After May 2014’s worrying UK local and European election results, it seems that some are drifting ever more right towards UKIP (local: +161 seats) and beyond. On my European ballot paper there were no less than 7 single issue, anti-something parties, out of 10 available choices. Where were the positive parties advocating full spectrum change, offering policies for joined-up government, advocating an economics that is fair to enterprise and workers and fully supportive of a sustainable welfare state? Where were the parties, apart from the Greens (local: +16 seats), actually promoting positive attitudes towards immigration and its cultural and economic benefits, rather than fearmongering xenophobia and racism?
So, I got to thinking about forming a more cross-party interest group or foundation. Perhaps it could be called the Purple Optimism Party of United Liberals And Radicals. It would certainly win the POPULAR vote! It will of course have to be a different shade of purple to UKIP! POPULAR could also stand for the Purple Optimism Party Uniting Left and Right, after all red and blue combined make purple! Then we could go into coalition with the Greens to be even more colourful, as opposed to the black and white, red and blue of existing polarised political polemic. The existing political debate can hardly be called a real discussion when it seems to be more about attacking others, rather than advocating anything new, constructive or cohesive.
I think coalition politics is here to stay as the major parties, Labour and Conservatives, are increasingly unlikely to win absolute majorities as more and more people become disenfranchised with them, leading to ever more smaller parties with narrower issues.
Democracy is a mixed blessing as it enables the 17% who voted UKIP this week locally and perhaps 20-30% in the European elections, along with further-Right parties, or indeed extreme-Left parties, to be represented. But that is the curse of democracy and freedom of speech, having to listen to and represent all views, even if we disagree with them. Our first-past-the-post system means that democracy is unethically restricted and yet it keeps extreme parties and single-issue campaigns out of political power. Were we to actually have real democracy and proportional representation then over 50% of the UK Parliament would be right wing and UKIP would have the third largest share of elected seats.
It’s time to acknowledge differences, even those we disagree with – but drawing the line at hate-based politics. Withdrawal from Europe is a perfectly legitimate view, just not one held by me, I have to say. Discussion of immigration is necessary, but needs to be done on economic contribution, cultural diversity and asylum grounds, not stereotyping xenophobia. Personally, I’m all for it, I love my diverse neighbours and community. There are probably as many Brits living abroad as immigrants who have come to this country. I don’t see any calls to repatriate all the ex-pats!
Similarly, pro-LGBTI sexuality and gender issues need to be embraced along with the full range of minority identities and protected characteristics. These include balancing same-sex and alternative queer culture expressions with faith-based groups rights to belief, worship and even preaching – with the same above caveats against hate or incitement to violence.
Freedom of speech, the journalistic, diarist and blogger’s right to write, comedian’s jokes, all need balancing with some degree of protection from insult, injury, offence, libel and slander.
The ever more atomised, separated aspects of government need re-appraisal as part of joined-up services. Saving money in one department can end up costing more in another. Whether job cuts costing more in unemployment benefits, disability and mental health cuts leading to deaths by suicide, or transport, energy and environment policies impacting on nature and climate over the longer term.
There needs to be greater holistic, full spectrum, joined-up rather than single-issue, self-interest, party-lines politics!
The POPULAR Foundation, would be a political party/thinktank/community interest group that was not about party politics, but which celebrated cultural diversity and international integration, promoting individuality & community.
The POPULAR party would therefore be an apolitical political party covering all interest groups, finding paths to work together rather than against each other, promoting understanding and engagement. It would seek to balance the rights and needs of individuals and communities, self and society, environment and economics, welfare and wealth, freedom and fun! Less about party politics and more about, well,… party!
Seriously, though, all parties have their pros and cons, okay, so some seem to have entirely cons! But we need a coalition of the Greens and their eco/environment expertise along with Labour’s emphasis on low paid workers and protecting those in need via the welfare state. There needs to be protection for minorities but also a Liberal and Democratic right to self-expression, freedom of speech. Rights to self-rule and independence from external governance need asserting and then balancing with absolutely necessary international human rights and justice agreements. The Tories championing of enterprise, creating future wealth, needs to be balanced with protection and provisions for those unable to work, exploitation by those at the top, and the environmental impact of big business. Small government versus big state needs balancing with community sectors, regional independence and universal access to services, especially health and welfare, that is essentially free at the point of delivery to the poorest and most in need.
Simon Sinek (TED talk) speaks about why we need good leaders that will make us feel safe and sacrifice themselves for our common good rather than sacrifice the weakest in the name of austerity, immigration policy, defence and justice – so called, showing strong leadership. Strong leadership protects the weak, does not sacrifice them. It counts people in terms of hearts not bottom line headcounts. It operates a US Rangers and Marines-like policy of “nobody left behind”, always go back for the wounded.
The current political lurch to the right is about self-interest and abandoning the weakest, disabled, mentally ill, asylum seekers, immigrant workers on low wages etc. How we treat the most vulnerable in society is a signal of our humanity, unfortunately at the moment it is a symptom of our malaise.
This post was featured on theneeds news site in their UK politics section.
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