Belfast Telegraph

People need results not displays of team camaraderie

By Christina Patterson

Well, at least it's not snowing. Snow is lovely, of course, but we didn't know that it was bad for the economy. We do now.

After a year when growth figures were much worse than anyone expected, with unemployment higher than it has been for 17 years, we know that snow's very bad for the economy.

You'd have thought that, if cold weather was bad for the economy, then hot weather would be good for it, but hot weather, apparently, is bad for it, too.

It's quite hard to remember a time when governments, in particular our government, talked about the economy as if it was something that could only keep on growing and about money as if it was something that everyone could spend.

It was a time when most people thought an economy was something boring you found in the back of a newspaper, or maybe sometimes heard mentioned on the news. It was a time when most people didn't have conversations that were full of words like 'double dip' and 'austerity' and 'fiscal stimulus'.

Now, they do. Now, everyone knows what 'austerity' is and, particularly, the people who have lost their jobs because of it.

But what they don't know is whether the 'austerity' will make things better, or whether the 'fiscal stimulus', if it was tried, would make things better.

What they want to know, when a politician says that something shouldn't be cut, is what he or she would cut instead.

They think that saying that the cuts that are taking place are "too fast and too deep" doesn't mean all that much, unless you spell out the cuts that you'd be taking more slowly.

And when they see union leaders, or people on marches, waving placards saying that there shouldn't be any cuts at all, they wonder if these people have been locked in a cave, without any visitors, or newspapers, or telly.

When politicians say the answer to a very big problem is the thing they always say is the answer, it makes people think they're not really thinking about the problem.

It makes them think, for example, of the shirts that a football team wore on the pitch last week, which had a picture of one of their players, who had been found guilty of racist abuse. And of how the shirts seemed to be saying it didn't really matter what the player said or did, but that the important thing was that he was on their team.

Most people like teams for things like football, and cricket, and rugby, but they're not so keen on them for politicians. They're not so keen on teams when they're shouting at each other in the House of Commons, or reciting jokes that other people have written.

They can see that the people who are shouting, and reciting jokes, think that the teams are really important, but they don't. They think that the important thing isn't the team, or the shouting, or the jokes, but solving the problem.

This is probably why nearly half the population of this country thinks, in spite of terrible figures for growth and unemployment, that the Prime Minister is doing a good job.

In this, they may be wrong. But 44% of the population, according to a new poll, back David Cameron. Only 23% trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

Most people seem to think that what the two Eds are offering is tribal politics. And most people are sick of tribal politics.

They're not interested in ideology. They don't care how a policy will 'play' with members of a party. What they care about is whether or not it works.

Quite a lot of people in this country are happy to support a team, but they think a team is something to do with a pitch, and they don't think making decisions about other people's jobs and homes and lives is a game.


From Belfast Telegraph