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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Popularity contest

It is widely acknowledged that us politicians do not often win popularity contests for what we do. I could expound at length as to why that should not be but I would be wasting precious time so I won't. I did have this discussion yesterday with a lady I encountered whilst delivering election leaflets. She contended that we are all the same and that therefore nothing that we say or write is worth taking note of. I pointed out that the alternative to the democratic system we currently operate would be unpalatable to her and many others. She, like others who take a similar view, have every right to stand for election themselves if they believe that their current representatives are not doing a good job. Most don't and that is the tragedy that is threatening our democracy.

I noticed that the lady in question had a young child. Surely, she is interested in how well her children are schooled, in the resources that go to that school and in the sort of society her daughter is going to grow up in. Whether she is or not, it seems that she is not prepared to engage in debate on the matter but would prefer to leave it to others. That is unfortunately a growing viewpoint and goes beyond what people think of politicians. This abdication of responsibility is not a new phenomena but it is a disturbing one.

In the face of all this it was a bit of a relief to see that we are not yet at the bottom of the popularity heap with the public at large. A survey compiled for Horlicks (no I don't know why it was Horlicks either) has branded Traffic Wardens as the most hated profession. Somehow, they have placed Bouncers, Estate agents, Motorcycle couriers, Bus drivers, Footballers, Tele-sales reps, and PR people as all more unpopular as politicians. Now some of these I can understand, after all nobody likes to be thrown out of a club or a pub and a lot of people have experience of mis-selling when it comes to buying a house, but bus drivers?

There seems to be two themes to this list. Firstly, there are those such as Estate Agents, Tele-sales reps, PR people and Politicians who have a product to sell and can go over the top in selling it to such an extent as to generate mistrust in what they say. Secondly, there are professions who cause inconvenience to others just by doing their job. Presumably, many motorists resent motor cyclist messengers weaving through traffic jams, or the fact that a bus is larger than their car and has special lanes. People may also be envious of rich footballers who flaunt their wealth.

By contrast the most popular all pursue a difficult profession with selflessness and dedication. They are members of the Armed Forces, rescue volunteers, nurses, vets, teachers, ambulance drivers, firefighters, care assistants, rugby players and police officers. I am not quite sure what the rugby players are doing in there but good luck to them anyway. We all have a job to do, maybe what is needed is that we try and put ourselves into the shoes of others so as to promote a bit more tolerance and understanding in our society.

It seems that they were looking for easy hate figures for their "How do they sleep at night- they drink Horlicks" the first showing a traffic warden waiting for the meter to tick over to penalty so they could get pleasure from slapping on a fine.

Simon Jerram 20 January 2004
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