We’ve a new game in our household, whereby the other half shows me a headline and I have to guess if it’s from the Onion or not. This is getting harder and harder, to be honest, as reality appears to be playing catchup with satire; it’s getting to the point where reading the Onion just gives you a jump start on what will be happening down the line, only it’s a lot less funny when it’s for real. Despite us being in the middle of a general election, I’ve reached the point where I’m actually beginning to lose interest in politics, at least as it happens at Westminster, which for a lifelong politics geek (it was even my degree) is embarrassing. It’s almost as bad as when they decided to shake up the Archers by throwing Nigel off the roof of Lower Loxley – one minute you’re invested in these people and follow every twist and turn of the plot, and the next you’re lunging for the radio when the Today programme comes on. Which is sad, and a bit worrying, given that they’re actually running the country, not pretending to farm it.
Every so often, reality does break through and I remember why it’s so vitally important – like when someone at writers’ group was outraged because the council budget exercise is asking us to choose between homeless shelters and library opening hours, school music lessons and lollipop ladies. I pointed out that (much as I love to give the coonsil a kicking) it’s not their fault that they’re being asked to cut everything to the bone just in order to deliver the statutory services and suggested that as well as defending the homeless shelters we should be writing to MSPs to suggest they properly fund local authorities. ‘Well no doubt they’ll just blame Westminster,’ someone said. ‘Well, you know what to do about that on December 12th’ I said, to scepticism all round that voting for any one party over another might make a difference, which even in my disengaged state I found a bit shocking. Blame social media or our short attention spans, but we’re all so caught up in the minutiae of who made what fake video or ducked out of what debate, that the actual massive differences in actual policies has somehow managed to pass people by – even me.
So this week I did something distinctly analogue and attended a hustings event for our local constituency (it wasn’t a climate specific one, so all four candidates attended, even the Tory). It was recorded by Radio Scotland (so you can hear it in its entirety here for extra credit) and I didn’t get to ask my carefully worded question but I did get to clap, boo, and greet the Tory candidate’s weaker efforts at humour with a contemptuous silence (he did get the only genuine laugh of the event by promising to ‘deliver breakfast’ though – a policy would could have all properly got behind if he hadn’t meant to say ‘Brexit’). In our digital age it was a good opportunity to observe the politicians in person, and make them all at least a little more human. As always with politicians, their initial answers weren’t too bad – the test comes in the less scripted follow-ups* and I have to confess that I was surprised by which candidate impressed me most (it wasn’t the Conservative, though, that would be more than ‘surprised’, that would be ‘flabbergasted’).
None of which will alter how I vote, unfortunately – in a first-past-the-post system I have to vote tactically for the least worst option. In fact, this might be at the root of my disengagement. Over the past 10 years I’ve got used to voting in Scotland for the person I want to represent me, instead of having to settle for the person who will beat the bastard I don’t want.
I’ll still be voting, of course – I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t. But I’ll be continuing to put the rest of my efforts into cycle campaigning in Scotland, where politics do remain a tiny bit saner than further south.
* Like when one candidate firmly promised to look at all policies ‘through a climate-related lens’ in response to a climate-related question, and then twenty minutes later was happily agreeing we should dual both major A-roads through the region without so much of a nod towards the climate emergency. If you listen carefully you might be able to hear my squeaks of frustration as I bit back a heckle…