Sunday, 22 March 2015

There was an article in the Guardian

yesterday in which Gabrielle Chan said voters were "not fickle, just discerning. And they will punish bad governments."
If I had been reading the paper as newsprint I would probably have tossed it across the room in disgust. As it was I needed to treat the computer screen a little more carefully. My contempt for the article remained the same. 
It was based on some conclusions made by Simon Longstaff, Director of the St James Ethics Centre at a community event in an electorate in Victoria. The seat there was won by an "independent". Yes, the quotation marks need to be there.
The event was organised by a group which also claims to be "independent" and supposedly brought together 250 or 300 "non-aligned" people. (It depends on whether you are reading Chan's article or their article.)
The group is not "independent" and those who went to it were not, with perhaps a few exceptions, "non-aligned". This did not stop Longstaff "proposing" the following

The Politicians Pledge

In the pursuit of power, I will:
Act in good conscience;
Enable informed decision-making by my fellow citizens;
Respect the intrinsic dignity of all;
Refrain from exploiting my rivals’ private failings for political gain; and
Act so as to merit the trust and respect of the community.
In the exercise of power, I will:
Give effect to the ideals of democratic government and represent the interests of my electorate as a whole;
Abide by the letter and spirit of the Constitution and uphold the rule of law;
Advance the public interest before any personal, sectional or partisan interest;
Hold myself accountable for conduct for which I am responsible; and
Exercise the privileges and discharge the duties of public office with dignity, care and honour.

I have no problems with what is written there. I do have a problem with the way it has since been used. Longstaff did not get it up for the election in one state. He has got it up for the election in another. He has made much of the fact that one side of politics has not supported it. They have not done so because the members of that party are already required to sign up to a similar contract. 
As a contract it is meaningless anyway. It's nothing more than a publicity stunt. Longstaff knows about the contract  the members of the political party are required to sign. Rather than say "this is a good thing" - and then perhaps to go on and say "it's a pity that politicians don't abide by these things" - he has made much of the fact that not everyone has come on board.
Longstaff's "ethics" are not ethics at all. They may be ethical but they are also political activism. But it suited Chan to ignore all this and she did.
Voters are fickle. They are not discerning. They will, for the most part, vote according to (a) the way they have always voted or (b) the way in which they believe has most in it for them. Almost nobody votes against their own interests.  It's hard to do that.
The idea that there are large swathes of people out there who think about the policies rather than the personalities or bother to find out what the policies are rather than what they think they are is nonsense. Yes, a minority of people do actually think, observe and act on the basis of what they believe to be best - but they are a minority.
I was at a meeting recently. The group has been offered another, permanent place to meet where there will be a proper place for the library and they will be able to meet at other times than the presently restricted times. The cost will be about the same and, for most people, access by public transport won't be so very different. Others will still go by car.  There are pros and cons to the proposed change but the pros do outweigh the change. So, along with others, I voted for the change. I voted that way even though it means that I will have to stop attending meetings - at least for now. For me the venue is, at present, inaccessible due to restraints of time and transport. I have responsibilities towards the Senior Cat and others that have to come first.
It was a tough decision. I know it was right but doing the right thing made me feel rather peculiar. I didn't like it. Could I always do something like that? Can we all always do the right thing - the thing that is best for the majority - when it goes against our own interests?
In the normal way our own survival comes first. Chan's article and Longstaff's "contract" ignore that - for their own interests.  

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