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Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting – poll | Politics | The Guardian

Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting – poll | Politics | The Guardian.

The Houses of Parliament at dusk

The Houses of Parliament at dusk. Rage against politicians is the dominant sentiment across just about every sub-stratum of the electorate. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

Nearly half of Britons say they are angry with politics and politicians, according to a Guardian/ICM poll analysing the disconnect between British people and their democracy.

The research, which explores the reasons behind the precipitous drop in voter turnout – particularly among under-30s – finds that it is anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster.

Asked for the single word best describing “how or what you instinctively feel” about politics and politicians in general, 47% of respondents answered “angry”, against 25% who said they were chiefly “bored”.

Negative sentiments vastly outnumber positive, with only 16% reporting feeling “respectful” towards people doing a difficult job, while a vanishingly small proportion of 2% claim to feel “inspired”.

Graphic: voter apathy, ballot blocksResponding to fears about disengagement by young people from politics, the Tory MP Chloe Smith, a former minister at 31, told the Guardian there was a danger of a political disconnect between young and old, with “generations far apart and not talking to each other”. One of her ministerial briefs included improving voter engagement.

“I think there is an existential problem coming for traditional forms of British democracy, which it is in everyone’s interests, all of us as democrats, to respond to,” she said. “We have to demonstrate what politics is for, why a young person’s individual action in voting matters.”

When Harold Wilson won the 1964 election, more than three quarters of people cast their vote and turnout was roughly equal across the generations. But according to data from Ipsos Mori, at the last election 76% of over-65s were still voting, while only 46% aged 18-24 were going to the ballot box.

Graphic: voter apathy, rageRage is the dominant sentiment across just about every sub-stratum of the electorate, but is especially marked among men, northerners, voters over 45 and the lower DE occupational grade.

Labour voters, too, are disproportionately cross. But supporters of Ukip, the party that put itself on the map in 2013 with big gains in local elections, reflect the mood of the times most intensely: more than two-thirds, 68%, say the thought of politics and politicians makes them more angry than anything else.

Deborah Mattinson, a former pollster to Gordon Brown and now an expert at BritainThinks, believes politicians have not begun to grasp the scale of the problem. “Voter disengagement is getting worse and worse,” she says. “Nobody is really taking it seriously enough.”

Recent high-profile celebrity interventions on the subject have served to underline the growing disconnection. The former England footballer Michael Owen told the Guardian for the paper’s series on voter apathythat he had never voted.

Graphic: voter apathy, power brokersRussell Brand expressed the disaffection of many in October when he told Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight that he had never voted because he “can’t be arsed”, adding later: “The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does.”

After the interview, which received more than 10m hits on YouTube, Paxman said he understood Brand’s decision, dubbing Westminster politics a “green-bench pantomime … a remote and self-important echo-chamber”.

Reflecting such sentiments, the polling shows that ennui is more marked among the young, rivalling fury as the dominant feeling about politics among voters aged 18-24, who are evenly split 34%-34% between boredom and anger.

Graphic: voter apathy, talkBoredom is marked in one other group, too – those voters of all ages who admit to being unlikely to vote. But even among those who rate their chance of turning out as four or lower on a 10-point scale, the angry marginally outnumber the bored, by 41% to 40%. When asked what puts people off voting, the cause of that anger is the perception that politicians do not keep their promises. Nearly two voters in every three, 64%, nominated the failure of governments to honour their pledges as something that would put them off casting a ballot – higher than any other factor.

In the week that the former Labour minister Denis MacShane was jailed for fraud, the continuing damage done to parliament’s reputation by the expenses scandal of 2009 is also plain – 46% of respondents identify the sense that “MPs are just on the take” as a thought that would discourage them from turning up at the polling station.

Only around a third of potential voters, 34% of the total, say they are put off by careerist candidates who “don’t say what they believe”. Just 26% regard the parties as “so similar that [voting] makes little difference”, and only 25% see the failure of the parties to “represent my mix of views” as a particular problem.

