It’s not often I agree with Daniel Hannan….
…but he is pretty much bang-on when he says ‘down with collective responsibility’ and earlier when he railed against the imposed orthodoxy that the party system imposes on people. I am not convinced that the voters don’t have a role that they play in reinforcement of this conformity as I have said before but their is no doubt that not only does it turn people off politics but also is a major problem in what, after all, is supposed to be a representative democracy. Parties and the party system do not represent how most people approach politics and that is why we are seeing the growth of protest parties and groups. Part of the parties adapting to that reality is to allow free-flowing debate and come to see it as a norm; a good, healthy, living party is one that can contain all different shades of opinions and allow for their open expression.
This is especially relevant when you consider the decline of membership of parties noted by Grassroots Tory;
“In 1983 the percentage of the UK population who were members of one of the main three political parties stood at 3.8%. By 2005 that figure had dropped by nearly two thirds to just 1.3%.”
Rightly cited as one of the factors in this decline is;
“Over the years parties have taken more and more decision making power away from ordinary members. Party conferences used to be interesting forums for debate and policy development. Now they’re just glitzy presentations where party leaders and parliamentarians talk at members, who are supposed to fawn over their wisdom and applaud on cue. The grassroots members of parties have been cut out of the loop and the decisions are now taken by the leader and his small band of trustees. All too frequently the principles for which the parties stood have been torn up and members told to accept it because it’s necessary to win power.”
The remedy, says Grassroots Tory, is for parties to rediscover principle and start to oppose each other on ideological grounds. I think this is correct and while we could add cease to marginalise people who are perceived as damaging their chances of winning power it also should be a hint to our leadership in where our opportunity lies.
Jackie Ashley takes up the theme in the pages of today’s Guardian; arguing that the left in particular would do well to treasure maverick voices because although they do not represent mainstream they force a wider questioning and opens up mainstream ideas to rigorous examination though debate. Something of a long-standing culture of conformity does exist on the left especially and it is all too easy to see where it has set in within the Labour Party especially. It is something to be lamented that the left has unequivocally lost it’s zest and tendency to be associated with ‘thinking the unthinkiable’ (no doubt a significant factor in it’s decline).
The negative results of that can be seen in the likes of the rise of the British National Party; where once the downtrodden, alienated and dispossessed at least had the dream of a better society to cling onto now they see the only solution as turning on others and blaming them for their woes and engaging in a desperate kind of cultural land grab to console themselves. ‘Aspirations’ are not good enough to address this and inspire these people and Nick Clegg et el should take note of that and start changing what we are saying in an attempt to reinvigorate people and inspire them with politics that not just addresses their concerns but also inspires them with hope of something better.