Political knowledge in the UK

Discussion in 'Politics' started by RodRingo, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. RodRingo

    RodRingo New Member

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    I've been doing some research of examples of nationalism. While doing this I also came across the various infamous 'racist bus/tram/train' links.

    I noticed that a lot of statements people made - about jobs/'Britishness'/etc - seemed a cringe-worthy. Cringe-worthy in that their exchanges generally lacked knowledge; knowledge on the mechanisms of the economy, the general liberal societal values most Western countries purport and anything relevant - such as jobs, the politics around it and what have you.
    (This was present with both parties, victim and none, were guilty; dependant on the video you watch.)

    I'd noticed this phenomena for some time now, and this seems political in nature.
    Do the - particularly the nationalist strata of society - British population have a general lack of knowledge; of politics*, how jobs come and go? By the populace I mean the ones who claim things like there aren't any jobs, or they're being taken etc.

    *Voting against the AV system to spite the LibDems is something that came to mind. Personally I voted for keeping FPTP, but that was because I actually knew the pros and cons of both.


    Would you say the educational secretary should do more to incorporate more economical and political knowledge into the national curricula? Like making them actual subjects as opposed to making a horrible subject such as GCSE Citizenship.
    Studying that made no sense and it just created a shock effect for people who held a particular view point - e.g. xenophobia - for way too long. Implying that such a reform should be applied earlier as opposed to the GCSE stage.


    Its not just the videos, a good deal of people I've met didn't even know how the political system work or how/why there really aren't jobs, the latter going for the easiest scapegoat.

    For me it seems rather odd that people can vote while usually uninformed of what they're voting for or the possible ramifications.
    I mean the Tory Party (correct me if I'm wrong) are carrying out things in their manifesto, a lot of the British public hate some of their changes, but they voted. That's one example, but you get the gist of it.


    So really I've touched on two socio-political issues: the knowledge the electorate has and the general knowledge of the public (in case the long wall-o-text got you bored :p).

    I've never actually had an in-depth discussion with anyone about this. So I thought it be good to have a discussion about this and see what others think.
     
  2. Jason

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    Political knowledge in the UK could be a lot better but it's not that bad either.

    We probably do have a problem with the school curriculum - many school leavers do seem ignorant about the way our UK democracy runs - probably we are doiing less well today than thirty or sixty years ago. And I'm aware that the demographically "average" educated UK person reads The Sun, and that is pretty cringe-worthy.

    But there is decent coverage of issues on television (all main stations have decent news programmes) and a lot of people do read a newspaper or news magazine. And we get media overload during elections. I think people who actually get themselves into a polling booth have some idea what they are voting for.

    A problem is that issues can blow up and have a major impact for a few weeks - then vanish. The surge in LibDem support just before the last election was an example - if people had had six months to think many would have changed their vote. In Scotland many voted SNP as a protest to Labour (not because they want independence). This is a problem with all democracies.
     
  3. dandelion

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    The trouble with a general discussion is there is too much to tackle.

    I cant really tell you how much political knowledge there is in the country. I am not sure it matters. Or, of course it matters, but as things stand it makes no difference to outcome.

    I happened to look up the wikipedia article on the reform acts in Victorian Britain which extended the vote to more people. The article said that although in theory this might have taken power away from the traditional ruling class, what it really did was give power to those best organised and with most money to have publicity campaigns. Which was, er, the traditional ruling class, at the expense of some of the up and coming merchant class. Because that ruling class was best able to influence the new voters.

    So maybe if the voters have more information then maybe they will vote differently? My experience today is that most people if they have adequate resources, a job, a home, a family, frankly have better things to do than worry about politics. It really doesnt matter to them who runs the country just so long as they do a more or less reasonable job. And it is always difficult to tell if they have done a good or bad job, because what can you compare it to? You can never know how things might have been better or worse under different leaders.

    So up to a point a government is mindfull to make sure people get something to keep them happy. This has always been true, whatever kind of government. Bread and circuses in ancient Rome. Dictators or kings. Doesnt matter if people have a vote, the final arbiter is revolution if they hate you. But if most people have an acceptable life, even those who have plenty of political knowledge, why would they go out and do anything to change whatever injustice they see? To do so is just about to guarantee they will not get to enjoy what they have got.

    I think most people in a very comfortable country like the UK are quite happy to leave government to those who want to govern. Would be politicians have formed themselves into a couple of teams which basically believe in the same things but compete between themselves for the fun of running the country as against the fun of complaining about how it is run.

    Okay, heres another take. Mit Romney just sang 'America' on newsnight. His last words 'I love this country'. (or since I dont know one from another by sight, could have been any of the candidates). But he was invoking a persona of nationalism which seems to be popular in american politicians. UK politicans generally shun it like the plague. Horses for courses, i suppose. Maybe in the UK nationalism is not such a force as in the US, which is the worlds premier imperial power. I expect people in the US have much the same mix of education as in the Uk, but maybe they are not so homogeneous. The great melting pot may have taken people from all over the world, but they remain divided into groups according to their origins. So the nation as one whole may matter more for those who are interested at all.

    Americans are reported to care even less about their national government than do the british. With perhaps good reason, because much of what the UK government doesis devolved in the US to states, so what affects you personally might have little to do with the federal government, even if you care at all.

    Uk politics 100 years ago was more like Us federal politics now. When we too had an empire, and government did not concern itself with health care, or pensions, or social security. When the Uk politicians had similar interests to US politicians, they sounded then like US ones do now. So maybe its all about manipulating people.
     
  4. dandelion

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    Knowledge is a continuum. i know more than some people and less than others. How much is enough?

    i shouldnt think so. If they have joined a party i suspect they have more than most. If they are just generally expressing a view, I dont know. I used to know someone left over from the Raj who was well clued up on politics and quite nationalist. If you spend your childhood in a house full of different race servants....And then the Raj ended, and she came back to Britain to be just an ordinary working person again rather than a member of the ruling class.

    When I went to school there was no national curriculum. It was down to the local authority or school to choose what subjects should be taught. Worked fine. NO gcse citizenship either. I think there was an A level british government. So GCSE citizenship is an invention part of trying to make everyone more alike and 'citizens'. Do i think people should be taught how to rebel and kick up a fuss and make life difficult for government? Absolutely. But would it make a difference? Dont know.

    I expect teachers teach. that is, they lead by example in the sort of behaviour children learn from them. Which would include attitudes towards race, government, the state, etc. Again, i expect this is much more controlled and PC than it was.

    so do you know why there arent jobs? Does anyone, really?

    So only the rich should vote, because they are the only ones who get a decent education? No. The system is exceptionally bad at creating a government which reflects the wishes of the people, but if things get really bad, it does do so. Better to have this option than going straight to armed rebellion.

    Oh can of worms! People may vote for things they dont like. People in the UK believe government cuts are necessary. i believe they are necessary. Or, more accurately, i believe a balanced budget is necessary. i believe taxes could be increased to achieve this, butprobably cuts are also necessary. It is true the civil service pay levels are creeping up as compared to pay of the general population. I certainly believe a significant amount of government spending is wasted. I also believe it is well nigh impossible to prevent this and that 'privatising' services does not improve matters.

    Manifestos are largely pointless. They are a shop window. Parties reserve the right to totally ignore their manifestos after they are elected. People should not be surprised by this. They are used as an excuse by parties when they do something unpopular (it was in the manifesto!). They know perfectly well there is no space on the voting form to say 'I support party X but oppose manifesto item 27', but claim everyone supported all of it. Or, may simply say it was impossible to carry all of it out and ditch something everyone did want.
     
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