The oddity of political science…
Reading this piece on Politics Home about the ‘Champagne Socialists’ returning home from Labour to the Liberal Democrats I was struck what an oddball science its political branch has become. The premise of the article, that you can tell the return of this group has occurred because of the changing views of Labour supporters on what a bottle of wine should cost frankly boggles the mind. For example, if you don’t like wine you will value it less. Also, saying something should cost something is not the same as saying I *will* pay something. One is a hypothetical equation people make, the other is a concrete commitment to do something and these are qualitatively different things.
So, what does this piece of research actually tell us that we don’t already know? After-all, anybody with a pair of eyes can see the opinion polls have consistently shown a drop in the Liberal Democrat share, and a rise in the Labour one. Given that the Liberal Democrat’s put a Conservative-led government in power, it is not a wild leap of faith to assume that those Liberal Democrat voters who are more natually inclined to support Labour would not have been best pleased by this decision and may well default to their original position.
You then have to question the entire point of the exercise. Is it simply keeping people gainfully employed ? Or does it serve a meaningful purpose in our political process? Of course, none of this would matter if politicians actually took no notice of this pseudo-scientific rubbish but we all know they hang like desperate limpets onto every single dot and comma of studies like this and this is the core problem with these kind of studies. They take the place of a meaningful discourse between the represented and representatives. In that sense, political science isn’t just oddball, its corrosive to our democracy and it’s functioning so, although they may look like harmless flights of fancy, their real effect is, I would submit much more harmful than we would first imagine.