In the 2015 General Election, we elected one of the most divided parliaments this country has ever seen. But what does this mean for British democracy?
Now I am sure, many of you are expecting this article to highlight quite prominently the recent discord within the Labour Party, which has since that dark day for left-wing progressives in September, seen the most left-wing Leader of the Opposition appointed in a British parliament since the beginning of the role itself. But I want to be clear for those of you who associate yourself with this socialist cause, or those of you who like many others, are bored with hearing about the inevitable collapse and constant infighting of an out of touch party. That this is not the main point behind my argument.
In fact the problem is deeply rooted in modern society.
The first, and potentially the foremost important cause of our now fragmented political system, stems not from the hard left, but the rise of populism. A cause which knows no boundaries on the otherwise regimented political spectrum. The most evidential consequence of this rise of populist sentiment being the surge of support for the Scottish Nationalist Party after the Independence Referendum two years ago. Which led in the General Election for the SNP to take 50% of Scottish votes, but perhaps more significantly 95% of Scotland’s constituencies. But this rise is certainly not limited to Scotland. Across the UK, we have seen an even larger scale rise of populism. The now somewhat ironic growth of the Peoples Army. UKIP. A party which received 3.9 million votes in the last election, and despite its disadvantages in the electoral system. Which has led to it only being one man strong in the House of Commons. We cannot ignore its pivotal position in both obtaining and winning the EU referendum.
How does this put our democracy at risk?
Well this is the big problem. In the 2010 General Election the SNP received 19.9% of the vote and 6 seats. In 2014 it was at the forefront of a campaign which though not winning the referendum for Independence still secured 44.7% of the vote, despite being pitted against the establishment. By the 2015 General Election it had the support of 50% of the Scottish people.
Likewise UKIP won a feeble 3.1% of the vote in the 2010 General Election. But after running a powerful campaign in favour of a referendum on our membership of the European Union, it secured 4.4 million votes in the European Parliament Election of 2014, and then just short of that figure again in the General Election a year later. The referendum which they had been key to securing, was won. Once again despite the opposition of the establishment. Securing 51.9% of the vote.
Now this may just seem like some very basic statistics, showing general cyclical trends within the political system. But is it really just that? Does the fact that on two occasions the British government and in both these cases the majority of the opposition too, supported a view different to a very large portion of the British public, mean nothing? Or is it what I believe it is. Not a rebellion but a clear demonstration that by constantly going after the supposedly best decision for our economy or for our position on the world stage, that politics is missing what should always be the most important part of all these decisions. What this does for the community? What this does for identity?
This leads me happily onto my second point. Who are we?
The reason our parliament just doesn’t function anymore is because we no longer know who we are. For too long British politics has seen individual after individual make compromises on their principles so that broad churches of ideas can be formed, merely for democratic gain. When actually all this has meant is that little by little the electorate has been side lined and forced to choose between a metropolitan internationalist bunch or an elitist club backed by their besties. Both of which have failed to connect with real people. Now this doesn’t mean that I am saying that the SNP and UKIP speak for absolutely everyone. I assure you they certainly do not. But if growing support for anti establishment views, Be they held by; some bigots under the banner UK Independence Party, or nationalists within the SNP, or even the growing number of Corbynistas within the Labour Party. Shows us something. It’s that politics needs to come – I apologise for such a cliché phrase – back down to Earth. Politics needs to work for people again.
Now as revolutionary as this sounds it honestly doesn’t require much. All it needs is for everyone in this country to have a vote worth the same. For the vote of a 52-year-old man up in Inverness, to be worth the same as an 18-year-old girl down in Brighton. For everyone in this country to be respected equally.
This will inevitably for those of you who have already clocked onto the constitutional issue posed by this, require a change of electoral system. But not the futile choice of AV selected by the Liberal Democrats in the 2011 Referendum. Oh no this change needs to be made of sterner stuff. But this is an issue which deserves its own article, so we will only focus on that key principle today. Equality.
In order to obtain true equality within our electoral system, we may also have to look at the concept of equal funding for political parties. Another issue within its own right, but an issue which I personally believe needs to be looked at more closely. Is it fair for those with more money to back campaigns which support them – a select few – over the rest of the country. Or should we ensure that every view is held up by its merits, not by its funds, so that we as a country can select the manifesto and the leadership we think would best deliver what we think is right for our communities and for our families.
To conclude I would like to stress that this is not a cry out against the decisions the government has been making. I myself, supported the Better Together Campaign in 2014, the Labour Party in the EP Election of 2014, the Labour Party again in the General Election of 2015, the Tories in the Local and Mayoral Elections of 2016 and finally Stronger IN in 2016. But I am presenting a warning. Unless we change the political system to once again represent the people it governs, as a country we will be faced by threats of a more extreme nature, and a bitter vengeance alongside it. I assure you we have many surprises left to come, no matter how unlikely that may currently seem.
In the words of my all time favourite Prime Minister John Major.
“Wake up my fellow countrymen. Wake up…”