Editor-At-Large: Where can we find Britain's Barack Obama?

Share
Related Topics

It's hard not to feel energised by the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's win. But what is the likelihood of anyone on this side of the Atlantic rekindling our interest in British politics? Zero, I would say. Commentators talked about the "Brown bounce" after Labour unexpectedly won a by-election in Scotland last week, but most of us remain profoundly turned off by politicians and the platitudes they spout. To be blunt, there are very few MPs and even fewer cabinet ministers who are able to connect with ordinary men and women in the way Obama does.

The contrast is stark: the US presidential election saw the highest turnout since 1908, a remarkable 65 per cent of the electorate. And although the number of first-time voters was only slightly higher than in 2004, almost half of that group were from racial or ethnic minorities, and half were full-time students.

Most British MPs seem marooned on Planet Politics, intent on saving their own skins, speaking in weird jargon and only mixing with fellow aliens. They seem not to mind or care that the 2005 general election attracted the second-lowest turnout since 1945, and was only fractionally up on the appalling turnout of 2001.

In short, we're turned off by British political parties and their candidates. Why? Trevor Philips, Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission reckons that "institutional" racism in the Labour Party prevents any British Obamas rising through the ranks here. A whopping 17 million Brits decided not to vote at our last general election, and among the young and first-time voters, fewer than a third bothered.

Even more worrying is that fact that the highest turnouts were in middle-class areas, proving that many MPs don't connect with lower-income groups. Last week, Hazel Blears, who entered the Commons at 41 in 1997, suggested another reason for voter apathy was the new breed of career MPs who've spent most of their working lives involved in politics.

It's not often that I agree with Ms Blears, but she has a point. David and Ed Miliband, James Purnell and Andy Burnham have never worked outside the hothouse world of politics; seamlessly moving from being researchers to special advisors to MPs. And there are older politicians who aren't that different: Jack Straw joined Labour at 14, and was leader of the National Union of Students before becoming an MP. Gordon Brown spent a very brief period working as a TV producer, but before that he taught politics and was pushing Labour leaflets through letter-boxes at 12. Jacqui Smith joined Labour at 17, studying politics at Oxford before becoming an MP in her early thirties. Harriet Harman worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties before becoming an MP at 32.

All these bigwigs were committed to the party from an early age, but that kind of engagement has ground to a complete halt. The number of working-class kids who relate to the major political parties is negligible, but few politicians care. And, with the number of women in both the Commons and the Lords standing at a pitiful 20 per cent, it's easy to see why young women would feel that becoming an MP is not something for them.

When Gordon Brown talks of understanding the pain felt by ordinary men and women facing increased fuel, mortgage and food bills, we know it's just political rhetoric. And how can Eton-educated David Cameron convince us, either? The fact is that there's a great big hole at the centre of our political system – and it's called real-life experience.

Jo glows: The clear benefits of life without Ronnie Wood

Jo Wood has given her first interviews since her marriage of 23 years ended when Ronnie made a complete fool of himself by running off with a 20-year-old Russian waitress. Jo was promoting her new range of organic fragrances, and refrained from commenting on her errant husband's mid-life crisis, other than to say she had regained her strength and there would be a place for him at the family Christmas lunch.

I adore Jo. She always seems to embody a cheerful optimism many women in the public eye could learn from. Chatting to her at a party at the start of Ronnie's bout of bonkers behaviour, I couldn't help but be impressed by her calm dignity. Unlike the tortured Duchess of York, who now drags her daughters into her endless quest for self-publicity (in an ITV documentary about orphans last week), Jo comes across as refreshingly realistic and well balanced. She says she's got a strong family and is enjoying herself after spending years at home 'cleaning and listening to moaning'– I think we all know what she means.

Men of a certain age are worse than pets, who at least don't whinge and worry about their hair.

That isn't security: it's shambolic

New legislation means employers can be fined up to £10,000 for each illegal immigrant they employ. Recently, Lambeth lost a third of its parking wardens when their paperwork was checked, but that seems trifling compared to the débâcle within the Government. The boss of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), set up to license security guards and bouncers, has left his job after an investigation found that 38 of the people he'd employed to check credentials didn't have the right security clearances and had to be removed from the building. The SIA is a disaster. Last year, more than 7,000 illegal immigrants were allowed to work as security guards (some at the Home Office), and an inquiry has found that the SIA overspent by £17m.

Hands off my dabs, Jacqui

According to Jacqui Smith we're gagging for ID cards. Demand is so high that the Home Office plans a fast-track system so applicants can enter their data on a pre-registration website, enabling them to have an ID card in a year, two years before the original date of 2011. Really? Who's so desperate to hand over all 10 fingerprints and facial scans to the Government? I haven't encountered anyone. The Government is inviting private contractors to collect this biometric data. But saying that the contracts will be awarded to firms that undergo security vetting doesn't make me feel safe. This also applied to the government consultants who've mislaid memory sticks and computer disks in the past few months.

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own