What the horsemeat scandal – and Eastleigh too – say about voter motivation

At Eastleigh, we discover that in a by-election of such characteristics, local behaviours can out-gun what we might perceive as more significant national issues.  Sex scandals notwithstanding, it would seem the Liberal Democrats had a good and effective infrastructure of ward councillors.  Sometimes, grassroots politics does move mountains.

Meanwhile, as the unpleasant leader of UKIP incoherently proclaims:

UKIP’s Nigel Farage said the surge in support for his party was not a “freak result”, telling the BBC: “If the Conservatives hadn’t split our vote we would have won.”

“Something is changing. People are sick and tired of having three social democrat parties that are frankly indistinguishable from each other,” he added.

But then incoherence never stopped too many politicians out there.  It could seem, to an unpractised eye, that UKIP were about to follow in a long and hallowed tradition of English politics: wrap yourself up in the Union Flag; declaim your dominion over the peoples and nations of these islands; and, ultimately, concentrate all wealth and effort down London-way, as power and the various world stages beckon.

The incoherence I mention?  Either the Tories split the UKIP vote because they (ie the Tories) are not indistinguishable social democrats – or they are indistinguishable social democrats, in which case the vast majority of the nation continues to vote in favour of a much criticised – yet still valued – tradition.

You can’t have it both ways, Mr Farage.


A couple of tweets I posted yesterday, and which sort of indicate where – at least politically – I currently find myself.  The first, on the subject of politicians and their relationship with the truth, as follows:

@ChrisClose50 We live in a world where spin no longer describes what is happening. This is a kind of politico-psychosis.

And the second, thus:

@ChrisClose50 If s’one with no parliamentary privilege was caught saying things that those who do have it say, they’d surely be put away.

It’s true.  Whilst teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals have professional codes of conduct they must abide by, politicians are loose cannons able to get away with almost everything in the blessed and casual name of freedom of speech.  You describe a disabled child as a burden on your council, fit only to be put down?  A couple of days later, maybe a resignation statement of sorts.  But you find yourself struck off no register of practising professionals – and, maybe, even continue to justify in private your words as those of a silent majority.

One example amongst many out there, in our indistinguishably social democratic landscape.

Which brings me to my final point.  One aspect of the recent horsemeat scandal has been weighing upon my mind: the issue has been couched and understood, by both politicians and consumers, as mainly one of mislabelling.  At no time has anyone seemed to care that contaminated factories which have lost their contracts with major supermarkets mean employees out of pocket – and even out of work.  Certain individuals out there – managers, buyers, negotiators, workers – knew what was going on; were even a part of what was going on.  Did they benefit?  I wonder.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t out of pocket whilst the contamination continued on its merry way for so many years.

And in a way, our politics is now the same.  Our expectations of probity are now so very low, any scandal fails to cause the corresponding reaction which in other times we might have expected.  Sex scandals?  Abuse of power?  Contamination of public discourse through a psychotic relationship with reality?

Who cares?

In the end, we voters become forgiving souls – we become about as Christian as any soul could ever be.

Even as secularism invades more widely our society.

We turn the other cheek to our politicians; we allow them to beat us and smack us to the ground.  And yet we get up and smile encouragingly – and continue to argue in favour of a better way.

In truth, what the horsemeat scandal – and now, it would seem, Eastleigh too – tell us about voter motivation is that in times of fractious societal distress, emotional triggers and appeals to the visceral sides of the voting public are as effective and manifest as they ever were in supposedly less civilised times.

We haven’t changed so very much since those times of fascist imposition.

We don’t really care so very much about the abuse of power.

We just want to ensure, when push comes to shove, that we find ourselves on the right side of such abuse.


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