Over the last few weeks, tensions have increased across the country as people are deciding who to vote for in the upcoming general election on May 7.
Are people now voting on health, education, the economy and other policies that are important to them? Or is it the personality of the leader that appeals to the individual the most? Have the days vanished forever when the ordinary citizen looks through every party’s manifesto? If it is no longer party policy against party policy; it is a free-for-all battle between the party figureheads.
In a world of ‘dumbing down’ due to the media’s continued focus on scandal and entertainment, it seems many choose not to understand the policies of each party and simply vote for personality. Public scrutiny is solely geared towards the figures at the top; the public gaze too often falls exclusively on the charismatic party leaders.
In this modern world where there is a relentless focus on personality politics, a politician can no longer ‘hide’ behind their policies. Beneath the seemingly repetitive policies, the three front-running parties seem reluctant to express controversy, in fear of losing voters at a critical stage. This coupled with the public’s cynical attitude to politics means that the way the politicians present themselves is becoming more important than policy.
This is highlighted by the continued focus on the upcoming TV debate – if it ever happens at all! The physical presence of the leaders in front of the cameras elevate personality over policy, with importance lying on the way that points are being made, rather than what is being said.
Similar representations can be seen in Prime Minister’s Question time, held each week in the House of Commons, where the representatives of our country are in competition to humiliate and shout at opposing members.
We have become a nation, which is ever skeptical and suspicious of politicians, who remain predominately white, male, middle-class men.
We also no longer have the days of Thatcher and Reagan where the UK and US had strong, ideologically-committed leaders. Tony Blair, often described as ‘messianic’ by his critics, remains the strongest leader for the UK in recent times, despite sparking the contentious wars in the middle-east.
However, Blair remained popular with a large swathe of the British public and never lost an election, unlike his successor, Gordon Brown.
Away from the controversial opinions and personalities beneath UKIP party members, the strength and resistance shown by Nigel Farage could hold a key role in the recent surges in popularity for his party, once more providing evidence for the importance of delivery.
People just seem to want someone to believe in, especially when compared to the other soft candidates who fail to deliver strength and delivery in their points.
There is certainly no denial of the continued struggle of politicians to connect with ordinary citizens.
However, it is unfair to make the choice simply either policies or personality – in fact, both matter. Priority lies with policy, nevertheless you need a strong leader at the top.
The politician becomes the name and face of the government, should they be elected. It is a little sad that so many people vote on personality or lack thereof, rather than policy.
However, this is the society we live in and we have to take some joy from the fact that at least people are voting when so many individuals fought so hard to get us the vote.