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The big downside of this election

ballot boxApart from the narrowness in the polling between the two main parties, the other dramatic characteristic of this election is the number of people who are profoundly disgruntled and deep-down angry at the Establishment, in which they include Labour as well as the Tories, and are likely either not to vote at all or to vote UKIP.

The reasons variously tossed around are that “they’re all the same/nothing ever gets done/there’s no point because nothing changes/I’m not voting because politics doesn’t interest me”, etc., etc. UKIP will pick up quite a number of these turned-off disenchanted – may even come second in a large number of constituencies – even though it’s led by a phoney imposter who was an investment banker and preens himself as a working class lad in a pub with a pint of beer in his hand. But despite Farage’s obvious pretentiousness and the fact that UKIP will probably end up with only a handful of seats, what that tells you is that the big parties have massively failed in the eyes of a significant and growing section of the population. So what should be our response?

First and foremost humility. We need to engage these disaffected non-voters and listen patiently to their grievances even if their understanding of the political process is often wildly out of focus. It’s too late for this election, but it has to be a priority for action once this election is over. And it’s not just a matter of Tory votes haemorrhaging rightwards to UKIP, the Labour party has its own problem with its becoming too metropolitan, too middle class and professional, too closely associated in ideology with the (Tory) Establishment, and too unwilling to stand up for the working class and its trade union defenders.

How to re-energise interest in, and commitment to, politics? One has only to look at the recent past to see what really turns people on is when their votes actually do count – at referenda on the really big issues. When representative democracy has signally failed, there is a key role for direct democracy, as the Scottish referendum dramatically proved. Referenda should only be used to settle the biggest decisions, but there should be agreed rules on how they should be able to be triggered by the electorate.

Second, electors in a constituency (say 10%) should be empowered to ‘recall’ an MP who has committed a serious breach of acceptable standards and thus force a by-election in which anyone could stand against the MP concerned. That would compel MPs to be much more focused on their constituents’ wishes and rather less on their Whips in Parliament.

Third, there should be a slot on the ballot paper allowing people to vote for ‘none of the above’, which would provide a wake-up call to the political class about the extent of disillusionment with their performance – not apathy, but aggressive rejection. And fourth, there is a huge need to revive political education in Britain which has virtually collapsed and yet is vital for an informed and effective electorate.

2 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    The problem is most are University types have never held a real job and do not talk to us, they do talk about us mind you.

    Tories and labour we are the parties of working people, labour states it’s in the name, what name is that Progress.

    The Pratt who knocked on my door seen me in a wheelchair closed the door saying sorry I did not know, he went next door and then I heard him say is everyone disabled on this housing estate.

    I said yes it is an estate for the severely disabled everyone living here got ESA from ATOS, most are ex soldiers who have severe disabilities and others who have had industrial accidents , and he said well waste of time calling here then and they left moaning.

    And that is the problem labour now speak for those lucky enough to have a job not those who need help.

    The sick the disabled we all know scroungers those without jobs because of the immigrants flooding in and employers who love them because they are willing to do anything for little.

    Labour are the party of working people it’s in the name, well what name is that Progress.

  2. David Pavett says:

    I really don’t want displays of humility. Nor do I believe in “listening” exercises. When politicians “listen” they hear what they want to hear.

    What is really needed is intelligent political debate in which those involved are properly informed about the different approaches so that they can discuss them and then make an informed choice.

    The place to start such a debate is within the Labour Party. After nearly five years of a so-called Policy Review, it is clear that those in charge either don’t want such a debate and/or have no idea how to organise one.

    Politics in the UK is dying. It is being suffocated by the PR men and the PR mentality that guides the main parties. If Labour wants to break out of that then it needs to start with serious political debate within its own ranks. No need for phoney “listening” exercises. Is Labour capable of organising such debate within its ranks? I don’t think that it is but I would love to be proved wrong.

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