12 August 2014
It had to happen at some stage. And better late than never is probably an understandable excuse, but, at last, as the home straight looms, the election debate has started to focus on the policy options the various parties are putting forward.
UnitedFuture seemed all alone a few weeks ago when we launched our election manifesto on-line. Alone – because we had a detailed manifesto – and even more alone because we chose to promote it. And when we started to follow that up with specific Policy of the Day on-line releases, we were really out on a limb. We were in danger of taking the election too seriously, and proving my infamous “we did not set out to be spectacular” comment was true after all. I mean, fancy using an election campaign to focus on serious things like policy, when there are so many clowns, charlatans and cheap sideshows around to claim public attention.
Yet our statistics show that thousands of people have had a look at our manifesto and on-line policy announcements, and have liked what they have seen. And I have been struck at meetings, in my own electorate and around the country, in casual conversations at airports and shopping centres and other places I have visited, how familiar people are with our key policies and how they could be implemented. All that is consistent with the messages being recorded by the various websites which aim to fit voters’ views with the most relevant political party for them, and the numbers of people contacting us to say they have been most aligned to UnitedFuture.
All these developments offer encouragement that the election is not going to be the farce it threatened to be a few weeks ago, and that people do want to focus on the real issues, and hear what the parties have to say, and that our democracy will be the better for it.
By and large, the media have worked this out too, and have started to focus on the things that matter. However, it is by no means universal. Of course, every election has its clowns and snake-oil merchants – indeed, we seem to have a perennial performer in that regard. Sadly, spivs like this attract their own deal of curious attention – superficial, slobbering, and looking solely at the external trappings, not the lack of substance or policy, or the chicanery lying behind the faded image. Most people, in the media and elsewhere, readily see this for what it is. Some genuinely do not, but worse, some who do choose to ignore it, preferring to be tawdry apologists for what they see as no more than necessary electoral entertainment. That not only defiles their credibility as commentators, but also politics as a noble art.
As I say, policy and its detail – which were decidedly absent at the start of the campaign – have now become relevant, as at least one leader has discovered to his discomfort. Now, as the post-election phase approaches, it will be policy again –not sensationalist alarums – that will shape the future direction of government. A simple tip comes to mind: in looking ahead to what may happen post September 20th, it will be the parties that have worked together, who will be those that are able to stay together.