The British fuss and complain about the state of the country, wanting nothing to do with politics. And yet when the cards are laid, they gather eagerly to try their luck

 

Behind every British citizen come a wealth of publicized political complaints, a consciousness of never quite feeling content with our current political system, and a belief that all our politicians are cowardly, inept, self-interested and overpaid. Yet we follow their every move with resolute propensity as we await the ultimate knock-out that never quite reaches the stage that we call the House of Commons. The whole thing becomes a performance. One which we, the British, feed on for our own hateful agendas. Rather than thriving on argument, I’m often left bereft by the division within and between parties, that when put into perspective, are really one and the same.

We the British thrive off of extremism or remotely extreme ideas, just as much as you probably enjoyed the collective ‘we’ at the start of that sentence. In our heads we create a strong political standpoint about the refugee crisis or the EU Referendum, things we would never have even considered before they came to the forefront of mainstream British media. Even investing ourselves in American politics, we love to hate Donald Trump.

It’s almost routine to complain that every general election brings to Parliament a new crop of MPs straight from the pages of the Oxford and Cambridge University year books. Many people worry that we are governed by a homogeneous Oxbridge elite who look and talk and think alike, with their advisers being a mirror image of their employers. More than a quarter of MPs attended Oxford or Cambridge and 28 per cent graduated from Russell Group universities.

This situation is too often defended with the argument that the ‘cleverest’ people should be advising those running the country. To some extent this is true — ministers and MPs rely on good quality briefings and advice in order to best fulfil their roles in policy development and scrutiny. This requires tenacious, bright staff.

But it is equally necessary for advisers’ intellect to be informed by a genuine appreciation for the needs and interests of the broader electorate. Being ‘book-smart’ is not the same as understanding people.

After a family friend of mine shared a harrowing account of a friend’s mentally ill father who had been significantly affected by cuts in mental health services, one researcher’s response was: ‘Bread today, jam tomorrow’. As someone who had jam on the menu every day, her understanding of the theory behind the economic and social policies involved did not translate into an appreciation of how those policies would affect people different to herself.

So what is the one factor that amalgamates all this together to make us hate politics but love elections? Momentum: the freedom to vote, the belief that your vote has meaning and the anticipation of the results.

Take the EU Referendum for example. The lack of momentum is the very thing that makes the outcome of this referendum so difficult to predict. The referendum will take a long time and resultantly the issues will feel less immediate than during a general election. While a close race may keep a lot of people interested, this isn’t going to be a voter-friendly experience. All the parties will face a surprisingly angry electorate, sick of being pestered about an election that won’t significantly change their life.

However, if like recently, the vote looks like it will be very close, the risk of exit will start to seem very real, thus increasing momentum and making the thrill of the chase exhilarating for British society. Even though we will claim to hate every minute of this blasted debate or contend that we don’t understand why the referendum occurred in the first place, the politicos of the ‘out’ campaign will be in Britain’s element. They will have the advantage of sheer interest in the subject matter that many of the ‘In’ campaigners will never be able to match, simply because of the prospect of change. It is the sheer curiosity and fear of change that causes the British to hate politics but love elections.