Monday, 1 March 2010

Golwg COLUMN: Antiseptic conferences

Responding was the way the congregation expressed their appreciation and sympathy towards the sermon in Welsh non-conformist chapels. The more the preacher raised the roof and got into 'hwyl', the greater the response. The chapels resounded to hallelujahs and Amens.
But now one seldom hears a hallelujah or an amen at all. The tradition has died or on the point of death, or perhaps the enthusiasm has gone.
Just as in our chapels the same goes for the politic world. We're now in the middle of the conference season. Every Spring all of Wales's main political parties meet in various venues for a weekend and their members are invited to the jamboree. For what purpose? An interesting question.
At one time it was a relatively easy question to answer. The purpose was to make and discuss the policies of the party in question. But no more. Just like responding the tradition of discussion and debate has gone. Instead of being active and involved the member is now passive.
The purpose now is not the taking part, but being part of the set. They are there to show the world that the party appeals to every shape and size. To underline the point the are often even put on the stage. And there they'd be looking good, listening carefully and pretending to be interested in their leaders speech.
But its not the audience in the hall that's important but you and me sitting at home watching it on the television. The purpose of it all is to appeal to us. But does it work? I have my doubts.
There has been a tendency in the last elections for less and less of the population to bother voting. Is there some fundamental law that says that the more we hear and see our politicians the less is the enthusiasm to vote?
It very much looks like it. Or perhaps its the modern electioneering process that is so off-putting.
At one time things weren't so certain. Our politicians had to inspire us with ideas delivered through speeches. It was an ideological battle. The left against the right. Unionism against self rule. Socialism or capitalism.
But now? Holding the middle ground is the order of the day. Ideology gives way to the focus group. Appealing to the people of Wales is far less important than appealing to middle-England. Why?
Because it is they that are likely to switch their votes. They have little loyalty to any party but follow their own selfish agenda. Who rules us is dependent on this relatively small group. Because this group  more or less determine the election results.
Conferences are of little value in determining policy. The best we can hope for is the opportunity to hear the party leaders. And the delegates? They can bask in reflective glory and have a warm feeling that their leaders are available to them.
No debate, no disagreement. Everything so antiseptic.
And the result? Apathy

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