Monday, 22 February 2010

Golwg COLUMN: Ideology of prejudice

There is no doubt about it, one of the least attractive traits in all of us is our prejudice. Unfortunately, we all have prejudice. And one of the dark arts of politics is to recognize this and use it for a purpose.
What purpose? Well in a democracy to win elections. The reason why politicians appeal to our baser instincts is to win power.
One of the tools in the armoury is the opinion poll. The usual method is to ask 'Which of these two or three issues, if at all, is important to you in deciding how you'll vote in the general election?'
Then a number of topics are provided randomly to the person questioned. Topics like, health, immigration, unemployment, crime, taxation etc. From the replies a picture is formed of the views of the electorate.
On such foundations manifestos are written and policies devised.
One of the topics that is near the top of the list of concerns of electors is immigration. And just as night follows day, the parties compete to device more and more extreme policies to reflect the prejudice.
Its not the province of anyone party, they are all up to it.
In the past the Conservative party tended to follow a socially conservative agenda. That is  why eventually even one of their own MPs came to describe them as the 'nasty party.'
But as all parties are trying to attract the 'swing' vote the political agenda tends to become more and more alike in all parties.
Ideology is cast aside. They are all pragmatists now. Its the winning that's  important. To gain that prize you have to show that you've listened to those swing voters. Electors that are likely to put their cross in favour of the party that best reflects their prejudices.
Benefits is one of those subjects that reflects lots of peoples prejudices.
Just as the poor have always been with us, so has the prejudice against them.
In Wales in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, to even mention the workhouse was a way to cause real fear amongst the population. Unfortunately, that prejudice is still with us. It is now directed at those that are dependent on state benefits. 'They are all cheats!'
Their are enough voters with this opinion. And if their is such an opinion, it's not to long that the politicians see an advantage in hitching their wagon to the viewpoint.
And this is what's under consideration by the government at the moment. Target those on benefits.
And their cunning little plan? To encourage us to snitch on them for a share of the spoils that are saved.
We'll move from being an open society to a narrow one, where we all suspect our neighbours. Creating a system that is associated with a totalitarian society rather than a democracy. Will we be a part of the British Stasi?
No, this is what happens when politics follows, rather than leads. A better way is needed, lets hope that  ideals return to our politics.

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