Yesterday evening, BBC2 showed a politics documentary that was both instructive and profoundly dispiriting. The People’s Politician, with retiring MPs Ann Widdecombe and Richard Caborn joined by a number of other retirees providing background and comment, pointed up just how easy it is to find voters who are totally disconnected from the political process.
Widdecombe and Caborn both try their best to enthuse punters in their respective constituencies of Maidstone and Sheffield Central, but both find the going difficult. Ann Widdecombe sticks to her task and ultimately, at least, some of her less well off constituents begin to engage with their representatives, although she describes many folks’ attitudes as the “politics of the shrug”.
Worse, seeing the actual mood on the street, and then looking at the cheerleaders for the various parties – especially the Tories – the thought enters that merely bringing on all these new MPs will not in itself change public perceptions. And neither will the move by all parties towards happy, smiling and photogenic wannabes.
Richard Caborn might have been selected for Labour in 2010; Ann Widdecombe would not be able to say that about today’s Tory Party. Does it matter? I believe it does. None of us is free of eccentricity, and perhaps a little more character in our politicians would help to enthuse the disaffected.