In 1955 Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called Franchise. The premise of the story is that by 2008 elections would be unnecessary as a computer looking at all the data would find a Mr Average who would embody the will of the electorate. He or she would be the only voter, the voice of the people, and thus we would get the government we deserve.
Look at us now; we have political parties ruled by opinion polls. The bland leading the bland. Political discourse is a passionless debate between middle managers who follow the pack rather than leading it. They might as well be arguing over which brand of coffee to buy in a supermarket. And this too is pointless, the supermarket already knows the answer and has designed the shelves to push you to the one product that will make them a bigger profit.
The Scottish referendum briefly threatened break the mold, to become a catalyst for a return to proper debate, but, what has happened since then north and south of the Border? The so called “vow” is already falling apart and national political discourse seems to have returned to a petty infantile argument over who is the less or more right wing. Tweedle Ed and Tweedle Dave are so similar in many ways that swapping one for the other is unlikely to make much of a difference to the lives of most of the UK’s population. Horse flies, known as clegs in Scotland, can inflict a painful bite which can take a long time to heal. However the Deputy PM is not even an irritant any longer far less a politician with any teeth. So, add in the Cleggster and the triumvirate of mediocrity is complete.
In Scotland, the Better Together campaign won the independence referendum battle but it looks like losing the political war with the SNP. Labour in particular are in a parlous state. Two recent opinion polls show just how disgruntled the populous is with Labour and the best that the Ed Miliband can say is he faces a “tough fight” in Scotland. The same polls show a surge in support for the SNP. There is a spring in the step of the Nationalists and the soon to be crowned First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Meanwhile UKIP stride through the political landscape with seven league boots trampling over the cosy UK cabal between the two big parties. Nigel Farage rubs his hands together and cackles with glee like some latter day grinning Gollum gloating over his precious.
The question is then, where have all the giants gone? Where are the leaders, those that buck the trend and argue with passion for their viewpoint? Where will we find the next Aneurin Bevan, Tony Benn or even, dare I say it, Margaret Thatcher? Love or loathe them they were difficult to ignore. But with the focus group, opinion poll driven politics of today perhaps we should adopt Isaac Asimov’s “Electronic Democracy” as described. At least then we wouldn’t have elections to disrupt our consumption of things we don’t really need. After all we just want a quiet life don’t we?