AS MORE PEOPLE become turned off by tribal politics, fewer are prepared to vote for establishment parties or even participate in the electoral process. The Conservative Party is in government with only 24 per cent electoral support, the SNP in Scotland with 26 per cent. Three-quarters of the electorate either did not bother to vote at all or failed to get the government they wanted. We are now headed for a general election that the Conservative Party is all but guaranteed to win due to the other parties imploding. If, however, even the Tories do achieve a landslide victory, their mandate is unlikely to exceed one third of the electorate. As democracies are supposed to represent the views of the majority, we now have a problem, a big one.
For a century or more we have tolerated a system that fails to put the best people in charge or is predicated to work for the common good. A measure of how far off course we have strayed is the sheer amount of debt we are now loading onto future generations. The latest general election has yet again become a bribe-fest of handouts to get votes.
Those who work to improve their circumstances will be fleeced to bribe those less willing. Vocal minorities are being bought off, the private sector will be raided yet again to maintain a bloated public sector and our core services are in disarray due to short termism and plain incompetence. This destructive parody of government cannot last indefinitely. Sooner or later lenders will take fright, interest rates will rise and we will be catapulted into unchartered and dangerous waters.
We have an adversarial political system based on the belief that governments require strong oppositions to produce the best possible decisions. The received wisdom does not however match the reality. Oppositions do not oppose to produce better legislation – they oppose to get themselves into power instead. Their self-centred campaign begins on the first day of a new parliamentary term and continues throughout. We can only change this by voting for independent candidates rather than political parties. In time, this would lead to a House of Commons composed entirely of independent MPs.
Many people, including the media, find this concept difficult to comprehend. The Free Parliament campaign is about getting a substantial number of independent MPs into the House of Commons, making MPs subject to voter recall and abolishing whipping. But how could dispirit independent MPs form a cohesive government without being controlled by a political party? How would ministers be appointed and who would decide policies? These are important questions and ones that the media should be asking (they are all answered at the Free Parliament website!) Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate has become part of the establishment and either ridicules independent candidates or ignores them altogether. Why give free publicity to wannabee politicians who can give them nothing in return?
Some earlier ‘independents’ had simply fallen out with their party or been fixated on a single issue, however, as the present trend towards more independents continues, giving the electorate a much broader choice, the standard of candidate will improve.
The House of Commons is presently divided along tribal lines. The party in power provides the ministers to run the government and whips its MPs to vote as directed on pain of losing any chance of promotion. A small number of MPs will occasionally defy the whip but they are forever consigned to the backbenches. All MPs claim to put the interests of their constituents before those of their party but, as the record shows, very few ever do.
A House of Commons composed entirely of independent MPs would function much more effectively than the existing system. Ministerial appointments would be made from across the floor of the House with all MPs being eligible. This has already taken place with the committee system and has been an unqualified success. All votes would be free allowing issues be decided on their merits and in the national interest. Healthy debate would still take place but, with the need for political point scoring removed, debates would naturally gravitate towards the best possible decisions and policies. We would replace Punch and Judy with intelligent, impartial and informed debate.
If you asked a supporter from each of the four main parties to write down their main priorities they would all include the following; a roof over their head, employment, good education and healthcare, efficient public services, affordable energy and reasonable taxation. It would therefore make sense to have the fulfilment of these essentials put beyond party politicking. That said, it has become all too easy for us to blame politicians for the mess were are in forgetting that we elected them. Taking more of an interest in how our country is run would help move our focus from rights to responsibilities. Not only would this have major benefits for the economy but our quality of life would improve, our society would strengthen and we would once again be able to look our children in the eye.
It is futile to keep doing the same thing whilst hoping to get a different result. Not only does the present system not work in our best interests but it is actively damaging the prospects of the next generation – our children. We now need to ask ourselves whether 650 MPs, chosen first and foremost for their ability, would be able to make better decisions than a divided parliament of MPs, lacking in real world experience, fighting to preserve their careers. If the answer is yes, then we must act accordingly.