Time for some real change
As a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, when I look at our politics I despair. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in the introduction to Book I in his masterpiece, The Social Contract, “the very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affairs, however little influence my voice may have in them.” That was why I was dismayed, when, following last year’s Scottish Independence Referendum, which was a mix of both the very best and worst of politics, I examined the state of politics in our gracious Kingdom as it is today.
The current system
We have, on first glance, a three-party system with a few outliers. There’s the traditional, slightly libertarian Conservative Party, the working man’s Labour Party and the sensible centrists, the Liberal Democrats. But anyone who has spent any amount of time involved with British politics would know that these descriptions are far from the truth.
The Labour Party, for instance, introduced the very privatisation under Tony Blair that they now oppose and attach the blame for on the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party’s “long-term economic plan” has constituted the slowest recovery following a recession in Britain since the South Sea Bubble collapsed in 1720. The Liberal Democrats betrayed their voters, their social democratic tendencies, and any links they had to the Liberal Party of Lloyd-George, when they entered into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Not only that, but there are a few new kids on the block. There are two nationalist parties that have seized the public eye, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. The SNP in particular are likely to make massive gains in terms of seats won at the next General Election. They already run a majority government in the Scottish Parliament. Another two of the up-and-coming political parties are the UK Independence Party, advocating a British exit from the European Union, and the Green Party, the only credible socialist party in Britain at the moment.
By all accounts, however, there are a few problems with the system. Our democracy is not perfect. Voter turnout at the last general election was only 65% of the electorate, and has been on a steady decline for several decades. The problem, as I see it, is a disenchantment with political goings on, and the way to solve that is through more participation. On average, Swiss people vote 1250 times in their lives because of frequent referenda on key issues. And these are some of the happiest people on the planet!
So, you may be wondering, as I did, that if our system is so broken what are the options? Can no one else see this? Is no one offering an alternative? Well you will be glad to know, as I was, that there are people standing up to this injustice. There have been a swathe of new political parties since the last election, and many of these have been formed on the basis that something is wrong with our democracy.
The problem with these new, democratically progressive, political parties, is that they are disunited. They are separate. They have a common goal, but they are not working for it together. What is needed is unity. A union, an alliance, a progressive pact — something that will bring these people, all with the right ideas, together.
Who exactly am I talking about, you may wonder. Well, my “progressive pact” would, at the moment, consist of the following organisations and parties: Something New, OpenPolitics Project, Whig Party, Rebooting Democracy, National Health Action Party, Represent, MyMP, Pirate Party UK, Populace Party, Internet Democrats, Young People’s Party, East Kent Reality Party, Democracy Club, Yorkshire First, People’s Administration, Democratic Republic Party, Freedom Party and perhaps a few others.
This is no small number of people. There is a fervour for change in this country, and almost every week people are thinking “I want change and can’t see it represented. I’m going to make my own change.” And that feeling is great, it is what we need and I do not think I will ever get bored of it. But what is important is getting this fervour for change properly represented.
Many of the organisations I mentioned are political parties that will be standing candidates at the general election. I doubt any of them will be elected. After the election, it is important that each of these parties looks back at themselves, asks what exactly they are trying to achieve, and agree to disagree in order to create a coalition of unity with one common goal: changing the democratic system. It should not be hard, but it is. And that is why we need these fantastic people to do it together.
For God’s sake, please
For the sake of myself, too young to vote, but also for the sake of all the people that have been so badly represented all these years. People who do not vote — people who vote for parties that are never elected — people who reluctantly vote for the best of a bad bunch. There is no time like the present to act on this issue that affects more people than they realise. It is time to make these fundamental changes to system so that it represents everyone in the way it should, in the way the greatest Parliament of the greatest country in the world should — fairly.
At the next election, in 2020 if not earlier, I hope to see a progressive pact on the ballot paper. But, as Russell Brand said in a Trews video released today, “democracy is for everyday, not just an election.” We, the people, need to recognise that this alliance would be our best hope for a better future, and we need to embrace them. We need to push the progressive agenda as far as we can, in all directions. Only then can we make some real change.