Just another “meme”?

I was quickly informed by friends, soon after sharing this image on my personal Facebook, that this is “just another meme”.  While it is obviously very easy to fake this kind of graphic it still received some interesting comments, which are worth airing.  This general statement:

“Its faked. The images have been edited to make a false point.”

While this Spectator article explains where the lower images come from I, personally, am not sure that this renders the point being made as “false”, especially as some, if not all, of the top nine images are in fact accurate (although possibly taken at a misleading point in the debate).  The bottom two pictures are definately falsely claimed to be about MP’s pay and expenses, however, the only image I could find when looking for a true image of MP’s debating their wage or expenses was this one (the original article is no longer available but the image meta data says “BBC News, Politics, Commons debate on MP’s expenses”).  mps expenses debate bbc

Yes, putting together fake graphics ruins the argument, particularly for those who already take what is posted on the internet with a pinch of salt (especially if we have time to check references), but the question still remains:

  •  If a study were performed on MP’s attendance on issues which affect them personally versus issues which affect the poorer >90% of the UK population I wonder if the point would still be “false”?

On a more thoughtful note, I also saw this from a friend who is a very active and brilliant councillor in Sheffield:

“What’s interesting is how quick people are to share it without even questioning whether it is true. I recall someone saying recently that part of the problem with out political system is how politicians interact with the people, but another problem is how the people interact with politicians.  If we expect scum, that’s what we’ll probably get.”

I think that people’s eagerness to share this image stems from a number of issues, and most certainly from the expectation that MP’s do not represent the interests of their constituents.  You could argue that this our own fault for voting for them, but that is really only valid if the alternative candidates were significantly different.  If this experience has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that it is very challenging to run an election campaign if you have to work a full-time job and do not have a party to pay for mailshots (very roughly £50,000 per shot, how much better spent could that money be in Reading West?).

Our current system is weighted very heavily in favour of the big parties with the big money from private donors to support campaigning, whose MP’s subsequently have their sponsoring party’s interests, and their donors interests, on their agenda, which could compete with the interests of their constituents.  For example: banning private funding for election campaigns (and political parties?) would dramatically alter the choice of candidates and open the field to smaller parties not supported by big business or wealthy individuals.  This would surely deliver a far more representative democracy, but would weaken the big party’s grip on power, so we rarely hear about this idea.  (There is a great TED talk by Larry Lessig about a campaign in the states to get the money out of politics.)

In short; this meme, is not, in my opinion a menace, because it either makes us chuckle, it makes us question our information sources, or it makes us stop and think about our political system and consider what we might do to improve it.  No doubt many MPs are busy being good, productive MPs in select committees, meeting constituents, taking part in a Westminster Hall debate, running an all-party parliamentary group meeting, briefing journalists, plotting a rebellion with colleagues or working in their office when they are not sitting in the House in debate.  But if it weren’t for people seeing this image and thinking “I knew it, check this out folks” then this meme would not exist.  #timeforchange

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