Does the public expect too much of UK politicians?

It is undeniable that as a public we have incredibly high expectations of politicians. We look to them as national leaders in times of good and bad. We view them in a superhuman manner, constantly criticising their every move. In a highly polarised society between the left-wing vs the right-wing, the Brexiteers vs the Remainers and the progressive vs the traditionalists, it seems impossible for politicians to win public support.  We imagine the Prime Minister to be omnipotent and omniscient, able to answer our every question. The second they step out of line and act in a manner which contradicts our personal political views, the UK public tears them apart.

We often look to blame politicians for our problems. We pinned responsibility on Gordon Brown for the 2008 Financial Crisis when it was a world-wide crash. Tony Blair was politically ruined by the Iraq War which seemed to overshadow the huge amount of reform and modernisation he brought to the country. The government today is facing mass scrutiny for its response and handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Could we have done better ourselves? Are we just using politicians as a scapegoat for our own personal issues?

However, the very nature of the role of politicians is to lead the country. We elect them after carefully considering the promises they make and the changes they propose. By trusting them with our vote, it only seems fair that we have high expectations of them. The actions they take can have detrimental impacts and it would be dangerous not to expect a lot from them. We could have allowed Blair to get away with the Iraq War but this decision caused the death of innocent civilians. With the whole world being affected by the outbreak of Covid-19, it is easy to compare the actions of our politicians against other countries. We can clearly see Boris Johnson’s approval rating plummet from 66% in April compared to just 34% now, conveying that as a nation, he has lost our support. Too many lives have been lost. When we compare Britain to other countries such as Germany, which was able to employ a mass testing system from so early on, the incompetence of our own government becomes clear. The actions of politicians in current circumstances is the difference between life or death.

 The very slogan of Theresa May was that she would provide a ‘strong and stable government’. She promised to deliver Brexit. The fact that her government was incredibly weak and divided and she was unable to break the deadlock, shows that as a politician, she failed the public. Politicians put themselves through a lot in order to gain power, so it’s only natural that we expect a high level of competence from them. They make promises, we expect delivery. They put themselves as a figurehead to represent us. Politicians have a duty.  While it would be unfair to expect them to have universal support, it is justified to expect them to act in our best interests.

Yes, politicians are constantly under scrutiny.  Yes, we expect a lot from them. Given their position of power and authority in society, is this justified? Absolutely. 

Jessica Valins

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