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The true colours of British politics

What started out as a simple request from Mrs Simms for me to find a cardigan in the wardrobe, quickly progressed to a rather heated argument, before becoming a really interesting debate. Mrs Simms, downstairs and struggling to get the children out the door for a time-critical Easter holiday outing, was concerned about a cooling in the weather, and had asked me to dig out her dark green cardy. Ever helpful (and looking forward to quiet afternoon, if I'm honest), I was happy to oblige.

I rummaged through the wardrobe, and then rummaged through it again, but there was no dark green cardigan to be found. There was a brief, pantomime-like exchange of "It's not here," from me, and "Oh yes it is," from Mrs Simms, before I gave up on the wardrobe and, assuming she'd filed it elsewhere, started going through the drawers. Still I couldn't find it.

There were a couple of shouts of "Are you coming?" and "Have you got it yet?" before an ominous stomping up the stairs warned of impending doom. Mrs Simms marched into the bedroom, opened the wardrobe and pulled out a cardigan. "This dark green cardigan," she said, and I detected more than a hint of irritation and a soupcon of sarcasm. Normally I would let this go; she was stressed, the kids were sorely in need of being back at school having long since had enough of each other's company over the Easter period, and the clock was ticking on the outing. But this cardy was not dark green; it was quite clearly dark blue. Perhaps, with hindsight, this was an argument for another time, but I pressed the point.

For those of you who are becoming concerned, I'll reassure you that I survived the encounter unscathed, and no cardigans were harmed in the writing of this column. What became an interesting debate, though, is how we see colours differently. We have since canvassed third party opinions on the colour of the cardigan. Some see it as dark blue, others as dark green. There is no right or wrong answer, just a difference in perception between two colours that are quite close, with resulting potential for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

All of this got me thinking about the forthcoming election. It used to be very easy to distinguish the blue from the red, but I'm finding that this time around the political rhetoric is blurring the boundaries rather than creating clear water. With this in mind, Industrial Technology invited all of the leading political parties to submit a pre-election statement on their vision for manufacturing in the UK during the next parliament and beyond. Perhaps within those comments we'd begin to see real differentiation between the red, green, blue, orange and more.

To describe the response as disappointing would be a massive understatement. Engaging with real people seems to be less important than stage-managed 'surprise visits' which seem to be somehow crammed with photographers and TV crews but very little in the way of general public, and where political leaders inevitably launch into 'spontaneous' speeches.

Reports this morning suggested that some seven million people have not bothered to register to vote. Of the rest, I wonder how many of us see ourselves as being truly represented by the politicians who purport to serve us. The colours that once defined each political party are now so difficult to distinguish as to make you wonder if there's any meaningful difference worth arguing about. Red, blue, green and orange have mixed, and it's all gone a bit brown.

Mark Simms, Editor

 
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