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Please politicians, stop patrionising us


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If there is one thing that epitomises the cynicism and shallowness of today’s politics, surely it is the photo-op?

You know, those phoney stunts our politicians conduct to promote a banal new policy initiative.

Nicola Sturgeon

They are bad enough to have to watch on the news at night, but imagine if you were ever to be unwittingly involved in one, turning up for work one day only to discover David Cameron has popped in to pretend to do your job for half an hour!

And as well as the ridiculous, there is also the sinister; I can’t be the only one who thinks there is something faintly apocalyptic about the sight of Vladimir Putin striding half-naked through the Russian wilderness, armed with hand grenades and a hunting rifle.

If you, like me, are unfortunate enough to be living in Scotland, you may be vaguely aware that there is currently an election going on. One of the arguments in favour of staying part of the UK is that we get to settle most of our own affairs while continuing to benefit from the economic strength that comes with the union.

The downside of this, however, is that like the Welsh and Northern Irish, we have to endure twice as many politicians, twice as many elections, and twice as many photo-ops.

Since the election campaign could be described as being free of excitement (to put it politely), conniving strategists have had a tough time coming up with ways in which to get the public interested in their leaders.

So we have seen Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader, looking quite threatening at the helm of a fork-lift truck and Kezia Dugdale, the Labour leader, mucking about with sandcastles at a primary school.

Then we had Willie Rennie, leader of the Liberal Democrats, launching his party’s manifesto at a soft play centre in Edinburgh.

After a trip down one of the slides, he sought (not very convincingly) to associate his education policy with the sight of happy young children.

However, I think the prize for best photo-op has to go to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, clearly uncomfortable as she struggled to swallow a glass of ale at a Lerwick Brewery.

Ah well, anything for Scotland.

Why do our politicians make such prats of themselves in this way? Well, it’s actually our fault. We, the ‘ordinary’ voters, don’t have enough time to study election manifestos or carefully calculate which of the candidates would make our best representative on the world stage.

This means our politicians have to be pithy in order to get people’s attention; soundbites and photo-ops become the most efficient way of spreading a message or selling a policy. Come polling day, few would be able to recall the details of the Tories’ economic policy, although they may remember that time their leader sat on top of tank as if she were preparing for a war.

On the flip side, the photo-op can be amusing when they backfire - as many a luckless politician will know. Ed Miliband’s attempt to digest a bacon sandwich did a lot to enhance his perception as hapless and befuddled, while across the Atlantic it was nice to see Donald Trump’s campaign to ‘make America great again’ take a small hit when the symbol of America’s enduring national confidence - the Bald Eagle - nearly made him defecate in his trousers, as if it were reminding him that America is already great, thank you very much.

And on the subject of misbehaving animals, there was that time Willie Rennie was upstaged by two lusty pigs as he was giving an interview at an Edinburgh farm…

But really, I for one would prefer it if our politicians delivered their proposals in front of a blank screen.

Anything is better than the sight of George Osborne patronising every real construction worker in history by donning a high visibility jacket and piling a few bricks on top of one another in a feeble attempt to convince us that his economic plan is ‘rebuilding the economy.’ These well-choreographed stunts are usually designed to distract us from bigger problems.

For example, if you are a disadvantaged student in Scotland today, your chances of getting to university are far worse than they would be if you lived in England. This is a direct consequence of the supposedly benevolent free fees policy, which has seen universities overwhelmed with applicants as well as cuts to the grants for students from lower-income families.

Unfortunately, the myth that there is such a thing as free education in Scotland has allowed our Government to ignore the issue, while simultaneously claiming that they are working in the interests of the disadvantaged.

Of this, the parties have said a little, but not enough.

Sometimes it really does seem as if they’d rather muck about on farms, build sandcastles and generally act like children - anything to avoid growing up and taking some responsibility.

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