Maybe that should read "a pathetic mind" in the title, but Wendy's guest post yesterday got me thinking about some more reasons why people are turned off politics. And for me, these reasons are a by-product of the political system - and little to do with the expenses scandal.
Maybe calling this a response is misleading. More of an addition, some extra food for thought. Don't get me wrong - Wendy's point is right. There's very little connection between "professional" politicians and the voters at the moment, and that is causing a great deal of exasperation with the system.
This is not a new phenomenon. Well, okay, the expenses mess is. But people were turned off politics long before expenses hit the headlines. And I have evidence in the form of stats.
Height of the two party system.A turnout of over 80% - four in every five people taking the time to vote.4 MILLION people across the UK a member of a political party.Labour and the Tories combine to take 96% of the vote and 98.7% of the seats.
Turnout was only 62% - down to three in five voting.Less than half a million people members of political parties (despite having much more choice of parties).Labour and the Tories still dominant, but only to the tune of 68% of the vote and 85.7% of the seats.
Those are facts. Here's the analysis.
If you were to make a prediction based upon choice, you'd probably guess that giving people more choice would make them more likely to find a party that was similar to their views and vote for them. Stands to reason - more options, more choice, right? So what should have happened - despite the electoral system? Well, instead of having just two parties (Lab/Con) or, in a few constituencies three (Lib) in 1955 you have 4 or 5 or maybe as many as 7 or 8 candidates in constituencies in 2005. So you'd have more options on the ballot, more likelihood of finding a candidate you agree with and so you'd be more likely to vote, agree?
However, choice is a funny thing. While it would appear that you have more choices in the 2005 election (depending how you look at it) you may have had more choice in 1955. Sound bizarre? It is and it isn't.
After Margaret Thatcher won power in 1979, Labour's 1983 manifesto went wildly left - anti-EEC, anti-nukes, nationalise everything. Needless to say, they got thumped. And again in 1987. Neil Kinnock modernised the party in 1992, but there were still fears that their leftie policies would ruin the country. The Tories tapped into this, and won a marginal victory. By the time 1997 came round, Tony Blair had pretty much stripped the left out of Labour. Gone was Clause IV, equality and workers' rights and revolution. In its place? Thatcherite economics, steady as she goes stuff - low taxes, low inflation, low interest rates - with more social conscience and some increases in public spending. The result - a Labour party that had moved from the left to the centre-left (some argue, beyond), from socialist to social democrat. In doing so, the party competition in the UK changed too. It was no longer a left (Labour) v right (Conservative) fight. It was a centre-left v right fight.
Now that shift made sense - it was, after all, where the voters were. Around 75% of the electorate sits between centre-left and centre-right on a left-right spectrum. The only way to win a 1990s or 2000s election was to appeal to those voters. And this is what David Cameron's Tories are doing too - shifting away from the traditional Tory right (anti-Europe, tough on immigration) to a more "compassionate," "progressive" position - somewhere between the centre-right and the centre-left.
The problem with politics - at UK level anyway - is that there is very little distinctive difference between Labour and the Tories at a superficial level at least. And that has resulted in less, not more, choice for voters when faced with selecting their new government.
In the 1950s it was easy - left wing or right wing. Now neither are distinctive and neither offer big solutions to society's problems. That, for me, is why people are disengaging with the system. Well, that and corruption. But if they can't see a viable, credible, distinctive alternative to the current arrangement, they the question does remain: why bother?