The rise of ‘Peripheral Politics’.
It’s interesting, being a law student studying Public Law, you hear so much of this ‘Westminster model’ of UK politics; that in this democratic branch of our uncodified constitution, we have this undemocratic principle of what Lord Hailsham described as an “elective dictatorship”. Whether a Labour or Conservative government, the Prime Ministers ‘clique’, a few members of the cabinet, legislate and initiate policy, the personification of a flagrant violation of the separation of powers, something that 18th Century French Political philosopher Montesquieu described as a ‘usurpation of power’. Yet, is this changing?
“Farage in charge”. “The Green Surge”. “A crisis in trust”. This forthcoming general election may be the most revolutionary of our beloved United Kingdom — mainstream politics is in decay. I was talking to a colleague of mine, and he was telling me about how he was planning to just put a cross through his ballot paper, spoiling it and rendering it ‘redundant’ in his eyes, and most probably, with similar ill feeling of the majority of the public. Surely it has been coming? In 2005, Tony Blair soared to a majority in the House of common winning 55% of the seats, whilst having just a mere 35% of the vote of the 61% of the electorate who bothered to vote. I mean, surely that’s just not fair? So, is this change realistic? Has it been seen as inevitable? The likes of Aileen Kavanagh described the public say as nominal; ‘a tick box exercise of accepting or rejecting a bunch of policies’ most deriving from manifestos that majority of us cannot be bothered to read. So, what will happen on the 7th May 2015?
Change will happen. As a supporter of one of the two ‘main’ parties, I admit, change is inevitable, and will be colossal. Peter Hitchens suggested we have a complete revamp of all political parties and their policies, effectively ‘starting from scratch’, and I now think this is a genuine possibility, although not imminent. I mean, why is there this stigmatism that bankers, those involved in transnational corporate activity, support the tories? That only those from the ‘golden path’ of being white, middle-class, male, support certain parties? It creates this self-perpetuating prophecy which will simply drags the two extremes on the political spectrum further and further apart. That’s where the ‘newbee’s’ come in.
One only has to look at the BBC television event to see the impact. Plaid Cymru, SNP, Greens and UKIP joined the three major parties. Who would have thought it five years prior? I didn’t. These parties WILL win seats, and whether people like it or not it is going to have a detrimental effect on any legitimacy we hold in the government of our choice from the years 2015–2020. So, what now? We all chuckle to ourselves when Miliband and Cameron state when answering questions about a coalition that ‘there is no point pre-empting things; I want my party to get a majority’ — then why pre-empt opposition party policies? Constant digs at their health, education, defence policy etc, parties don’t seem to understand, that this doesn’t cut it for the public anymore, we need change. The issue on hand means we need change in the next parliament, irrespective of whom commands the Commons. Let’s imagine Labour get the most seats, but go for a minority government. What will happen? They won’t last for the full 5 years. The exact same can be said for the Conservatives. Now say Labour join formally, with the SNP, and the tories equally so with UKIP and/or the Lib Dems. What will happen? Chaos will erupt. We will have the same old bickering for 5 years, ending up with the losers of 2015, becoming the winners of 2020.
I personally, cannot wait to see what happens. I will have my preferences, like us all, but surely what’s more important is that democracy is upheld, and the people get their way, as after all, politicians are but ‘servants of the public’, right?
I mean, what are the realistic possibilities of a government coming into power, with the want, the desire, and the unquenched thirst for change? What will they do? I mean, can we have another AV referendum? After the disaster of 2011? Dare I say it, a codified constitution? ‘Setting in stone’, a set of rules and regulations that govern how we, the people, and the government effectively, to put in contextually politically incorrect lexicon, “live”. How will this help democracy? Well, constitutional change can lead to electoral change, and it can apportion the competencies of these constitutional actors. I mean, surely this is the opportunity to inject into UK politics, real democracy; a Proportional Representative system whereby effectively, Votes = Seats. No poncy formula, no confusing maths. It’s simple; you get 35% vote, you get 35% seat. Surely those in favour of democracy will support it? We know the minor parties will, and that represents an overwhelming majority of the options the people have, as Natalie Bennett constantly, relentlessly refers to the fact that if people thought it would have an effect, 25% would vote Green. That’s the worrying thing, that people feel their vote is wasted. With such change, no vote is put on a pedestal, every vote is vital, because it is.
But, why do people just not vote? Referring earlier to when my colleague said he is rejecting all options, but still voting, it’s a somewhat, absurd (in a democracy), but a completely rational and logical solution, and although me myself, am going to vote for a party, I back what he is doing. This is what I like to see. An attempt to force change, amongst the people who the change is for, us. Compare this to Russell Brand, he is simply not voting. Why? He believes there aren’t parties that represent the people. I respect that, I can see where he is coming from, but not voting isn’t the answer. Surely, if those who followed Mr. Brand in 2010, voted for the Liberal Democrats, it may have forced change, I mean, we all know the AV referendum was their red line in 2010, but if people vote for change, it could be the people’s red line of 2015. Ed Miliband summed it up nicely in the recent debates when asked by a frustrated voter why the people aren’t having a greater say in more laws through referendums, something that constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor said is a reasonable solution to end this disengagement in modern day politics. Miliband’s reply was concise and very sufficient; he said you, the people, can have more involvement, and we do — ON THE 7TH OF MAY. I say, make your vote count — if you really don’t want to support any party, spoil your ballot paper if you want (either way it has to be recorded). It will send a message to the top, that change is needed. If the people, the ones who elect the unelectable, want change, change will come.
So now what? We wait. This is the most closely contested UK general election we ever have had, so much that famous statistician Nate Silver, who managed in 2012, to predict the result in every state election in the US general election, daren’t hazard a guess. So, we wait and see what the political establishment will come up with. We wait and see what change will follow. Whether a minority government, or a majority propped up with the SNP, UKIP or the Lib Dems, we know what will happen will be fascinating, and the potential of what to follow, could be ground-breaking.