Celebrity influence makes a farce of politics

Does the pandering of politics to popular culture serve to increase public interest, or merely make a mockery of the system?

It’s predicted that 2011 will be the year of The Three Cs of Politics; Cameron, Clegg…and now, it seems, that all important third-wheel of the coalition, Cowell.

A news story in the Guardian recently ran with the headline ‘Public to choose policies as coalition gets the X Factor’. The article continued “The government is to follow the lead of The X Factor television programme and allow the public to decide on legislation to be put before MPs.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of referendums. Hurrah for direct democracy. But does anyone really think reality television should influence government policy?

Sir George Young, leader of the Commons, has said he wants to progress with ‘government by petition’ in the New Year, in order to “make politics more relevant to people’s daily lives”. Is this a man that genuinely sits at home of a Saturday evening watching the X Factor? Don’t get me wrong, I can see him listening to Wagner. Wagner circa 1850.

Yet, as wonderfully inclusive as the idea of the whole electorate voting via e-petition sounds, it raises the inevitable problem that the topics the public are likely to deign most popular for them to vote on- withdrawal from the EU, complete halt to immigration, reintroduction of capital punishment- are hardly forward-thinking policies. All three will be batted down straight away, so where exactly was the antidote to the tragic ‘disconnection between the public and parliament’?

Let’s say in a freak wave of parliamentary appeasement to Daily Mail readers nationwide, the Commons pass a policy restricting all immigrants from pitching up in Portsmouth, how do we deal with those who make it across the channel? Do we station Bruce Forsythe at Dover ready to greet immigrants with his token “Nice to see you…”, before waving them back from whence they came?

This news story has nothing whatsoever to do with X Factor, its reference is a poor attempt to harness the interest of the average British citizen and keep up with the people, making it seem nothing more than a farce in the process. The only reality television politicians should be concerned with is BBC Parliament. Why watch Big Brother or Celebrities Do The Stupidest Things when there are a bunch of middle-aged Britons baiting each other, team red on one side, team blue on the other, two sword lengths apart. Their challenge? To run the country. Their prize? Not being ousted from Government or having to deal with Davina McCall. The stakes are high enough without the need to throw in a £100,000 record contract.

The X Factor angle is completely irrelevant and should have been edited from the title; it’s misleading and, quite honestly, it makes a mockery of politics. Let’s keep the realm of celebrity and the realm of politics separate, before we end up with Jeremy Clarkson as Prime Minister and Noel Edmonds as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

3 comments

  1. 29 Dec ’10 at 1:40 pm

    Lloyd Sparkes

    I am not sure what you are trying to achieve with this article.

    But you seem to be rather against the idea, of having e-petitions which once they have so much public support, they will be debated on in parliament, and may lead to legislation begin written, and then voted on, to become law.

    Your point of it begin like X-Factor is totally defunct, and it would be nothing of the sort.

    Petitions have been used for years as a way to show support for particular issues along with protests. In recent memories the most sucessful was that of the fox hunting with dogs ban.

    Many people want a Referendum on whether we should remain in the EU, as it slides towards suparnationalism, centralisation, we were promised one on the lisbon treaty by every political party but alas Labour forgot their promise and we are now stuck with it. EU integration is a big issue, and it is one which if we went to the polls todays we would likly reject.

    So having a way to formalise petitioning goverment, and making it easier to do so, is a good thing, and it should be a fundamental part of our democracy. If we cannot tell the goverment what we want, how can we make sure it does what we want.

    This article read likes the labour response to the policy suggestion, that it would be full of “crazy” ideas. If there are crazy ideas, then they would not gather enough support, or if they did then parliament would debate then shutdown the idea.

    But lets not forget, that it could also be used to get through other “crazy” ideas like legalising drugs, getting rid of nuclear weapons, socialism, gay marriage.

    So in all it is a good idea, and helps to get people involved and interested in politics, and helps them get their views across to goverment, where they might otherwise be ignored or unrepresented.

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  2. 30 Dec ’10 at 9:28 pm

    Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

    ‘Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of referendums. Hurrah for direct democracy’ constitutes your opening gambit, yet the rest of the article deals with nothing except the reasons you’re against it. Some A grade sincerity there.

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  3. I must register my agreement with the above posters.

    You clearly have a problem with direct democracy — which is fine, as there are many sound arguments against it. (Trust me: I spent a few years living in California, whose government has been completely gridlocked and bankrupted by excessive populism.)

    As far as I can tell, though, there would be no ‘celebrity influence’ upon the proposed referendum system, and your entire complaint seems to be rooted in the fact that the Guardian has chosen to liken it to ‘The X-Factor’. Seems like you’ve gotten yourself all bound up in semantics without looking very deeply into the facts of the matter.

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