The BBC’s North America Editor Mark Mardell recently took part in a phone-in programme on a Mid-West radio station where callers were putting questions to him about next month’s Congressional elections. The station obviously wanted an outsider’s take.
Mardell turned his appearance on the show into a neat little feature on this morning’s “Today” programme. He set out to capture the mood of America (or this part of it at least) as it heads towards the polls.
“Angry” was the word that came across most often.
Moreover, it was anger with both main parties.
One listener, recalling the heroes of the American revolution who implanted grass-roots democracy, bemoaned: “We are no longer governed by citizen legislators. We are ruled by career politicians.”
There’s a similar mood afoot among lots of people in many other countries. This is due in part to the fact that politicians and commentators can often take the electorate for granted whenever they communicate with them. In large measure this is due to the kind of language they use.
Amid all the discussion about the UK’s spending cuts, they have variously been described as being “progressive” or “regressive”. What on earth does this mean to the average man or woman in the street who hasn’t had the benefit of studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford (the favoured degree of career politicians)? Why not explain these terms in ways that all voters can understand, not just the politicos and the kommentariat?
And, by the way, what is the “structural deficit”? None of the major parties is doing themselves any favours by not outlining what it means by this.
Interestingly, last weekend’s Financial Times had three or four articles on what action the Bank of England and America’s Federal Reserve are considering in order to stimulate growth. There were several references to further “quantitative easing”. On each mention, the FT correspondent in question took the trouble to insert a half-sentence to explain what the term meant.
If the FT can take the trouble to explain things not just to its niche readership but to the rest of us as well, why can’t the politicians?
Well done Financial Times. Politicians, take note.