Before I begin, I would like to state the intended purpose of this monthly review. The monthly review is designed to tie together the key issues which the political world has seen during the past month, with the Backbench articles which have been written upon them. I also aim to give special mentions to some of the stand out features of these articles, of which there have been many, so I may have to be economical with my words.
First of all, I have to say, what a brilliant month it has been for everyone associated with Backbench. When starting out on this project I personally couldn’t have imagined such a successful first month, thanks has to go to everyone who’s recognised the potential of the site and decided to get involved, especially to our Commentators, who have embraced the premise of the site from day one. To give you a bit of context, if the site continues to expand at its current rate, by this time next year we’ll have over 250 Commentators and the site will have had over 120,000 page views. And although processing articles from 250 Commentators would I’m sure be an editorial nightmare, I’m enthused by the prospect of managing a website which can have a significant influence on UK and international politics.
However, for the minute, I must focus on the past, and the marvellous work of the 16 Commentators who produced, in total, 31 articles during September (and a couple days of August). Due to the amount of articles written, it is worth noting at this point that although I would like to give a mention to every Commentator and article, I do not have enough words to do so, therefore, if you, or one of your articles, hasn’t been mentioned please understand that it’s not because your efforts haven’t been appreciated, they most certainly have.
Naturally, over the past month we’ve seen many developments regarding both domestic and international politics, with one of the most significant talking points being David Cameron’s Cabinet re-shuffle, which indeed gave inspiration to us to set up a ‘Cabinet’ of our own. However, the government re-shuffle was sadly more widely discussed than ours within the national press, with the key bones of contention being the fact that Cameron kept certain high profile members of his Cabinet in jobs, such as Michael Gove and George Osborne. This lead to much finger pointing at PMQs as Ed Miliband declared his astonishment at the Chancellor keeping his position, subsequently causing George to sink down into the Commons bench like a schoolboy who’d just failed a spelling test, whilst turning red-faced glances over to his Prime Minister for help. However, since then Osborne seems to have weathered the storm and focus has turned to the overall direction of the Conservative Party, with many people believing that the shuffling of more liberal members such as Ken Clarke signifies a move towards the right, as interpreted by Robert Walmsley in his article ‘Right foot forward out of 10 Downing Street’. I for one look forward to see whether this shift materialises and whether the Conservatives pursue a comparatively more radical line of attack from now until the next election.
Another point of discussion which has built over the past month, and I’m sure will continue to build over the next month, is regarding the US presidential election. Again, both the Republican and Democratic Conventions were reviewed exceptionally by Robert Walmsley, with his conclusion being that the Republicans were disastrous, but the Democrats and Obama in particular didn’t do all they could to capitalise upon Republican errors- such as Clint Eastwood creating out of his own imagination the most influential invisible Democrat ever. However, since then, a Romneyshambles has ensued, with Mitt trying incredibly hard to convey himself as even more witless and generally foolish as usual, meaning that the Democrats have been able to play it safe and still boost their own popularity. For example, it is almost blindingly obvious that this presidential election will be won and lost based upon the economy, with Romney clearly having the stronger hand due to the mediocre growth seen during Obama’s time in office. Incredibly though, Romney seems to be one of the only individuals who doesn’t fully recognise this and has, over the past month, made mountains out of molehills over discussion points such as the Democratic reaction to the Middle-Eastern violence, in which Romney’s retort was more than adequately summed up by Julia Fioretti in her article ‘Oh Mitt…’ as, ‘a blistering example of political opportunism, as he proved unable to put on any façade of dignified statesmanship’. Romney seems intent on focusing on issues which won’t gain him substantial ground, however, he has a new set of economic policies which, on the surface, seem attractive to many who haven’t seen progress under Obama and, if he manages to eventually concentrate his efforts and win the nation over with them, he may be able to gain the presidency. That’s if another famous flip-flop doesn’t result in him changing his economic position before the time of the election.
A notable issue which has also been prominent on the site has been the issue of political apathy, something which is frustratingly apparent in society, especially to any young person engaged by politics. There have been varying perspectives given as to the cause of this political apathy, with Vicky Lindon implicitly suggesting reasons in her article ‘The desire to be a politician should be enough to ban you from ever becoming one’ by drawing attention to the fact that politicians are no more qualified than you and I to determine national policy, and stating the regrettable truth that most of them are horribly out of touch with the views of the general public. In fact, a phrase which cropped up in this article and David Royston-Jennings’ article ‘Getting the Local Vote’, in almost identical fashion was ‘getting the politicians we deserve’, alluding to the fact that politics and politicians need to change more than the perspectives of the population regarding politics.
However, it would be naïve to say that it is completely the fault of politicians for political disengagement, especially within young people, as at least some disengagement has been bred from a ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude perpetuating within our society over recent times. But even if politicians recognise this, what can they do to change it? Well, one solution which I personally feel would be valuable, which was mentioned in Chris Hulm’s article, ‘For our young people it is now politically correct to be politically silent’ and I believe several other articles, is introducing the study of Government and Politics into the national curriculum, at least at GCSE age (or G-Ove-Level age as it may be known in the future) if not even younger. Young people are put off by politics because politicians and politics as a whole have a bad reputation, mainly because the only political education they get is through media channels which consistently state the bad, rather than the good, elements of politics. Having a political education at a young age would allow individuals to have a balanced view of society and politics, and would consequently allow them to engage and participate more in our democracy, it seems a no-brainer to me.
As regards to specific articles, I must also give special mentions to the excellent pieces written by Soila Apparicio and Sabina Trojanova. Soila’s article regarding sexism in the media was passionately written and highlighted key points about societal denigration which media corporations are causing. Moreover, Sabina’s article about Greek austerity was immensely moving, in particular through the quotes she used from ordinary Greek citizens who describe the suffering and hardship they are facing due to austerity measures. A mention must also go to James Wand who’s written six high quality articles during the month, a terrific and much appreciated effort.
After tough deliberation though, I have chosen Chris Hulm’s article ‘For our young people, it is now politically correct to be politically silent’ as September’s ‘Article of the Month’. It emphasised a wide range of causes for political apathy and conveyed the associated problems in a fluid and relatable way, before, as I mentioned previously, proposing an effective way of improving the situation. Once again though, I must thank every single Commentator who’s contributed to the site, I greatly look forward to reading all your articles over the coming months and I hope you are as excited about the future of Backbench as I am.