Brits Despair Ahead of General Election

And you thought Democrats were gloomy when health care was on the rocks

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The British general election is set for May 6, and already there's a strong theme emerging from the across-the-pond commentariat: disillusionment. It's remarkable just how many negative op-eds a few papers managed to generate in the days following the election's announcement. The Guardian has been host to particularly gloomy columns, but the other publications aren't exactly beaming rays of sunshine either. Don't take our word for it. See for yourself.

  • 'I Have Largely Stopped Listening,' announces Rebecca Jenkins in the Guardian. "I am fed up with the way the speed of modern life has combined with our 24-hour media to dumbed-down political discourse. I am weary of turning on the news to watch politicians stressing how much more untrustworthy their opponents are compared with themselves. It seems to me that our present democratic machinery is no longer fit for purpose and needs reform."
  • 'Like a Gothic Cathedral in Reverse'  The simile's a bit complex, but the Guardian editorial is essentially irritated at politicians "discussing hard truths only in the vaguest language." If they don't shape up, the editors argue, "an election which should be an exercise in democratic renewal will instead prove to be another episode of democratic disillusion."
  • Brace Yourselves  "It takes a particularly sunny disposition," writes Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph, "to be an optimist about British politics. It takes even greater reserves of confidence to see the joy in this general election, not least after a first 48 hours that have produced depressing levels of skulduggery and dishonesty." But he urges readers, if they don't see anything they like in rivals David Cameron and Gordon Brown, to think outside the box:"look beyond for the authentic, independent voices, many sporting party colours, some not, who have been listening to your anger."
  • 'Orgy of Electoral Dishonesty'  The Guardian's Geoffrey Wheatcroft, pleading an "engagement to lecture at the University of Texas," departs for the States: "I really shan't mind watching this unseemly contest from afar." He suggests his countrymen share his "ennui."
  • We Thought Debates Would Help  This is the first time Britain will hold televised debates as part of the election, and the Times' Daniel Finkelstein had thought "they would improve the accountability of leaders during the campaign." But now he realizes they'll "come at the expense of big TV interviews," and "may be rather dull in the end. And they may provide the public with less information than a proper grilling."
  • Both Parties Disappointing  "So far," says Rowenna Davis, addressing an odd campaign around political posters, "Labour's posters have only succeeded in painting a picture of the past and the Conservatives' have been laden with contradictions ... If you present your audience with fluff, don't be surprised when they make a mockery out of it."
  • Excess of Commentary on Nothing in Particular  The Guardian's Julian Glover is tired of the incessant election chatter: "Comment (of which this is a part) is replacing news." On the other hand, "our excuse--a good one--is that there is nothing real to report."
  • Time for Change  The Independent and The Times have had slightly less depressing coverage. Steve Richards, at the former, talks about the "palpable sense of energy, hope and liberation" following the call for an election, and says just the dissolution of the "current discredited Parliament" will be "a cathartic moment in itself." Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Times acknowledges the gloomy mood but sets its sights on the horizon, demanding better:
For some time now--perhaps for more than a year--this Parliament has been finished, without having stopped ... This country is less self-confident, less cohesive and less free than we would want to see it. It is less prosperous, too. Yet we are an optimistic newspaper and, so, we look to Britain's future with confidence. We want to see this election fought on competing visions of Britain in 2015, visions that express this optimism in concrete form. 
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.