Why do we hate politics?

This is a serious question, and has nothing to do with bloggertarianism and similar reactionary nonsense. There has in recent years been a rise in anti-political culture in Britain and elsewhere, and we need to ask ourselves why this is so.

According to political scientists Colin Hay of Sheffield University and Gerry Stoker at Southampton, the blame for this rise in anti-politics lies with politicians, not apathetic voters or a decline in civic virtue. Politics, say the researchers, has become depoliticised as decision making has become increasingly subcontracted to unaccountable independent bodies. By handing over decisions on issues such as health, housing, planning and interest rates to unelected bodies, politicians are, say Hay and Stoker, declaring that they have little faith in their own abilities.

“Politicians offload decisions to others because they no longer trust themselves to govern effectively and in the collective interest,” says Stoker.

Another problem is that politicians are clinging on to national political institutions at a time when globalisation has made many issues trans-national, and devolution is fuelling a demand for greater power to be handed down to a more local level.

“Electoral competition has increasingly been reduced to the level of a beauty content between candidates whose claim to distinctiveness is based less and less on differences in political conviction and a substantive policy platform,” says Hay.

“If we are to reanimate and revitalize our politics, then we need to recreate the space for public and visible decision-making. In short we need to recreate the space for politics.”

This will be the subject of debate today at the “Festival of Social Science” in Sheffield.