profession. As part of that period she attended a course run by a local education authority the presenter of which maintained that there were three methods of learning: auditory; visual; and kinesthetic – and that the education system was failing children as the current system is almost based purely on auditory methods.
(As an aside, it is ironic that politicians began, in the 1880s, with a wish to educate the masses and now seem intent on surpressing them by controlling the education system).
Another element that requires introducing is that of children with special needs and as this link shows currently the number of children with special educational needs, including those with the most common primary needs of speech, language and communication, hovers around the 20% level. My informant assures me that in her time as a teacher the percentage figure has changed little since the introduction of the Warnock report in 1978; a report which showed the Committee’s conclusions were that 20% of children in the school population could have SEN (source).
As can be seen, therefore, there is a substantial percentage of the population with problems associated with language, speech and communication; and were politicians to attempt to ‘educate’ that section of our population (who, remember, have a vote), they may well find themselves facing an insurmountable problem. Not only that but when one adds in the percentage of the electorate who have been spoon-fed their education, sometimes by rote; who have never been made, or taught, to use their powers of reason or thought – all in the name of meeting targets – then the percentage of those who have suffered a failure in their education thus increases. Further add those who have been conditioned by the actions of our political class to accept that the state is their provider and ‘guardian’ (and not just in areas of welfare) and we can then arrive at a figure of over 50% who will then undoubtedly struggle to understand exactly what is happening in the political arena.
If people are now unable to recognise the fact that they are being manipulated by their political class and are unable to understand the basic shenanigans of daily politics, then one has to ask how on earth will they begin to understand a complex matter such as whether this country should,or should not, be a member of the European Union? Once again, add into that question the fact a good proportion of those who will vote will do so based on the advice of the political party that they support, one has to ask the most basic of questions, namely: is there any point in having a referendum?
Coupled with the foregoing – and bearing that in mind - I link yet again to another article by Richard North on the matter of the voilatility of opinion polls on the same subject; which also begs the question why so much attention is paid to them.
What is apparent is that the political class hone their message to the class of people they have ‘created’; and that therein is a message to be learnt?