Where political bright ideas come, can fiasco be far behind? Only 15 per cent of those eligible voted in the recent elections for the position of local police commissioner, a new nadir in the history of universal suffrage in Britain, and the whole business cost the taxpayer £75 million. It is obvious that members of the government ought to reimburse the taxpayer this money from their personal capital or income; but what ought to happen and what does happen hardly ever coincide where the political class is concerned.
I loved the explanation for the fiasco given by the woman in charge of the elections as reported in the Guardian: they occurred at ‘an unfamiliar time of year.’
What exactly did she mean by this? That the British people were unfamiliar with the fact that October was succeeded by November, or that they had forgotten what November was like, seasonally-speaking? Or did she mean that the British people were unaccustomed to voting in November? (As it happens, 6 of the 55 general elections since 1812 have taken place in November, rather more frequently than the 4.583 elections that would have taken place in November had such elections been spread equally between the months.)
Let us suppose for the sake of argument, however, that the British people are indeed unfamiliar with elections in November, than no elections had ever taken place before in that month (just as there has been no general election in September): what exactly are we asked to believe? Surely that the British people are so mentally inflexible, so utterly incapable of grasping anything, that they are unable to fathom out what an election in November would be like, or how to comport themselves should there be one. Where, one might ask, does this leave the justification for having elections by universal suffrage in the first place?
The reason for the low turn-out during this election was that the British people can still recognise a pseudo- or para-reform when they see one. What the British people want from their criminal justice system, of which the police form a part, is safe streets and protection from crime: the one thing against which they know that the political and intellectual class has set its face. Popular indifference is caused by an awareness that our political class will move mountains to produce trifles, and produce trifles to move mountains.
First published in Salisbury Review.
Posted on 11/25/2012 4:26 AM by Theodore Dalrymple