These days many people are cynical about politics and politicians. All too often I, like everyone else, hear people say “politicians are only in it for themselves” and that they are “all the same”. Not only are such sentiments widespread in Britain, but they are heard in most western democracies.
One of the practical results of such views is the rise of ‘populism’ – the tendency for politics to be reduced to simplistic slogans, bereft of any serious analysis or intention to deliver on promises. Arguably, the most successful ‘populist’ to date is Donald Trump in the United States. I have to tell you, I find Trump a really objectionable individual, who displays a whole series of personal traits which are, in my view, truly awful.
Yet Trump was elected, against the odds, to the Presidency of the USA, the most important post in the world. Why? Essentially, Trump was successful because, despite his personal wealth, he was seen as being outside of the political establishment and as someone who refused to conform to political norms.
It is quite possible we will see other populist, Trump-like figures being elected in other places. This would be hugely worrying, as ultimately Trump and other populists like him will disappoint. The questions are then, who is to blame and what alternatives are left? At this point there could be a questioning of the democratic process itself. The danger is people may wrongly conclude that democracy cannot produce answers to their problems and therefore democracy should be abandoned.
This is one of the reasons why I argue that people should always vote and take the trouble to find out something about the individuals who are standing for election and what they stand for. If people do that they usually come to the conclusion that politicians (people who stand for elected office) are not all the same. They will also see that most politicians are motivated by a desire to serve their community and country, rather than themselves. Please bear this in mind for May’s local elections.