Corbyn & May vs. Murtaugh & Riggs

1 Jun, 2017

Why British politics is the worst action movie ever

A mess of wires. A clock ticking. Steel and sweat. A pair of woefully inadequate looking pliers. And our hero.

The undefused bomb is a neat plot device. We put ourselves behind those pliers and dare to make the choice. For a few shaky minutes, anything could happen. The decision is up for grabs: 50-50 feels like terrible odds, but time is running out. We cut a wire. Sometimes the bomb explodes.

I’m not trying to claim voting is similar. People we’ve spoken to don’t flatter themselves by imagining their votes have such a big effect.

Rather, I think we make mini bomb defuse decisions daily. Who should we tax? Free market or fair market? Who won that debate? Should we care about the old? Unity or sovereignty? Protection or progression? Dispersion politics has meant sitting on the fence simply isn’t possible. So pick an opinion and get ready for your friends and colleagues to explode around you, celebrating your foresight or denouncing your incompetence.

No analogy is perfect, and the problem with this one is that in politics there isn’t always a right and a wrong answer. Increasingly it seems like there is only a wrong answer. The excess of easily available evidence to support one side or the other means there can never be one conclusion. So no matter what you pick, there will always be an explosion, somewhere. So bad luck chum if you thought Theresa May was strong and certain; she’s now a debate-dodging wreck. And Corbyn – that man you were so sure you could ridicule – is suddenly shining.You are never right, and the effect of this might be polarisation or apathy.

Only meyou and this cat are dumb enough to be in here” – Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon 3

People have been telling us as much. But I wonder if it is also having an effect on the issues we pay attention to – the bombs we try and defuse.

On the one hand, do we give a disproportionate focus to single issues, logic being that one bomb is safer than many bombs?

On the other, are we simply ignoring the bombs that we already ‘know’ the answer to? Unlimited immigration is right because I believe in breaking borders… I won’t stop to study the issue or its impact.

And finally, does it mean we choose topics that are either irrefutable – like terrorism and ivory trade (according to buzzfeed, one of the most talked about topics on Facebook) – or fundamentally unsolvable?

The latter struck me as I walked past a ‘keep the ban’ rally of anti-hunting activists in Central London on Monday. Protestors were dressed in fox ears. I’m sure many of them would admit there are more important things at stake in this election. However, this is a safe issue… no matter how much we anthropomorphise them, foxes will never rise up and tell us that, actually, they don’t really mind. So why not spend Bank Holiday Monday shouting about it?

Similarly: Brexit, climate change, welfare reform… if there is a right answer, we’ll probably be long gone before it explodes.

Divided nations?

Divided nations?

By Julie Wittes Schlack In their 2016 book, Democracy for Realists, political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels assemble compelling evidence to support their central premise that “even the most informed voters typically make choices not on the basis of...