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September 30, 2011


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He's pretending DG that public opinion is not both fickle and contradictory. The great majority of the public for example do not want landfill waste to continue to expand and they don't want landfill sites near their own property, but while they want it to be out of sight and out of smell of their own house, they want such sites to otherwise be quite close.
They also want their rubbish to be collected as often as it always has been or more often if possible.

The Iraq war is also a fairly good example, yes there were large scale protests to oppose it beforehand and the government pressed ahead anyway.
Although it is fair to say there is nothing particularly left wing about that, a fact highlighted by the strength of support for the war from the Tories (although 15 rebelled) compared with a stronger rebellion from the Labour seats where 139 of them, including Paul voted against it.
But public opinion, while it opposed the Iraq war before it started, changed to being in favour of the war once it started and increased when it looked like it was going well, only to fall back a bit when it turned out it wasn't such a great thing.
It took years for people to realise it had been a bad thing and for a majority to eventually describe it as having been wrong.
But when it came to the opinion poll that mattered the most, the next general election, the public rewarded those who supported the war, which tells you all you need to know about the public and how to judge the level of importance to attach to what is considered "popular" with them.
The difference is really between narrow popularity and wider popularity.

A decent politician will pick out what is actually important to people and what they are really saying they want and support policies that attempt to reach those goals.

We know that people in this country want crime reduced, especially violent crime, we know that drink and drugs fuel most of the crime that is seen in the streets, courts and prisons, but we want to keep alcohol legislation as it is and we want to keep prohibited drugs laws as they are too.
Someone, will point out that the goals are incompatible and understand that the one that is important is crime reduction and treating people having problems with the use of drugs for those problems instead of adding to them, but so far people who represent the narrower as opposed to wider "popular" thinking have not swung with that kind of person.

It isn't an easy matter to resolve, but the fact is that an elected representative is not in Parliament to be a neutral drainpipe for every passing whim of a majority of the electorate of their constituency and not even for a deeply embedded belief if that belief is wrong and especially when it is in itself actually harmful.

Messages do get listened to, but nothing will change the fact that the most powerful messages we send are sent at election time and in those we have rewarded warmongers and put into place people to manage the economy who don't have the tiniest idea what life is actually like for the majority of people. From that they can only assume that we don't care about such issues and there really is no credible argument that they are wrong about that.


Richard, you're right that popularity doesn't prove greatness of course. But then why do you say "Any political party that can demonstrate to me that it listens and acts on public opinion has my support"? It seems that you're arguing that public opinion is neither good nor bad as a rule, but should always be listened to - why?


DG- your logic is flawed.

That philosophy doesn't prove that Jason Bieber is the greatest singer in America. It proves that he is the most popular. To come to a conclusion as to whether he is the best singer in America would require devising some sort of objective vocal test for all singers and comparing the results.

I say again: whether something is popular or not doesn't mean that it's right or wrong. The data is not contained in the equation to inform such a opinion.

Logically, it seems to me that the only method by which you could arrive a value judgement about popular views is if you believed that the people holding the views were so ill-educated and naive compared to onself that the relative quality of the decision-making process was of very poor value.

That is clearly the implication of your post, but more to the point, is that what Mr Flynn thinks?


You want the country run on the basis of argumentum ad populum? Great - the philosophy that proves Justin Bieber is the greatest singer currently performing in America should do *wonders* for our society.


Just because something 'pleases the crowd' doesn't mean that it wrong, just that it pleases a wide number of people.

Similarly, if something is 'populist' that doesn't mean that it's incorrect, only that it is widely approved of.

Any political party that can demonstrate to me that it listens and acts on public opinion has my support. But unfortunately, I think that deep down most politicans despise the general public, because they believe that public opinion is formed by ill-educated oiks and that somehow, they, the politicians, possess some special talent or quality that gives them a moral right to impose their minority views on the rest of us.

I have particularly noted this is the left-wing, where feeling sanctimonious about an issue allows democracy to disappear out of the window very quickly. Anyone remember the Iraq war? Who was proved right on that one -the public or politicans?

You, yourself, on these pages have told me that it's "not the duty of politicians to bow to public opinion but to do what's right for the country". I couldn't agree more. But that doesn't mean the public knows nothing and can be ignored and ridiculed. We are sending you messages, why can't more of you listen?

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