Our laws are set by social misfits who don’t know what they are talking about – isn’t that depressing?
Who would want to be a politician? It’s the sort of job that doesn’t appeal to normal people. For all the talk of them being our representatives and all their efforts to act like normal humans and appear down with the kids on TV interviews – often a cringeworthy display that convinces no one other than their equally out-of-touch spin doctors and advisers. If the single-minded, blind-to-reality world of social media appals you, remember that these are the people who become politicians – self-righteous, self-important misfits, driven by their own narcissistic belief that they know better than everyone else. Basically, the one thing that ought to disqualify someone from being a politician is the desire to become one; standing for election ought to be enough to make us suspicious of anyone.
If politicians were to at least admit their ignorance of a subject, then we might at least respect their honesty. But they never will. The closest we get is when they listen to the demands of pressure groups, but they only do that when the pressure group in question is reflecting the beliefs that they already have. Labour MP Diana Johnson is trying to outlaw the buying of sex – the so-called ‘Nordic Model’ approach to prostitution, named after Sweden pioneered the law – because she doesn’t approve of sex workers and their customers, and her Rad-Fem allies don’t either. The fact that sex worker organisations like the English Collective of Prostitutes – who we might reasonably say know a bit more about both the subject than a career politician – say that this is dangerous not just for punters but for the women it is supposed to protect is neither here nor there. As a politician, Johnson believes that she knows more about the subject than any experts who might disagree with her. It’s the arrogance of the elected, even if the MP has been elected in such a safe seat that the party could stand the corpse of Jimmy Savile as their candidate and still secure a thumping majority. It’s part of the arrogance of the politician that they honestly seem to think that their victory is down to their own intelligence, personality and general brilliance rather than the colour of their rosette.
This self-belief – perhaps a virtue in other careers – allows the politician to push through legislation that will affect the lives of others, the little people who they call themselves representatives of but actually see themselves as superior to. A media-trained politician can, of course, out-talk some poor bugger who is trying to argue a much better point but who will at best get one or two nervous moments on Question Time before being brushed aside, and we are so used to our MPs ignoring questions and trotting out rehearsed platitudes that we barely even notice it; when a TV presenter pushes a politician to answer the question – usually driven by their own agendas and ambitions – it is so unusual that everyone remarks on it, but then we let them carry on playing the same old game of dodging and ignoring for the rest of the time.
I’m reminded of all this when reading that a study carried out by Greenstone Research shows that 39% of MPs think that we need more regulation of video games (possibly unaware of existing regulations, as MPs so often are when calling for more censorship) and 70% are concerned about the dangers of gaming for young people ahead of the government’s cack-handed and hysterical Online Harms proposals, the latest of which we await next week. Video games are, of course, the new home videos, which were the new horror comics which were the new rail networks in terms of mass panic about the corruption of youth and the dangers that the lower orders and their simple pleasures pose to the well-off. That the numbers expressing concern over the dangers of gaming are relatively low (though 56% of references to video gaming in Parliament during 2020 have been classed as ‘negative’) might be because the internet as a whole was superseded gaming, video nasties and other pleasures as bogeymen for the media and the politicians, hence the need for an overarching law controlling what we see, read, play and upload.
Of course, politicians only ever see the need for more regulation, not less. Reducing restrictions not only goes against their instincts as people who believe themselves to know better than us but also gives them little to do. Even when there is a political will to reduce excessive legislation, it is crushed by the civil service (for whom no law is a law too far) – look at how the planned ‘bonfire of the quangos’ legislation by the Conservative/Lib-Dem alliance to roll back on some of New Labours 3000 plus new laws was quickly kicked into touch. One thing we can be sure of is that once they have a taste of power, any idea politicians might have about liberalising society and reducing the restrictions on what we can do vanish very quickly. The Cameron government simply added more legislation and more quangos in the end.
I’m not naive enough to think that we can be without politicians full stop, because someone has to run the damn country after all – they are, I fear, a necessary evil. And short of a revolution – which would almost certainly replace the bad with something worse – it’s hard to know quite what to do to change things. Perhaps if we no longer voted blindly along party lines, then they might feel less secure in their jobs and actually listen to people outside their own echo chambers. But I think that it’ll take more than recent schisms like the collapse of the Red Wall in the UK at the last election – for that to have a real effect, it needs to happen election after election, nationwide, on both sides of the political divide. Maybe then, we could finally bring them to heel, and perhaps allow legislation to be drafted by actual experts, rather than allowing very strange people who have never played a video game, watched a horror film, spoken with a sex worker who wasn’t supplied to them by prohibitionist groups or had any experience of the real world to make laws about things that they don’t understand at all.
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