Thursday 2 April 2009

Politics needs to change the world

Are you interested in politics? The question is not as simple as it might sound.
The word "politics" means lots of things, but for many people it means stuff that gets discussed that I don't really care about or understand and doesn't affect me.
So when the Hansard Society asks: "How interested are you in politics?" in its Audit of Political Engagement, the that-doesn't-apply-to-me factor must kick in.
In the just-out 2009 audit, the results show that 47% think they are not interested in politics.
But let's drill down into that 47% and ask them if they care about the health service, local schools, public transport, and the cost of living. Now, I would be very surprised if they said "no".
For many people being interested in politics doesn't take in any of these things, but funnily enough this is what fills the halls of parliament, and the work baskets of MPs.
Someone has got to work out how to translate the idea of "politics" to something that makes sense and appears relevant to people's lives.
In launching the report, Shahid Malik MP argued that "we've got to show people how to make the connection to policies and changing the world".
He felt there was a challenge for politicians to encourage that idea and with it, the importance of turning out to vote.
The House of Commons is ramping up its education department, encouraging more school pupils to visit and sending ambassadors out around the country, this must increase awareness of what happens in the Houses of Parliament, and hopefully build the connection between the public and their centre of democracy and public policy.
For older generations it may be more difficult. Perhaps next year the Hansard Society should phrase their question differently and try and find out what exactly people think politics means, and whether they would get a higher level of interest if they asked: Are you interested in changing policies to improve society, your health service, your local schools and your community?

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