Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Today's Politics, We Need A Hanging

"I think we're screwed, mate. Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in."

I've been saying this for a long time, but that comment from a Twitter Friend really got me thinking, and I think it's high time for an explanation.

We Need A Hanging.

Danie's comment really summed up the apathy and distate that the majority of people have for the electoral process - and for Government - these days. It's something that deeply saddens me.

I believe we're hugely lucky to have a democratic system. Yes, it's flawed - deeply so - but it's still democracy and come 2010, we will be able to exercise our good fortune and elect a new Government. We won't suffer violence or intimidation, (much) vote-rigging or the sight of our incumbent Administration using dirty tricks to self-perpetuate.

Yet opinion of politics has sunk to a massive low, and many are struck by the same apathy implicit within the quote above.

I believe that the main reason for this is the tragic loss of conviction politics - and I believe a Hanging is the only way to bring it back.

Conviction v Soundbite

In an era of 24-hour news channels, constant access to information and even services like Twitter, we have allowed ourselves to fall into a state where image and soundbite is more important than truth and integrity.

Before, we had people like Tony Benn, Norman Tebbit, Dennis Skinner even Margaret Thatcher. These people believed passionately in this country, and were prepared to stand up for their principles and beliefs to explain, cajole, browbeat and (shock horror) speak their minds both in Parliament and public. Whatever your political standpoint, these were people you could respect for their principle and honesty.

Tony Benn stood up against his own party and drove through engineering feats like the Hovercraft and the BT Tower. Norman Tebbit stood up and told the unemployed to 'get on their bikes'. Dennis Skinner fought his own party whenever they went against what he believed was right. Margaret Thatcher faced down the Unions (at the time strangling efficiency in the UK) and won.

You can disagree with their end results, with their politics or with their approach. You can't fault their passion and integrity in striving to achieve what they thought was best.

Now, our political figures are analysed for the way they look, and their pronouncements and debates are reduced to a level of banality that would shame a primary schoolchild. Decisions are made and announced not on principle, but on opinion poll. Not on fact, but focus group. Policies are changed as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest approval figures.

Once the trend was started by New Labour - the 'Presidential' looking Prime Minister, who actually reduced his exposure to Parliamentary Questions and instead led by Press Release and Spin Doctorate - the other parties swiftly followed suit, and we now have a tragic situation with a PM who is, if not sociopathic, certainly 'not fit for purpose; an apparently glib Tory Leader who will ever be unfairly hampered by his 'old-Etonian' mantle; and someone called Nick Clegg, who seems frequently to be invisible.

Of the three: one suffers from chronic, devastating indecision (which is not a good trait in a Prime Minister); one is appearing utterly seduced by the 'Politics of the Soundbite' and thus creates insufficient gravitas nor confidence; and one is so quiet as to not be heard. We hear more from Vince Cable than Nick Clegg.

With our economy being led into oblivion by the US and Global markets, a housing market on the edge of a precipice, war in the Middle East, a burgeoning Chinese tiger and rising personal debt, it's clear that NONE of these 'leaders' - or the parties they represent - are adequately equipped to lead us over the next decade.

We Need A Hanging

So it was with some concern that I viewed the most recent Sunday Times/YouGov opinion poll, which said the following:

Con 44%, Lab 28%, LD 17%

Uniform swing - 386 Con, 206 Lab, 29LD

Put simply, this poll estimated that if the trend of the poll was uniformly repeated in a General Election today, the Conservative Party would romp home outright winners with a majority of 151 seats in the House of Commons.

This would be, in my opinion, A Bad Thing.

A large majority, as we saw in 1979 and then again since 1997, gives the sitting Government no incentive to do the right thing. they have the power to act in accordance with the wishes only of their own voters. Unpopular or even bad laws (as we saw with the Poll Tax, for example) can be forced through not on the merits of the legislation, but on the power of the majority and a three-line-whip.

There are likely to be unpleasant choices to be made in the coming years. I believe it's likely that interest rates will have to rise. The attendant inflation is going to cause increased unemployment. The political parties are now so stuffed with incompetents, cronies and oddballs for whom the job of MP was 'indoor work with no heavy lifting' and an easy seat on a gravy train, that there is now no single party which is capable of taking ideology and focus groups out of the equation and just making things work.

A Hung Parliament would force a change to this. By ensuring that no one party had an overall majority, the decisions Parliament make that affect us all can no longer be made by spin doctors and focus groups. No law could be made, no legislation passed without real debate and genuine cross-bench support. This means that what happens is no longer based on ideology or soundbite, but on what is right for the Country.

In a stroke, we would remove the 'soundbite politics' of the post-1990 Parliament, and maybe - just maybe - get the Government we actually want and deserve.

We Need A Hanging, and I sincerely hope that in 2010 we get one.

I commend the idea to the House.


Danacea said...

It's difficult to have faith in a government - whatever colour flag you wave - when your society is increasingly hollow. I'm not apathetic.. but I am disillusioned. Nothing changes; we have no sense of community or public trust, our media plays on our fears and the 'Nanny State' uses the Cult of Legislation to 'protect' people against themselves and each other.

I wish I had a solution - but it begins with education, with people caring for and about their children and teaching them faith. In themselves, in each other, in society, in their parents.

Can a government do that? Or are political gain and basic humanity now mutually exclusive?

I fear the answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

I have been voting along the same lines for years - first Lib Dem and now Green Party. Hung parliaments force government to be collaborative.

Sound bite politics is equivalent to forming Twitter relationships based only on Tweets, and not bothering to check out the blogs and profiles of the tweeters.

@Danacea is right though - we need to change what the children are being taught. If you grow up with democracy and not autocracy at school and in the home (true democracy as a parent REALLY makes you appreciate how tough it is for governments) then you build a culture that sees listening to other views in government as a collaborative act, not a punishment for having not got enough votes at the election.

I did an OU course on Inclusive Education and discovered that real change is not just a matter of government policy (the policies are already in place) - it is the fact that headteachers, parent associations and local education authorities are trapped in old ways of thinking.

We don't just need hanging - we need a revolution.