Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Temporary Unsuspension

I am sorry but I could not resist the opportunity to comment on the phenomenal impact of the televised election debates and the Clegg-effect here in Sutton.

Suddenly on the doorstep everyone wants to talk politics, and especially about the Liberal Democrats. People are hungry to know more about our policies and what we stand for. I am getting grilled on what our stance is on Europe, how we would support teachers, how do we plan to fix the economy, what will we do for small businesses. It’s amazing. Young voters are particularly keen to learn more, they are enthused by the idea that there is something new and fresh on offer in the political landscape.

What is also stimulating is that the people I talk to are questioning, weighing up the pros and cons of what the parties are offering, demanding more detail and explanation, engaging in debate. It can be rather taxing for an already footsore candidate but it is also energising and exciting.

With this response on the doorstep I am therefore amazed that the Conservative & Labour response to the challenge presented by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats is to assume that the general public are pretty dumb. Take the following examples of opposition rebuttals to our policies:

Lib Dem proposals to replace short prison sentences with community payback & victim reparation type schemes = soft on crime. Where is the debate about whether short prison sentences offer either deterrent, rehabilitation or satisfactory punishment?

Lib Dem proposals to not replace Trident on a like for like basis = Britain unsafe. Where is the discussion about the fitness of a cold war monolith for tackling modern guerrilla warfare and terrorism? Or the justification for this huge drain on the country’s finances?

 Lib Dem willingness to consider drug reform policy = soft on drugs. Where is the argument about whether the current laws actually work?

 And of course there is that political weapon of last resort – smear Nick Clegg. On the one hand David Cameron is saying that politics isn’t a popularity contest, but then his party backers respond directly on that basis.

Who would have thought in this internet and social networking age that an old fashioned television programme would blow the election predictions apart? Not to say that the internet hasn’t played a part. The digital age has made us all scrutineers, cynics and journalists in our own right. Cheap political tricks are ridiculed, cock-ups and contradictions instantly reported, issues hotly debated. The internet is proof that the public aren’t fools, and will bite back nicely if treated that way.

On the doorstep and in public meetings folks are not satisfied with a one line soundbite. They are demanding intellectual debate and want to examine our political philosophies. Isn’t it time this took place on our televisions and in our newspapers and not just be confined to the internet?

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April 25, 2010 - Posted by | Liberal Democrats

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