6.8.3 Communication with Politicians
Communication with politicians is essential if they are to be able to serve the public well; they need to know what the people want.
The role of politicians was described at the start of this chapter (6.1.2). They act as decision-makers and as intermediaries between the population and the services it requires. People need to be able to communicate their wishes and concerns to those in power if governance is to benefit, rather than enslave, the population.
A government has no excuse for not knowing what people want. Politicians can respond to the pressures on them (6.4.1), and they can consult the population if they want to (6.5.3). A government that wants to govern well encourages communication with politicians, and it is a warning sign if it suppresses criticism. For example, Margaret Thatcher ignominiously lost power at least partly because she ignored protests in what has been described as Thatcher’s poll tax miscalculation:
“It was Margaret Thatcher’s biggest political misjudgement – and brought her career as prime minister to an ignominious end.
The poll tax (or community charge) was supposed to make local council finance fairer and more accountable. Instead it triggered civil disobedience and riots and a rebellion in the Conservative Party.”
The failure to listen to what the people wanted was fatal to her career, and it highlights the importance of public communication with politicians. The following arguments are relevant:
● Governments need to know what people want if they are to govern well (220.127.116.11). Government survival depends on its acceptability to the population.
● Freedom of speech is needed, so that people can express themselves without fear of reprisal (18.104.22.168). Although it is tempting to suggest that it should be completely unrestricted, some limits are needed in practice.
● There are several ways of suppressing free speech, and many examples of the practice (22.214.171.124). The politicians concerned want to escape criticism, but they undermine their own legitimacy.
Politicians risk becoming unacceptable to the populations that they serve if they cannot hear any criticism.