Problems with the ‘new politics’….
Alot has been said about new politics since the General Election which seems to be the product of a desperate scramble by politicians to associate themselves with what they believe is an observed feeling that people wanted change and expressed this at the ballot box. However, nothing of the kind happened; I remember 1997 and that was an election where people clearly voiced their desire for change and symmetrically it produced a landslide against the governing party; for the main opposition. This time around people were not sure what they wanted and again, with hardly surprising symmetry, the result was a hung parliament.
In the raft of Coalition proposals that have come out over the last couple of days you can see that uncertainty and hesitancy mirrored; a goodly proportion of this governments ‘radical’ agenda is in actual fact subject to the good graces and favourable words from an army of newly created committees. Liberal Democrats will tell you different but then again their party has turned itself inside-out to reveal itself to have an inner core whose heart beats far from liberalism and relatively close to Stalinism. This is the logical result of crushed hope and idealism drained of its ideals and principles; it becomes it’s opposite. Heretics and the non-believers are driven out with a macabre precision and personal attacks become the order of the day. Meanwhile, over the road Mr Cameron bounces his MP’s into dissolving the 1922 committee in a move that probably made ‘Uncle Nick’ proud. This is the essential problem with the ‘new politics’; step behind the veneer and it looks well, rather ugly; 55%, 100’s of new unelected peers, Royal Mail privatisation, draconian attacks on the sick and needy on benefits etc, etc.
Change enacted purely for the sake of change always goes wrong and we have seen a perfect example of that today in the growing cacophony of protest against IPSA. Granted, this was a mistake made by Labour in creating the monster in the first place but what it really represents is a failure of people to stand-up and tell the electorate some unpleasant truths. If you want a functioning representative democracy it is going to cost money (much like everything else in the world) and if you are a working class voter outraged at politicians the solution isn’t to encourage a witch-hunt that ultimately means your contemporaries are less (not more) able to get into politics. In fact, precisely the opposite will happen and a ‘cut price politics’ will return us to the days when politics was not so much a profession and more a hobby of the landed (and monied)nobility pursued in a similar vein to fox-hunting and game shooting. Witness the current Cabinet which is unlikely to be feeling the pinch of that 5% pay cut since it contains 23 millionaires.
It’s an iron-law of witch-hunts that from the very start you are, in fact, burning people whose only real crime is for whatever reason not to be particularly well-liked or who ‘fit-in’ and then you just move onto a more general massacre of innocents. Tellingly, the right-wing media is the section keeping-up the expenses attacks on the ‘political class’; the same section of the media that feels isolated and ostracised by what it regards as some grand ‘liberal/lefty’ conspiracy (a fantastical idea because the real left couldn’t agree long enough to arrange a meeting to discuss a conspiratorial plot). It’s down to the left to inject some much-needed rationality into the debate (and not jump on a popularist bandwagon attacking MP’s) and in today’s Guardian Michael White has a decent go at doing just that.
Nobody should be taken-in by the ‘new politics’ and this wave of ‘great reform’; right down to its core it is the antithesis of real, meaningful progressive change. Our job in the Labour Party is to be rigorous in our opposition and turn this party that can be a antidote to the sickness this government will visit on our democracy and our country. From the gerrymandering of Parliament (55%, stacking the Lords, rearranging constituency boundaries) to IPSA it is down to the left to raise its voice in opposition to the ‘new politics’ and not be suckered into thinking it was its idea all along.