Nobody Cares


In his book Tides of Consent James Stimson records pollsters’ surprise when they started investigating public opinion in America. They had thought the public would be reasonably well informed. What they found was that ordinary Americans knew and cared almost nothing about public affairs. It is the same in the UK. Last week’s fuss about Brown’s handwriting led some pundits to conclude he had had a bad week. The truth was that most people barely noticed that he had had any sort of week. They hardly knew about the letter and they did not care much. On the whole people don’t know, aren’t following and don’t believe politicians and their promises, they can only judge them on whether what they do one thing works. The public do not now much about politics because the knowledge would make no difference to them – would change nothing. They rarely vote, and only when it really matters to them. Brown hopes that the Queen’s Speech will establish dividing lines with the Conservatives. This is an entirely forlorn hope. Voters won’t notice these dividing lines. They won’t notice the measures in the address until they begin to make an impact on their lives which will be long after the election. Tomorrow everyone will get dressed up, the Queen will speak, Gordon Brown will speak and David Cameron will speak. Everyone will go home again and nothing of any political significance will have happened.


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