I was lazily scrolling through Twitter this morning when I spotted a tweet from one of my Cousins who has a politically engaged friend. This friend has always seemed willing to engage in an honest discussion, so I thought I\’d respond to their message that politics needs \’a new way\’. My first thought was that asking for a \’new way\’ of doing politics just seems lazy. We don\’t have a dictatorship, so if a dictator appeared on the scene of British politics and tried to take over – should we follow them simply because they\’re offering a \’new way\’. Of course, this wasn\’t what the person was suggesting, but I hoped that they\’d take my comment in the spirit with which it was intended. Fortunately for me, they did, and consequently expanded upon what they wanted to see in politics.
The individual in question in Nicholas Taylor, who you can follow on Twitter (@NicholasTaylo10). He\’s younger than myself, but I\’ve always had a problem with people that have sneered at youth as \’naive\’ – if you\’re after a new perspective and someone that wants to engage rather than dictate their views online, I\’d thoroughly recommend following him. Following my comment, Nicholas listed a whole host of topics on which he wanted to see things done differently;
- Reforming Parliamentary rules to develop more effective scrutiny of measures than currently happens.
- Replacing fossil fuel technologies with renewable energy sources.
- Pursuing prevention through the NHS as much as treatment.
- Improving support for mental health and social care.
- Examining investment in transport and infrastructure in a \’non-partisan\’ way.
- Generally improving levels of bi-partisanship.
- Modernising the House of Lords.
- Undertaking a programme of federalisation.
- Pursuing the Alternative Voting system.
Covering all of these topics within a single post would probably bore half of you to tears; truthfully, I\’d still be writing this post hours after I started, so I\’ll pick up on a few points rather than carrying out a in-depth critique of a comment made on a platform designed for brevity.
Not In My Name
The first thing that struck me about the issues raised was that Nicholas seemed to feel that the way things were being done didn\’t really reflect what he wanted to happen. This is a view which seems replicated among large swathes of the population to varying effect. Part of growing up is recognising that we can\’t have everything go our way; but like Nicholas, I\’ve never believed that we should just shut up and walk away if we think things can be done better. But unlike many people who throw a hissy fit and start whinging and whining when they\’re disagreed with, Nicholas calls for bi-partisanship; a political term which refers to the pursuit of agreement between political parties that usually oppose each others policies.
I believe this to be a mature and credible goal to aim for. With tens of millions of people living in our country, we cannot possibly hope to state that there is a single way of doing practically anything that won\’t upset someone. Unfortunately, the way politics is currently set up, we end up with politicians who make broad statements \’the Country wants less immigrants\’, \’all Brexiteers are xenophobes\’, \’the Country needs more infrastructure\’, \’the Country wants to pay less tax\’ etc. These statements are all true – but they\’re also all false, because the views of the \’Country\’ are comprised of hundreds of thousands of individual experiences and desires. By trying to label people in a certain way, our politicians totally miss the individual views of our country, leading to ever more raucous demonstrations that the government is carrying out things, but \’Not In My Name\’.
Our Votes Must Count!
To counteract this, Nicholas suggest that undertaking federalisation is the best route forward. Federalisation is method of government by which power is divided between a central authority (in our case, Westminster), and regional authorities (which we refer to as local government, or Councils). Although he didn\’t expand on this point to any great length, I believe Nicholas was essentially suggesting that less power should reside in Westminster, and more power with local government. This is a point on which I disagree; the country has just voted to leave the EU (notionally on the basis that we wanted to have more \’local\’ governance and national sovereignty). If we\’re now saying that Westminster is too remote as well, then why are our local councils any better?
I couldn\’t tell you the name of a single one of my local councilors. I\’ve never met one of them, I\’ve never read any of their work or had their actions presented to me for consideration, I\’ve never seen them on TV or heard them on the radio. I doubt any of them are orphans, or in their mid-twenties, or grew up in Nottingham – all things which have strongly shaped who I am. I wonder whether any of them are saving for a house deposit, or are trying to save enough money for a holiday? I wonder whether any of them have their homes broken into on a monthly basis because neither their landlord nor the local police will take action to prevent it? I ask myself; do these people have any idea that these are just a few of the challenges and issues facing me in 2017? If not, how can they possibly hope to take action to help me overcome them?
If my councilors are to know me on this granular level, then we\’d have to have millions of them up and down the country. What would happen when I told my local councilor that I wanted the police to stand guard outside my building to catch the punks that keep breaking in, but my neighbour said that they didn\’t want to pay for the police because they weren\’t doing anything. The councilor could only act for one of us.
Ultimately, I don\’t know what the answer is, but I\’m not writing this post to sneer at someone trying to improve the model we currently have. I agree with Nicholas that the way politics is carried out currently is farcical. I have absolutely no ability to stop the smog which put me into hospital earlier this year whilst my government goes faffing about with negotiations on \’Brexit\’, which truthfully, I don\’t care about all that much. If I had a choice over which one they\’d tackle first, it would be an easy decision for me.
Instead, I wrote this article to encourage people to engage with politics. In a little over a month, we\’re due to have another general election, and there are a huge mass of people in the country who won\’t bother to vote; or they\’ll vote the way they always have, basing their politics on slander of the other side and slave-like devotion to their own. Whether your politics are left, right or you aren\’t even sure what a general election is, please take a few hours each week to learn about how the system works and what you could be voting for. Instead of reading the same paper you always have, listening to the same people that you always do, and repeating the same views that you always have, make an effort to learn about the opposite. Challenge yourself and challenge other people. Get out the vote.
If you\’re not happy with the way the world is, you\’re the only person that can do a single thing about it. Cynicism and bitterness won\’t make anything better. Sitting in an echo chamber and sneering at the other side won\’t make things better.
Make a first step today – follow @NicholasTaylo10 and see if you can bring something positive and constructive to his thoughts. And if you haven\’t already, sign up to vote in the general election at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It\’s on Thursday 8th of June. Make sure you don\’t waste your vote!