If we all dizzily followed politicians like groupies, never acknowledging their mishaps, British politics would take on a pointless American flavour . . .

 

Politics can never have too much scrutiny. That is the point of the House of Lords, the Shadow Cabinet, select committees and, most importantly, the media. The more critical the society of a country, the more scrutiny its politics receives. That is what the meaning of criticism is: scrutinising everything.

I feel fairly confident in saying that in the whole of British history not a single ‘conversation’ (argument) about politics has ever occurred without at least one person saying that the other is talking utter bollocks. This is because the stereotype is true. British people are, at worst: pessimists, and at best: cynical. And why should they not be, with this ‘gate’ and that ‘gate’ being fired out of Westminster at a colossal rate — is it not the smartest attitude to have?

This is shown most clearly in British media and entertainment. All newspapers, from the Daily Mail to the Guardian, are constantly criticising the government, and in doing so reflect a level of public opinion. It is also shown in long-running, highly viewed shows such as Mock the Week and previously on Spitting Image, and happens to be a near-constant discussion point on all social media sites. As a result, politicians in power always feel accountable, being aware of this tradition of scrutiny. Our general public are not easy to please, in fact, they are very, very hard to please. That is why Britain has the phrase in politics ‘the best of the worst’.

This then heavily contrasts to the typical American attitude we are currently seeing within the context of the lead-up to the presidential election. Candidates are treated as celebrities, as role models. This is particularly apparent from a recent video that went viral across social media. It shows a young girl being told she is going to see Donald Trump at one of his rallies. Her reaction is one of a girl being told that she was going to Disneyland or a Justin Bieber concert. She is so dumbfounded and bowled over with Trump that she has completely lost any ability to be critical of him, to scrutinise him appropriately.

Even though she is a young child, this also applies to the entire electorate; it is not an age issue. When one is so besotted with a politician, it is impossible to be critical of them. It is similar to when fans of Chris Brown defended his actions against Rihanna. You can still like Chris Brown and his music, I am not sure why you would but each of us have their own preferences, but you must condemn his specific actions, in that specific incident. Likewise, this does not mean that one cannot like any politician, but it is impossible to agree with every one of their actions, speeches and policies. All politicians make mistakes, major and minor, and as a supporter you are probably paid attention to the most by that particular politician, so showing some disagreement can make a real difference. You cannot view politics in its entirety through the eyes of just one politician. They have to be your own, and they have to be able to blink, to reassess the political world with each new factor that comes along.

I admit that sometime Britain goes too far in its criticism, and so politicians have said that they feel they can never do anything right. For instance, Cameron announced in 2015 before the May elections that if voted in again he would not stay for a third term. Immediately there were outcries that he was abandoning the Conservative Party, with rumours circulating that his real motivation for leaving was that it timed perfectly with his son being able to attend Eton. However, the Defence Secretary noted: ‘If he had said exactly the opposite — that he wanted to go on and on and he wasn’t prepared to answer the question when he was likely to finish — you’d have accused him, quite rightly, of arrogance and wanting term after term. He answered the question in an absolutely straight way’.  Perhaps the British public was too sceptical on that occasion, but if a downfall of being overly critical is that politicians don’t get a big pat on the back when they do something right, it’s something I think we can all live with.

Britain seems to be unique in having this critical attitude to politics. It is utterly embedded in our everyday society, newspapers, TV shows and stereotypes showing cynical British people. The world should be critical of everything that happens in politics.  A society made up of people with critical attitudes results in better legislation, passed by more competent MPs, resulting in better government.