Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cult of Parliamentality

Alex Massie is guest blogging at the Daily Dish, which has brought a more Britannic theme to this side of the Atlantic this week.

One thing I didn't know is that Prime Minister candidates in the UK will be having US-Presidential-style television debates this election season. For the first time ever.

I wonder who it was on that side of the pond who thought that emulating the worst American political traditions is some kind of a good idea. Massie nails this one on the nose:

All this is perhaps inevitable and the debates are, in this sense, simply a recognition of the way the wind is blowing. Only a handful of voters will have the chance to vote for either Cameron or Brown but the debates will encourage all voters to ignore the competing claims of their local candidates and endorse instead the party, not the man (or woman). This is not the way to improve the quality of MPs.

Americans who share my low opinion of the cable news clown car we call the United States Congress should take particular note.

Most fascinating is reading the arguments against televised "gladiatorial-style" debate from the Conservative point of view*.

We were also reminded of how Nixon beat Kennedy among radio listeners but Kennedy beat Nixon on TV because of the latter's five o'clock shadow. That's what election debates are primarily about. They're about soundbites and how the politicians look.

That is what a great many Americans have found problematic with the current state of our politics. Though I am not sure if British politicians, media-types and marketers will be as culturally successful in hypersensitizing and infantilizing their population as their American counterparts have been. One would hope not.

* Not to be confused with American-style right-wingery.


1 comment:

Dante said...

This is really odd considering you don't directly elect a PM. But being in a political Party is a lot bigger deal over there so there's likely a less stigma for voting Party over candidate. It would be interesting to see but ideally it shouldn't be necessary or even helpful.