The Litmus Test

Christopher Harries

Reports in the media that Penally Training Camp could be used to house asylum seekers and the subsequent protest to the reports has led me to consider the decision making of politicians.

Now governance ultimately requires choices to be made and policies enacted. Those making the decision must reconcile benefit against the impact. On occasion, a decision made could be deemed beneficial for the nation but detrimental on a local level.

The location of accommodation for asylum seekers is one such example. The need for such a facility is weighed against the potential impact on the local populace. Decision making as part of governance will not please everyone, what seems reasonable to some will vex others.

One of the charges levelled against the political system is that politicians do not have to live with the consequences of their decisions. This perception has undoubtedly contributed to the febrile political environment that we have today as the late political operative Lee Atwater remarked ‘Perception is reality’.

The referendum on European Union membership became in essence a proxy. A proxy against the political class deemed to be disconnected from the concerns of the public. One facet of this disconnect was immigration, some of those voting to leave did so primarily on the basis of this disconnect. The perception from some was that politicians had no qualms with uncontrolled immigration as they did not have to live with the negative consequences such as pressures on housing, health care etc.

In the post expenses scandal Britain, politicians were seen as a social class of their own. This is not to seek to simplify the reason for why some voted to leave but it demonstrates what impact a perception of indifferent can have. Seen as apart from the people and indifferent to their concerns.

With contentious issues such as the location of accommodation for asylum seekers, you would hope that a litmus test would factor in the decision-making process. Namely, would the decision be made if those charged with making the decision were to be personally impacted?

If this litmus test was applied as part of the decision-making process then it could help address the perceived disconnect between the governed and those who govern.

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