Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Democratic responsibilities

click photo to enlarge
Living under the benefits of a democracy confers rights as well as responsibilities. One of the duties, it seems to me, is to remain informed about politics and take part in it from a position of knowledge and principle. Sadly, our most recent county council elections demonstrate that quite a few electors show scant sign of such engagement. Moreover, these and other elections have shown that we are unable to expect it even from some of those who seek public office. As those from these islands might realise, I am thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who garnered a significant number of councillors at the expense of all of the other parties, but from the Conservatives in particular.

One only has to read what pass for the policies (main UKIP website unavailable at time of writing!) of this party to realise that its position is broadly right-wing and populist, that its underlying principles are not developed in the way that we have a right to expect from serious politicians and that its national profile rests almost exclusively on the shoulders of its leader. According to a news report some senior UKIP figures recognise that the absence of policies is a failing and have considered buying them from right-leaning think tanks!

Those who voted for UKIP seem to have done so for a variety of reasons, few of which I find defensible. Some are attracted by all or individual policies - fair enough - but many are so undeveloped as to be no more than items on a wish-list. Many say they are fed up with the indistinguishable metropolitan elite who head the other parties, an argument I have some sympathy with but one that fatally and naively concentrates on personalities rather than policies. Others say it was to send the main parties a message that they are not giving enough attention to the matters that concern them. Perhaps such people should have been assiduously lobbying their MPs and government rather than relying on a single trip to the ballot box to express their concerns. Then there are those who voted for the UKIP leader because he is "different" from the other party leaders, more "human", more forthright, not part of the establishment. Anyone holding this view simply hasn't been paying attention. I find it hard to see much difference between the backgrounds of the present prime minister and the leader of UKIP. The latter is, apparently, the son of a stockbroker, someone who attended Dulwich College, a private, fee-paying school, and who worked as a commodity broker in the City before entering politics. That is a background, it seems to me, with more than a hint of the establishment and the metropolitan elite about it. As one observer humorously and perceptively noted, the UKIP leader's appeal and approach share a lot in common with that of the current mayor of London. To my mind that is not an endorsement but an indictment.

All this has little to do with today's photograph of a part of London on the south bank, in Southwark, called English Grounds. If I were to try and establish some sort of connection I would do it by saying that this view, like the political party discussed above, isn't entirely what it seems.

photo and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18.9mm (51mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On