‘Ordinary people in the street’

It was of all things a religious programme on  the B.B.C. I was only half listening but the speaker was contrasting people of specialist knowledge and privilege with those who lack both, and he used this pejorative phrase about ordinariness to describe them. Its a hand-down expression of superiority that is frequently  used by politicians and journalists. The phrase is worth examining.

It suggests a basic separation between those who have got kudos and those who have’nt. The have nots are without distinction of any sort; they hav’nt got wealth, education, influence, attractivness, power, all of which presumedly the extra-ordinary people possess. To compound the difference, the ordinary people are defined as being ‘in the street’. The image is conjured up of people without homes, aimlessly wandering around, devoid of purpose and  ambition. People who are not worth noticing.

But at least in this country, if there are such people, they have a vote.

There have been many attempts since the European and local Council elections to identify what sort of people  voted for Ukip Candidates; what were their reasons for doing so. Most commentators agree with the explanation that their’s were protests votes, though what they were protesting against is unclear. Of the three main parties, the smaller of them, the Liberal Democrats were hit the hardest, and the Press are giving their Leader, Nick Clegg, a very hard time, but all mainstream politicians have seen this as a wake-up call. Meanwhile the Ukip party whose only interest and policy is in a U.K. isolated from  the rest of Europe, is riding high.

Perhaps many of the votes were not  protesting against anything as much as protesting for something: a stand-up statement with people saying ; ‘we are not as ordinary as some people imagine, we have a vote and, to claim equality with every other citizen, we are using it to make our presence felt and seen.

So, they came off ‘the street’, into the polling booths and addressed the powerful.

The powerful are very much in evidence this morning. I have just been looking at the television coverage of the opening of parliament, full of (for me) meaningless symbolism, absolute privilege, the whole thing preceded by a flotilla of royal carriages: the royal crown having one of its own, the Queen’s drawn by six horses, the Prince of Wales requiring only two, with many flunkeys such as the Gentlemen of Arms in attendance, representing various obscure historical remnants. All the trappings of monarchy with none of its power, the Queen read ‘her’ speech, written for her by and about the coalition government’s plans for the next session of parliament.

‘It’s not a pantomime’ said one of the interviewees as he and others gave a running commentary on the occasion. He was wrong, and no doubt for ‘ordinary people’this is another example of political farce and totally irrelevant to normal life.