Thoughts On: The Politics of Fear


I’m sure you may have heard that in the UK we are just days away from the General Election, where (hopefully) millions of people will ‘go to the polls’ and have their say about who the want to run the country for the next five years. The past few weeks have seen the political parties filling the airwaves with their respective soundbites. But the real thing that has stuck out to me is the amount of scaremongering, and fear that has dominated the election rhetoric.

A lot of this has centered around the rise of the UK Independence Party and their pretty single-minded anti-migrant sentiments. As far as UKIP are concerned migrants can be blamed for everything from lack of jobs and lack of housing, to a rise in congestion on our motorways (seriously). This would be laughable, had it not been a sentiment reflected by some areas of the media and thus also by the more ‘mainstream’ political parties. This means that a lot of this election has been focused on emphasising the importance of British jobs/homes/healthcare/education/roads for British people as opposed to for those scary evil migrants.

However, it’s not just issues around immigration that have seen unabashed scaremongering, but also certain parts of the electorate. Namely, anyone considering voting for a smaller party or Scottish people. The sheer amount of hatred that has come from areas of the press towards the Scottish National Party, and indeed the mere idea that Scottish people should be represented in Westminster is pretty frightening. To the point that the Conservative Party are encouraging people to vote for them simply to stop the SNP gaining influence in government so Putin doesn’t go nuclear on us all (again, seriously).

And there’s the problem. Scaremongering by our politicians and our media does not lead to an informed electorate making decisions based on what they really want. Scaremongering instead leads people to have incredibly skewed perceptions of what the country actually looks like. For instance, an Ipsos Mori survey showed that people believed that recent migrants made up 31% of the population as opposed to just 13%. The same is true of benefit claimants (another group of people that continually come under fire from all sides of the political spectrum for not ‘doing the right thing’), thanks to both the press and television programmes such as Benefits Street, people believe that benefit fraud represents about 25% of social security spending. The actual figure is less than 1%. The creation of this non-reality that many people believe they are living in can be blamed squarely on the media and politicians, for allowing easy scapegoating to take the place of acting to achieve real change.

Because for politicians, it is change that is scary. So long as people are busy worrying about there being too many people speaking different languages in their supermarkets; they are not thinking about the constant yo-yoying of education policy; they are not thinking about the long-term implications of changing our relationship with the European Union; and they are certainly not thinking about the weirdly close relationship between our government and a great many of the businesses whose corporate tax payments have been pretty pathetic.

In my mind, politicians should be scared. They should prove to us why they are worthy of gaining positions of power, not through just attacking their candidates, but by showing us what they will do to make the UK a better place to live for all its citizens. Not just those who can pass them a hefty cheque.

You can find out more about party policies without the hyperbole here and here.
Whilst I know this has been a bit of a negative nancy post, I still believe it is vital that you vote on Thursday if you’re eligible. The only way any of this is going to change is through making our voices heard.

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