Sunday, 10 January 2016

Politicians are people we love

to hate - or so it would seem.
Our previous Prime Minister could do no right. Oh yes the people in his electorate voted him in but - if the media is to be believed - that couldn't possibly have been a majority of his electorate. The media seemed to find plenty of people there who, at best, were lukewarm about him. Most seemed to loathe him. I doubt that's true but this is the impression we were given.
The love affair with the present Prime Minister has not lasted long. I suppose we all knew it wouldn't. The present Leader of the Opposition still has an abysmal rating in the opinion polls. The party is stuck with him for the present because of rules brought in by a previous leader - who thought it was going to save his job. 
Yes, I can be cynical too.
But I am getting more than a little fed up with people who criticise politicians for doing their job. The Premier of Victoria visited an area burnt out by fire recently. He was criticised for not doing enough - although I am not sure what else he could have done.
(The previous Prime Minister would have been more help. He has trained as a volunteer fire-fighter - something else he was sneered at for doing.)
The President of the United States was accused of weeping crocodile tears recently - over the deaths of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was, it was claimed, only doing it to get what he wanted. What many people don't know is that when he went to visit the scene he also spoke to each parent who had lost a child - individually. If you could come out of that unscathed then you would be made of a triple duty teflon lack of emotion. 
And please don't tell me that David Cameron and Gordon Brown don't know what it is like to lose a child and that they would not sympathise with parents in the same position. 
So, why am I writing about this? 
Yesterday I had the misfortune to have to read a slew of particularly nasty, even vicious, comments about the Premier of Western Australia. They have been over a situation out of his control.
There have been catastrophic fires in Western Australia. One small town has lost more than one hundred houses - and may lose more. It's a situation beyond comprehension. 
The Premier was on leave. Like everyone else he has a right to some leave. Even if you didn't vote for him there is a need to recognise he probably works far more than the standard 37.5 hour week. He cut short his leave and came back to work. 
That was not enough for some people. They complained he should have come back sooner, that he should not have been away at all, that his response has not been right, that the failure of the water supply was his fault, that the lack of this and that and something else were his fault, that the government response has not been enough etc. etc. 
It made me realise how little people actually know about disaster situations and how they are handled.
The Premier would have been informed as soon as it was deemed necessary to inform him - probably almost immediately. His staff would have been making arrangements to get him back at the same time. He would have been getting updates. 
He is not in charge of the situation - and neither he should be. The fire services are in charge - and there may be some issues with that but they will be dealt with later and do not reflect badly on the Premier. The police and other emergency services have to coordinate with and be guided by the fire services in this situation.
People are under a great deal of stress and people under a great deal of stress don't always make the right decisions - although good training undoubtedly helps. 
I know that some people will still expect that the senior politicians in a situation like this will be able to wave a money wand and restore everything to the way it was before the event. I know that, when things go wrong or when the services seem insufficient, they will want to blame the politicians. It's good to have someone to blame in these circumstances. It's easier. It's nice to be able to vent at someone.
But there is a problem with all this. If you do that then you are also making it  harder for all those people who are volunteering, especially those who are risking their lives. It doesn't matter that you say, "Oh but the volunteers are doing a great job." It doesn't feel that way to many of them. When they line up to shake the Premier's hand and he thanks them they know that there are going to be people out there who believe "he's only doing it because he has to, because it is a photo opportunity". It takes the edge off being thanked even when they sense that thanks is sincere. It lowers morale and makes it that much harder to handle the stress they are under.
I personally think that happens to matter. 


Judy Edmonds said...

Regardless of any personal feelings about any politician that I may have, I do feel that they can never win in this respect. No matter what they do or when they do it, their motives will be questioned, their timing criticised, they will be too soon/too late, it will be too much/not enough. Who'd be a politician!

catdownunder said...

Not me! I know a number from across the political spectrum and they do actually work hard.

Anonymous said...

I would like to think that we can praise politicians, and anybody else, for doing good, and criticize when they do wrong, but nit picking public figures, while ignoring some of the worst faults, is not fair.