Where is the substance?

If the media are to be believed, this election is exciting, groundbreaking etc.  And perhaps, from their perspective, it is.  The television debates have dominated discussion and given the media a chance to talk about their favourite subject – themselves.  And we have the prospect of a hung parliament being talked up day by day and keeping political pundits talking into the small hours.

But there is no real substance to the election.  What is the ideological difference between the three?  There are some differences about the role of public spending in managing the economy, Brown arguing that cuts too soon would be damaging in a sort of Keynesian manner.  But there is not the sense that any of the three would be significantly different or would bring in some new dawn.  I just about remember 1979 and the sense that it was a big moment.  And 1997 had some of that sense too.  But 2010 seems utterly forgettable by such yardsticks.

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2 Responses to “Where is the substance?”


  1. 1 christina April 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    On the subject of who is engaged in discussing things of substance, did anyone hear the young people, or NEETS as they were categorised for the purpose of the interview, being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning (Wednesday)? They were very keenly aware of what a fragmented and recession hit world they were trying to navigate. They were also saddened by the hostility they faced and the utter pointlessness of a lot of the stuff which the adult ‘grown up’ world is preoccupied with. Their priority issues ranged from the sustainabilty of the planet to the need to feel safe in their own houses, streets and neighbourhoods. They were largely dismissive of the political debate and one described the TV discussion of our potential leaders as “childish”, as indeed it is – like watching people dancing on the head of a pin. Nowhere are we asking what kind of society and world we could sustain, develop or create for ourselves. It was the first discussion I have heard for ages which felt substantial.

  2. 2 Kevin April 29, 2010 at 3:07 am

    My sense is that the lack of substance is inextricably linked to the policy failures and lack of political credibility of each of the three main parties over the last decade. From unpopular and unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (supported by both Labour and Conservative members), through to the absence of any credible debate or reform of the banking sector (in spite of longstanding knowledge about the fragility of the housing market and concerns about the amount of consumer debt), there has been little to separate the two main parties on the issues which have been of real consequence to the British public. One could go on… The lack of a meaningful debate about environmental futures, to accompany more specific policy failures around Kyoto and Copenhagen, might be added to the list. Party lines also crumbled when MPs were caught with their hands in the cookie jar at a time when unemployment was on the up and publics were failing to pay their mortgages.

    Indeed the overlap is sometimes comical. We had a Labour Government that applauded and admired Thatcher’s reforms and a Conservative government which sought to emulate Blair, New Labour, and the obsession with image and spin.

    Of course, now we must consider the Lib Dem’s as a potential third party. And, while often the only voice of real policy difference over the past decade, a tendency to implode has often dampened the impact of these windows of opportunity. Could Britain’s third party finally now becoming a credible policy alternative – the Guardian certainly thinks so (the tabloids are not yet convinced).

    Utterly forgettable – yes! Unforgivable as well, I might add.


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