Meanwhile, the mechanics of democracy – the focus of thinktank proposals for automatic postal ballots or weekend voting – emerge as a virtual irrelevance.

Only 2% of the electorate regard the inconvenience of registering and then casting a vote as a reason not to do so, suggesting that proposed measures such as weekend or electronic voting are unlikely to make a big difference to election turnout.

Other findings though suggest that Britons remain convinced that politics matters. An overwhelming 86% told ICM that the “decisions politicians make” are either “very important” or “fairly important” to their own lives, as against just one in ten who said that such choices were “not that” or “not at all” important in day-to-day life. And there is remarkably little difference between voters and non-voters here: even among those unlikely to turn-out some 80% do believe that political choices will affect them.

Furthermore, Britons continue to talk politics regularly. A clear majority of the electorate as a whole, 62% of respondents, claim to discuss “politics or the sort of issues affected by politics” with friends and family at least once every fortnight, and a substantial minority of 29% claims to do so at least “every few days”. Across the population, the pollster estimates an average of 72 political discussions a year. ICM finds somewhat less frequent political discussion among the youth and among likely non-voters, but even among these disaffected groups such conversations will crop up in more weeks than not.

ICM Research interviewed an online sample of 2023 adults aged 18+ online on 20-22 December 2013. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

 

…and now for something completely different…

George Carlin on Politicians

Tory anti-environment advocacy protects corporate, not public, interests | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Tory anti-environment advocacy protects corporate, not public, interests | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com. (source)

Tory anti-environment advocacy protects corporate, not public, interests

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Telegraph screed supports Cameron’s contempt for green policies at our expense

Cuadrilla fracking site at Balcombe

Cuadrilla has doubled the height of its security fences and installed razor wire at its Balcombe site. Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday Jacob Rees-Mogg, member of parliament for North East Somerset, wrote an article in the Telegraph claiming that the fundamental cause of the UK’s “high energy prices” is “climate changealarmism.” His piece coincided with Prime Minister David Cameron‘sannouncement that to tackle rocketing gas and electricity bills he would “roll back” green levies on energy bills and subject Britain’s “Big Six” energy giants to a “competition test.”

Even the Tory’s own lead environmentalist MP, Zac Goldsmith, was appalled. “In 2010, leaders fought to prove they were the greenest”, he said. “Three years on, they’re desperately blaming their own policies on the other. Muppets.”

But Rees-Mogg’s piece illustrates the insidious nature of the anti-environment economic ideology that has been so influential in the Tory party, and that has derailed the potential for meaningful environmental policy. Energy companies have announced prices rises against the background of government regulation and “green taxes”, he writes, because concern over climate change has led to unjustifiable opposition to coal and fracking:

“In the 2010s it is not the price of bread that is falsely and unnecessarily inflated by obstinate politicians but that of energy. There are cheap sources of energy either available or possible but there is a reluctance to use them. Coal is plentiful and provides the least expensive electricity per megawatt, while fracking may provide a boon of shale gas.”

He is wrong on both counts – laughably so. A number of recent scientific studies in major journals such as FuelEnergy, the International Journal of Coal Geology – to name just a few – have projected that a peak in world coal production is only a few years away, followed by production declines and spiraling prices.

As for fracking, its capacity to provide cheap shale gas has beenquestioned by leading independent experts who point to steep production declines at wells, along with overinflated industry reserve estimates that have led to a “bubble” that could burst in the next five years.

At the core of Rees-Mogg’s obfuscation on energy is an ideology that paints corporations as the key to prosperity for all:

“As the Government has made the price higher so the energy companies put a margin on top. High prices are almost expected.”

