The Difference Between What Voters Want And What Politicians Think They Ought To Want Is Often Considerable…
Lena Jeger was a British left wing Labour MP who was a constant thorn in the side of the party leadership during the fifties, sixties and seventies. However she was also a down to earth politician always willing to tell a story against herself.
In 1953, when electioneering in London in a run down block of flats, she met a woman in the lift. Jeger straight away began quizzing her on what, for the Labour left, was the big issue of the day in the early 50s – should, eight years after Hitler’s defeat, West Germany be allowed to create an army .
Jeger was passionately opposed to the creation of a new German Army and wanted to know if she agreed with her views. The woman looked Jeger straight in the eye and, ignoring Germany, raised a totally different issue.
“People have been pissing in this lift. What are you going to do about it?”
Jeger said even if she were elected there was not much she could do about it and went back to talking about the threat of a rearmed Germany.
The lady wasn’t impressed.
“Well,” said the woman. “If you can’t stop people pissing in lifts, how are you going to stop the Germans rearming?”
In later years Jeger always said the woman’s comment deflated her own sense of self importance and made her realise that ordinary people usually have a set of priorities very different from the opinionated windbaggerry of the political class.
Politicians usually love grand schemes and plans and love the concept of “the big picture” because it always contains a cushion of excuse when things don’t quite pan out as they predicted. Voters are concerned about the here and now as it impinges on them.
Very rarely shall the twain meet…..
N.B. For US readers: flats = apartments, lift = elevator