from the Guardian* to the Scotsman, the story's the same:
'Topics banished to the back of the manifestos, such as genetic research, conservation, animal welfare and poverty, appear to be those engaging growing numbers of the public. And, as our survey clearly demonstrates, these are matters embraced not just by the young, educated middle classes. It is the older age groups who are most concerned about the plight of the countryside, while GM foods concern the lower socio-economic sections of society as much as the ABC1s.' The Scotsman, May 15, 2001
[yesterday we posted The Guardian's: The debate nobody wants - GM http://politics.guardian.co.uk/election2001/story/0,9029,491037,00.html]
ELECTION 2001 TRADITIONAL CARES TAKE A BACK SEAT AS PEOPLE FRET OVER GLOBAL ISSUES
The Scotsman May 15, 2001
THE sign was there should William Hague wished to have seen it. As he arrived in Monmouth yesterday for his Keep the Pound rally, a couple of young people at the back were holding up banners proclaiming "Two million babies in Africa have died from Aids".
Compared with the other billboards, makeshift posters and pithy slogans, this was not in tune with Mr Hague's rabble-rousing on the hustings. However, as The Scotsman poll this morning illustrates. the issues of Third World debt, the countryside and GM foods, none of which got a mention from the Conservative Party leader, are beginning to dominate the political agenda. Indeed, if the survey is correct, Mr Hague would have been better spending his valuable time campaigning on the issue of the countryside, vital to 42 per cent of the Scottish voters, rather than on taxation, at 36 per cent, or Europe, a mere 13 per cent.
However, to single out the Tory leader would be unfair. The other party leaders are just as guilty of paying lip service to the New Politics. Topics banished to the back of the manifestos, such as genetic research, conservation, animal welfare and poverty, appear to be those engaging growing numbers of the public.
And, as our survey clearly demonstrates, these are matters embraced not just by the young, educated middle classes. It is the older age groups who are most concerned about the plight of the countryside, while GM foods concern the lower socio-economic sections of society as much as the ABC1s. Of course, some of the parties have known this for years. A survey conducted more than two years ago by the Cabinet Office into the voting habits of women found issues such as Europe were a low priority compared with health, education and the environment. A more affluent society, less troubled by the effects of a poor economy and the consequential social malaise, can turn its attention to more altruistic concerns such as GM food and global poverty.
Yet it would be simplistic to suggest this is the only reason why the political argument is changing. It has as much to do with the rise of globalisation as changing fortunes of the British economy. We live in an age when thanks to advances in telecommunications and the internet, problems which once seemed distant, such as poverty in Mozambique, are more immediate. A controversial subject such as GM food or global warming is an international concern, not a domestic debate. Yet our politicians appear unable to look beyond the confines of the left - right debate, as if they are suffering a hangover from a pre-Gorbachev drinking binge. Many voters, alienated by this traditional agenda, are looking elsewhere for their political debate.
However, as with all new agendas, the arguments remain confusing and participants confused. It is noticeable that, while voters feel exercised about the damage to the environment, they are also het up about the price of petrol - the countryside's major pollutant. The messiness of the debate explains why politicians have tended to shy away from these issues. Firstly, they are generally non-political, making it awkward for party machines looking to rally the faithful. Issues like GM foods or abortion are also politically explosive. Entering a debate on moral and ethical issues is the political equivalent of walking across a minefield blindfolded.
However, politicians are realising they will soon have to make that choice.