But this is also false. The fundamental cause of the high energy prices consistently dampening prospects for economic growth is the peak and plateauing of cheap conventional oil production since around 2005, which has ramped up oil prices and compelled a deepening dependence on increasingly expensive unconventional sources like tar sands, oil shale and shale gas. This is not particularly controversial – even Shell’s CEO has warned that shale gas will not reduce prices, and evidence submitted to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that shale gas “will not be a panacea for bringing down gas and electricity bills” as costs will be “50% to 100% higher than in the US.”

Rees-Mogg then flirts unabashedly with climate denialism, arguing that the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on the climate “remains much debated”, and that climate models are inaccurate because it was “computer modelling” that led to the 2008 global banking collapse of 2008. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that climate models are completely different from the quantitative models that justified the reckless debt-expansion behind the global financial crisis, the former are only inaccurate in being too conservative – whereas the latter wererigged by financiers to maximise profits at taxpayer’s expense.

Rees-Mogg’s other case for inaction is that we are not responsible for climate change. Britain emits only “2 per cent” of the world’s CO2. What he ignores here is that the UK is still in the top ten of global emitters – and that if every country decided on inaction because it only contributes by itself a small percentage of emissions, then what we have is a recipe for abject failure.

Rees-Mogg would have us believe he is motivated by the plight of the poor, whom he says are “most particularly” punished as a “matter of choice not of necessity…. This can be stopped by ending the environmentalist obsession and delivering cheap energy.” But one might be forgiven for concluding that his real concern is corporate profiteering. The solution to high energy prices, he says, is “to free the market” – the same “free” market that led to the 2008 crash, the Eurozone crisis, and so on – “not to control prices which will simply reduce supply.”

This is hardly surprising. Rees-Mogg is a founding partner at Somerset Capital Management (SCM), a global asset management fund where hecurrently works as a macro specialist while also being an MP. Among its many investments, SCM specialises in emerging markets, including in the energy industry. Its largest holdings include oil majors such as the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) – which for instance is spearheading multibillion dollar deals to access the North American shale gas market – and Russia’s OJSC Rosneft Oil Company.

According to its interim report published in March this year, the fund pulled out of some energy projects on the basis of declining rates of profitability “due to the rising cost of production”, but viewed CNOOC’s recent ventures to exploit US fracking as “favourable.” In other markets such as India, China and Brazil, economic prospects were mixed as “both domestic consumption and exports put in lacklustre performances.” The overall assessment was uncertain, with the report noting that emerging market economies are “cooling”, and that “The market has periodic rallies but these show no real conviction.”

While Rees-Mogg’s firm profits from fracking abroad, Rees-Mogg himself uses his own parliamentary privilege to advocate fracking at home, while promoting a kind of free market extremism. In a speech last month during a Private Member’s Bill proposing amendments to the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Act 1981, Rees-Mogg reportedly urged for greater deregulation to permit British companies to explore the potential for off-shore and deep sea resources:

“That’s what this is really about: exploring these resources that could add to the wealth not only of the nation but of the globe at large; because as we’ve seen the emergence of the new economies – China, India, Brazil and of Russia – so we have seen demand for resources grow extraordinarily.”

“I would urge the Bill to have a more deregulatory ambition within it”, he added.

“It’s obviously wise to extend it purely for metals to include gas and to include liquids, because there may be all sorts of exciting things at the depths of the sea. There may be endless supplies of gas, there may be oils spurting out as if Saudi Arabia is on the seabed.”

Ironically, these are precisely the sorts of policies that could indirectly benefit corporate players like Somerset Capital Management, its holdings, and its clients in emerging markets and beyond. Indeed, SCM’s own indifference to environmental challenges is plainly stated on its website, where it declares:

“… we makes [sic] no claim to using environmental, social and governance concerns as tenets of ethics in the fashioning of investment returns.”

That might be all quite acceptable in its own context, but when this cavalier attitude becomes evident in public advocacy by our so-called political representatives, it’s time to start asking questions about the extent to which politics is being hijacked in the name of unaccountable corporate power.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

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