Politicians’ engagement with the public requires them to listen carefully, take advice, take decisions and then explain those decisions clearly and persuasively. A responsive politician is one who does this well, and who convinces people that their views have been taken into account. The following examples are relevant:
- Labour MP Jess Phillips showed empathy with low-paid workers when she took the UK government to task over its definition of skilled workers as those who earn more than £30,000 a year, in a speech that The Guardian reviewed: “The secret to Jess Phillips’s great political speech? Wit and authenticity” – which included this quote:
“It’s frankly insulting … to our care workers, our nurses, our teachers … there’s so many people that don’t earn over £30,000. I thought I’d met posh people before I came here, but actually I’d just met people who eat olives … I’ve met lots of people who earn way more than £30,000 who have absolutely no discernible skills … not even one.”
- In stark contrast, the BBC reported that the French President was completely out of touch with the lives of the poor: Macron tells young jobseeker: ‘I can find you a job by crossing the road’; the reality in France at that time was that “About three million people are looking for work. Youth unemployment is particularly bad, with about one in four under-25s out of work.”
Video recordings of both speeches were widely shared on social media. Whereas Jess Phillips’s Birmingham constituents might reasonably feel that their MP was supportive, no-one in France who was unemployed would feel that Macron was trying to help them. A Social Europe article, Macron the populist, commented:
“The popularity of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has slumped—but then inside Macron the populist is Macron the elitist.”
People should be able to feel that politicians are trying to serve them well. It should also be noted, though, that leadership is part of a politician’s role – so they cannot be solely reactive to people’s wishes. They must be representatives, not delegates, as discussed later (188.8.131.52).
This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6331a.htm