Peter Bingle believes 2018 was the year that showed our political system is broken.
I am still old enough to remember Bill Pitt, Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins winning sensational by-election victories in the early 1980s. They represented a new political force created by the so-called ‘Gang of Four’. For a time, it really did look as if the SDP would break the mould of British politics. Unfortunately for them, they had to deal with a triumphant post-Falklands Margaret Thatcher and a Tory landslide in 1983. The merger with the Liberal Party also never really worked as Spitting Image so cruelly reminded its viewers.
The last twelve months have revealed massive structural flaws in the current political model. The Tory Party has, just like the Labour Party, always been a coalition of different views. At different moments, different factions were in the ascendancy, but the glue that held the party together was a set of core beliefs based around the role of the individual, liberty and freedom plus a respect for other people’s views. In essence, there was a basic level of tolerance …
The modern Tory Party is a fractured political organisation – not just over Brexit – but around beliefs that in the past would have been taken for granted. Unlike Thatcher, the current PM has no discernible ideology or vision. As a result, the government reacts to events. In these turbulent times, the result is a shambolic chaos. What makes this difficult situation almost terminal is the absence of tolerance. The different Tory factions hate each other.
In normal times, the result would be an election landslide for the Labour Party. Fate has decreed, however, that at the very time a moderate Labour Leader (Alan Johnson, for example) would breeze into Number 10, the party has a leader whose views and past activities make him unelectable. The intolerance which is now so evident and visible in the Tory Party is even worse in the Labour Party. Ask any sensible Labour MP after their first bottle of Montrachet about what is happening in their local CLP and their mood will darken and turn to despair.
So what is the solution to this sorry state of affairs? The status quo is simply not an option. The two party system is broken and disconnected from the country at large. The refusal to accept the result of the EU referendum may well prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The first solution is to introduce a system of proportional representation which ensures that no vote is wasted and that the House of Commons accurately reflects the political mood of the country. There would not be a Brexit impasse if MPs were elected under such a system.
The second solution (perhaps linked to the first) is a breakup of the current political party system and its replacement by a larger number of political groups based upon regional, ideology and single issues. There would still be major parties but they would be smaller and united around core beliefs.
When an old car costs more to repair than the car’s value, it is taken to the scrap metal dealer’s yard, compacted and then recycled. The analogy is apposite.
It has been clear for some time that all was not well in the Body Politic. 2018 has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it is broken to the point where it needs to be put down and replaced.
Happy Christmas and a very interesting New Year!