The Party’s Over
One has to say it has been an entertaining couple of years since David Cameron thrust the country into Brexit turmoil. What on earth would the news media have used to fill its programmes without this? Whatever your views on the subject of being in or out of the EU might be, one thing that the whole process has brought into sharper focus, is that we need to change how our democracy functions.
The principal reason that we ended up in this mess, is that the people’s faith in their politicians was already ebbing away long before the 2016 referendum. Factors which contributed to this were –
- Tony Blairs ‘sexed-up’, dodgy, dossier, which dragged an unwilling country into the USA’s war in Iraq. It took seven tedious years for the Chilcot inquiry to say so in 2016. But this was something that we knew all along. And when it was finally officially stated, what then happened…not a lot.
- Then there was the lack of effective equipment the troops we sent into Afghanistan and Iraq had to work with.
- Next we had a financial crisis. “The end of boom and bust”, as Gordon Brown liked to tell us. He was right, it ended in one big bust. And where were the prosecutions of bankers behind this scandal. Well, white collar crime, if of course there was any committed, is notoriously difficult to prove. Surely it was all just a little bit of incompetence.
- Broken election promises over tuition fees, was what the electorate had to endure next. We live with the consequences, whilst any ruined political career can always be saved in the corporate world, or as a TV ‘celebrity’.
- Then it was the media’s turn to be dragged in front of an inquiry, this time over phone hacking. This inquiry was led by Lord Leveson. And what happened as a result…again, nothing.
- Next the politicians introduced the electorate to austerity, “We are all in this together”, apparently. And I’m sure that this austerity has in no way contributed to family break downs and the rise of knife crime. Its all just a bit of a coincidence.
- Finally comes the icing on the cake, an in-out referendum on our membership of a free trading block with our biggest trading partners. Sold to an unwitting and uninformed populous, playing to people’s basest fears, and using illegal practices which have since been punished by the Electoral Commission.
Of course you can pick on individuals and criticise those that you do not like, or do not agree with. But what all of this shows is that the political system is failing the people, failing them badly. The rise of the hard left and the far right in this country is testimony to the deterioration of the political system. If you take the time to have a careful look at both extremes of the political spectrum, then you will see that at the margins, the left and the right are fundamentally indistinguishable from one another. And both are thoroughly unpleasant.
It is all well and good to rant and rave about what is wrong, but what’s the solution? It seems to me that one of the things that needs to be addressed is the party system that we, and indeed most countries of the world have. The people elect politicians to represent their views, but the politicians that we elect do not represent the people, they represent their political party. You can sometimes remove odious politicians, but the party goes on. The system that we have may have worked very well in the 18th century, when communication was by horse and newspaper. But today we have the means to thoroughly engage the people, more directly, and more frequently in the political decision making process. This would help to freshen up our democratic processes, and make the people more accountable too. We also need to ensure, as best we can, that the politicians that we elect are up to the job. When I hear the vast majority of politicians on TV or radio, I cannot imagine what the people of the constituency who elected them were thinking.
But the sad truth is, fundamentally our politicians, and our political system are a reflection of who we are. So we need to demand politicians that reflect the sort of person that we want to be, and a system that enables them to make this country work for everyone. It may not yet be time for a revolution, but significant political change is well overdue.
“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” Charles de Gaulle