Editor's comment October 2013
PUBLISHED: 10:40 12 September 2013 | UPDATED: 10:40 12 September 2013
A LESSON that the bosses of Marks & Spencer know to their peril, but that our politicians ignore all too often, is that you do not mess with Middle England. We might be tolerant, easy-going and hard to stir, but once we've become sufficiently irritated then Hell hath no fury compared with the grief we can visit upon you. (I say 'we' because if Cotswold Life's army of readers aren't Middle England, then I don't know who is.)
And irritated we are. Already financially squeezed by stagnant pay rates and rising prices; already bullied by an army of public servants ranging from health and safety jobsworths to bin police; exploited by council car park charges and extorted by road safety cameras; we are, I think getting a bit cheesed off.
The political agenda is not helping. The badger cull is an ongoing issue, with people who have never protested about anything before donning hi-vis jackets and driving their people carriers out into remote country lanes at night. Whatever your view – and I’ve got splinters in my backside from sitting on the fence - you’ve got to say that not testing culled badgers to see if they are carrying TB is a massive PR fail. Surely we should be gathering as many facts as possible?
Fracking may not be a local issue (we are assured there are absolutely no plans for drilling in this area, which probably means that JR and his boys will be digging up your garden by the end of the month) but is obviously a major rural concern elsewhere.
The HS2 debacle is threatening to cut a swathe of destruction through the countryside at the bargain price of somewhere between £40 billion and £80 billion, all to take 30 minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham. (I would suggest that it would be cheaper to rebuild Birmingham 30 miles further south, but that would only bugger up the property prices in Broadway.)
And then we have the defeat of the government over military action against Syria. In this case, many MPs seem to have listened for once to the not-so-silent majority which clearly has no stomach for further overseas adventures (although curiously all six of Gloucestershire’s MPs seemed to misjudge or ignore the vibe and voted for the motion).
I think what worries me is that all these things mean that we are becoming disenchanted with our politicians to the point that we don’t trust them and we’re starting to ignore them. To be fair, they’ve brought much of this on themselves – both nationally and locally – with a succession of scandals from dodgy expense claims and home-flipping to cash-for-access and that ‘we’re all in this together’ nonsense.
But Middle England’s disengagement from politics does no-one any good. We may never get my personal, pie-in-the-sky vision of every MP being a centrally-funded independent candidate accountable to the electorate alone, but we’re not going to get anywhere if we let our representatives continue to float around in a Westminster bubble.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @cotslifeeditor