In last week’s Times I wrote about the tendency of the three main political parties to gather around the established centre of British politics:
"Britain’s mainstream political parties all look set to offer a very
similar menu at the next election. It will be the political equivalent
of spam with beans, spam with greens or spam with lentils. The manifestos will have different flavours but the country will essentially enjoy the same diet whoever triumphs on polling day."
Now, for me, there are still enough reasons to vote for the Tory rendition of spam rather than the Labour or LibDem interpretation. Tax simplification, David Cameron’s support for marriage, the difficult-to-deliver promise to take Britain out of the EU Social Chapter, police reform and innovative new schemes for first-time homebuyers all stand out as making it worthwhile to vote Conservative. But most voters see less and less difference between the big parties.
That assessment of public opinion is confirmed by a YouGov survey for today’s Telegraph. 65% of all voters agreed that none of the political parties accurately represented their views. Exactly the same proportion agreed that they didn’t know what the main parties stood for anymore. 58% thought that all the parties were "much of a muchness." More than 70% agreed that "if you vote a party into power, you never quite know what you’re going to get."
All of these findings point to a deep dissatisfaction with the main parties. Whenever voters get a chance to vote for an independent candidate with a realistic chance of winning – whether that be Bethnall Green and Bow, Blaenau Gwent or Wyre Forest – they appear to seize it with enthusiasm.
For me one of the most interesting questions in politics is whether people want ‘authentic political leaders’ or ‘servant political leaders’? Political leaders who say what they think or political leaders who say what they think you want them to say. Most of today’s politics is poll-driven but how much respect do politicians lose in the process of fine-tuning their beliefs? I’m inclined to vote for authenticity most of the time but the lesson of Arnold Schwarzenegger – perhaps untypical – suggests that I could be wrong. He revels in the idea that he is an eager-to-please politician:
"I’m eager to please the voters because I’m a public servant. I don’t see myself as a politician. I see myself as a public servant. I serve the people of California. I serve Democrats and Republicans, and if someone says that, that I’m eager to please, yes, I am. I’m there to please the people. That’s what this is all about."