Politicians in democracies often indulge in irresponsible pre-election antics, regardless of harm to their populations and the world.
Irresponsible policies to win popularity form a pattern of power observed previously on this website (18.104.22.168), and which are vividly illustrated now in the run up to three very different elections: Britain, America and Poland. In all three cases the politicians concerned are harming both their own countries and the rest of the world.
British elections (which will probably be held in 2024)
This is the week of the Conservative Party conference and predictable pre-election posturing is all too evident:
● Taxes are an emotive subject. Several press briefings have alluded to attempts to rally the party faithful: “More than 30 MPs, including Liz Truss and Dame Priti Patel, have ruled out voting for any plans that result in higher overall taxes.” Liz Truss has demonstrated the opposite of prudent economic management, as described elsewhere on this website, but what is really at stake is a vision of what sort of country Britain wants to be. As noted previously, it is dishonest of the party not to be explicit about its preference for having a partially privatised 2-tier health system so that the wealthy can pay less tax.
● Rishi Sunak has made a series of announcements to win the votes of motorists, following “the Conservative Party’s narrow byelection victory in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson’s former seat, after fighting a campaign focused on local opposition to the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone.” This example of pre-election antics puts the interests of wealthy motorists with polluting cars ahead of the health of everyone else.
● The politics of climate change came into focus recently. The Prime Minister announced a slowing down of Britain’s progress towards achieving net zero carbon emissions, yet the “UK will miss targets without stronger action” according to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. The motivation for his announcement was that it is politically popular to avoid short term expenditure, even at the expense of long-term safety. It is an example of irresponsibility. He also ignored the fact that if Britain does not invest in new green technologies it will have to pay more for its energy and it will have to buy equipment from other countries which are racing ahead.
● Jostling for position within the party has been unbridled. Several prominent figures are vying to succeed Rishi Sunak. Only if he were to lose the forthcoming election would there be a race to replace him, so premature leadership bids are a sign that those individuals are assuming that the election will be lost. That is irresponsible from the perspective of the party, because it dampens confidence. The Telegraph, for example, commented on this: How Tory leadership hopefuls are using conference to boost their credentials, “Talk of successors undermines the Prime Minister’s authority and paints a picture among party members of a lame duck leader”.
Republican Party primary elections
In the first debate between the rivals for the Republican nomination, Vivek Ramaswamy “took the most isolationist position on the Ukraine-Russia war, arguing that it was not a priority for the U.S. and saying he would end military aid to Ukraine. That drew a sharp rebuke from Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations.” Ramaswamy was grossly irresponsible in this example of pre-election antics on such a serious geopolitical issue. Nikki Haley was right to rebuke him.
Polish election 15 October 2024
Poland says it will stop sending weapons to Ukraine was the eye-catching announcement by the Polish Prime Minister on 20 September 2023. “Some analysts put this down to the looming elections, with Warsaw imposing the ban on Ukrainian grain to protect its own farmers, who say it is impossible to compete with its cheaper imports.” This pre-election stunt conflicts with Poland’s previous policy of supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. President Putin will be encouraged by signs of disunity in NATO support, making it even less likely that he will be prepared to negotiate peace in the near future.
Clearly, the above politicians believed that they would attract support by their antics. Perhaps they have judged voters correctly – although all the examples quoted will antagonise some sections of the population. What is certain, though, is that their country’s enemies will take comfort from such signs of discord and lack of confidence.