Looking back on the past you can see clearly the truth and the trends that have come to be which enables analysts, students and interested parties, alike, to interpret the facts as the see them regardless of the side of the political divide you fall on to. As events happen though it can sometimes be a murky process to find the truth of individuals, policies and proposals. It is that process that casts the dye of the matter for all political movements and factions.
Social Networking has transformed the way we interact with each other, much more than could be thought possible in the mid 90s when the internet was becoming accessible at large for the first time, and has altered the way we fight campaigns, raise awareness on major issues, and express ourselves on a day to day level.
The current Government, and its predecessors, will be remembered for the systemic distrust that the general public has with politicians. Scandals of expenses where some former MPs have gone to court (and even prison), where party leaders have judged MPs to have been within the spirit of the rule rather than following the detail instead of all (current and former) MPs being judged equally, where Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats lied to the future leaders of this country and promised a new politics, where Labour failed to select the most electable candidate for Leader prior to the new Generation and where the Conservatives promised a new softer approach to their party but after less than 12 months in government they have shown themselves to be the same old nasty party they always have been.
Politicians, and those active within politics (to any extent), need to remember that it is these events that continually change the landscape for politics in the 21st century. As a young member of society in his mid-20s and a graduate I keep hearing about a new kind of politics or a new generation combined with a big society that is supposed to be the promise for today’s young people but what actually are they? Can I believe them or trust them? I think the answer is no and I will explain why I think they represent a symbolic lack of understanding between Westminster politics and the electorate it is meant to represent.
Deo Fidelis et Patriae: or standing in the place of parents (I only know this Latin phrasing because it was my secondary school motto rather than conforming to Michael Gove’s idea of a 21st century education) which means that current politicians have to accept their role as role-models to young people across the country. When you hear David Cameron and Nick Clegg talk about making grown up decisions for the good of the country it fails to connect within my brain how they can say that but spend a few hours one afternoon watching the House of Commons on BBC Parliament and you will see how grown up the debate is and how members conduct themselves.
Bad Behaviour: Following on from the previous point, is it really grown up to heckle a speaker? If you were in school you’d be told off. If you were in work you’d get a warning. Why is it acceptable in our democratic home? You see MPs jeering and laughing at answered questions or comments made … that’s when they answer questions that is. The current Tory front bench are getting into the swing of things when it comes to explaining why Labour has caused “insert topic of discussion” and there’s no signs of it abating. If you were in a student council and you swerved a question like they do, you can expect to be probed further until they get an answer. Why is it acceptable for MPs not to address the point and answer the question?
Whips: As they part of the process I’d like to see on debates / votes and the like an indication of how a cabinet is whipping their party to act. I’d like to see whether my MP is voting because he wants to keep his seat and continue as a member of the party or whether he agrees with the line of the debate or proposed policy.
Tribalism: Like unerring support in football for your team it is unlikely to change. Die-hards of each persuasion will still exist, and it’s right that they do, but that shouldn’t make it harder or difficult to work together to come up with adult solutions to the problems the country faces. Many MPs may be of a liberal persuasion if they sit on the Tory benches and vice versa for Labour benches so it is right that they work together and find consensus on issues rather than playing to win on each policy and each motion.
Coalitions: The last Coalition government before last year’s election was in 1945, when Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition was formed, and it is right that they do so in extreme circumstances like war but we need a majority government (whichever party) because we then know they have a clear mandate from the public. The current Tory government, with their Lib-Dem supporters, has no clear mandate but is going to wreak havoc on the poorest in our society in a way that Britain has not felt for nearly 2 decades.
New Generation: We need to get rid of slogans and catch word politics. Yes, Ed Miliband that includes you too. It is right to re-brand or forge a new kind of Labour Party (to separate from New Labour run by Blair and Brown) but without the system change we need in the way we do our politics we are not changing anything.
Youth Representation: We have the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament to represent young people in this country up to the age of 18, and the National Union of Students and Trade Unions those 16+ but in the House of Commons the average MP is 50. I can count the number of MPs under 30 I know of on one hand. We talk about equal, or proportional, representation but where is the fair deal for young politicians who do want to change the way we do politics? Or will they face the wrath of the whips for acting with their conscience rather than their parties’ interest?
One such example of the way we can change the way we do politics, making it more accessible, has been Stella Creasy who lead a strong campaign on the Credit Regulation Bill.
Alternative Vote: Whether you’re a Yes, No or indifferent voter on the referendum the campaigns are already being judged to be having a go at each other. The election isn’t for another 3 months? And this is the kind of thing that typifies why we need a new politics. I’ve been involved in campaigns that have needed to defend themselves personally but this is ridiculous. There is always a 3rd part be it a returning officer or someone to arbitrate their disputes and it is their responsibility to make sure that their isn’t attacks to people’s characters. If we can’t have a free and open debate without attacks on a voting system then is our politics already doomed?
Dirty Politics: Following on from the previous comment – I think I recall a quote from Wes Streeting, one of the guest speakers at Young Labour conference, saying something like … “debate the ideas but don’t attack the person if you disagree with them” and I agree with him on this. Again, let’s take the school analogy, if you were in class and debating why “insert topic” was right/wrong and the argument got heated and students targeted characters to win the argument. The teacher should intervene because it is the right lesson to teach them, and that attacking another person is never acceptable.
I think then the question comes what is considered an attack and I’ll leave that for another time because already I can think of examples where questions of character are right to be made, and should be made, but can provide the kick that spirals the debate into a personal petty dispute but without a clear definition of what the new politics is and how we achieve it’s much like the Big Society – BS.
And that’s more damaging to our politics in the long-term.