Let the battle commence. It will have a British feel, with a veneer of politeness but there’s a lot at stake. Hopefully social justice will take precedence although that too must adapt to changing circumstances.
It’s clear that the present political system is no longer satisfying the majority of people. We are embarrassed by the lack of vision displayed by our leaders. Too often they react to create headlines, finding short-term fixes to perceived challenges to their flimsy authority. Too often they posture about the world stage, still believing that Britain is Great, and able to exert influence.
The Scottish Referendum has opened a can of worms for the Westminster establishment. It will interesting to see them squirm. Unfortunately that wriggling could prove fatal for those that believe we could create a new social order.
The first challenge will come from Scotland. Fired up by the democratic process the majority believed the existing political elite, voted No, and failed to leap into an independent black hole. Given time that may be seen as beneficial. Now the emphasis must come from Westminster. Will our politicians produce a solution that will satisfy the Scottish people? If they do how will the rest of the United Kingdom react?
The Barnett Formula has been rejected by its creator. Its machinations gives England £7,121, Scotland £8,623, Wales £8,139, Northern Ireland £9,385. Worse still East Anglia (I do object to our history being thrown away as they call us Eastern England) gets £6,144 just 83% of the English sum. As Lord Barnett says it made life easier for the politicians. Those likely to make the most fuss were given the most money. The serfs of East Anglia may complain but they rarely take decisive action, so their assets were quietly plundered.
What now? A federal state sounds attractive but England is comparatively too big. That needs to be resolved. There’s long been a north-south divide. Whether that’s a legacy of Saxons taking the north, with Angles in the south of England is debatable. It is possible to create separate regions within England. Those old divisions of Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia, Wessex, Kent and the South, with major conurbations given some autonomy could work. Although splitting cities from their hinterland will always create friction.
Rather than thinking of a geographical patchwork we could be more radical. Increasingly we all have access to rapid communication systems. Perhaps representative government is no longer necessary.
These are not new problems. Tocqueville warned against majority decisions, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warned of the tyranny of the legislature and of the executive. Such arguments need to be adapted to our circumstances. The oppression now comes from an elected body able to ride rampant, waving their mandate, telling us all that we can remove them at the next election. In the meantime, shut up, and let us make decisions.
The odious decision to invade Iraq, on a false premiss, while over one million citizens protested on the streets of London was an example of weakness of our democratic process. Such decisions are taken every day. In many cases the electorate no longer have the heart to protest. People don’t want to vote, and the political map rarely changes colour. Once blue or red then the area stays blue or red.
That could now change. Vacuums attract and the growth of UKIP is but one example.
One scenario could see the slow demise of the Labour Party, certainly in England. Their present leader is a nice bloke, but that’s as far as it goes. They need a colossus and it’s not going to be Gordon Brown. UKIP need to grow up, and quickly. Their original slogan must now adapt. Today 44% want to stay in Europe, 36% against. The real majority suggests we should stay but renegotiate – whatever that means. Failure to recognise that determination will ensure that UKIP remains a minority party. The real answer is to get more involved in Europe, to be change-makers, rather than insipid responders. There are danger signs already as neo-fascist parties start to fill the vacuum created by the lack of effective leadership. Britain should be in the forefront.
The real weakness may be in having political parties at all. They impose the will of the minority upon the rest of us. A decision once taken in a back room in Whitehall becomes mandatory. It must succeed, despite all opposition. That’s not good decision-making. Confrontational politics are for yesterday. We can create better systems. George Washington didn’t believe in political parties, but remains the only President not to have been elected with the support of a party.
Shades of the aristocracy still rule the UK, even though our present Prime Minister is a lineal descendant of King William IV with his mistress Dorothea Jordan showing that the wrong side of the blanket can work.
We could have an aristocracy of the wise, a geniocracy, but as few people take much notice of what I say that quickly fails. We see that seizing control by power of arms or deceit can work well. One of the advantages of our present House of Lords is that it contains a number of people who have excelled in their chosen fields. Rather than allow political parties to choose we should develop that system to encourage more people to get involved, both to serve and in the selection process.
There are other systems, most relying upon the proven skill or expertise of the candidates. Our present selection process for Members of Parliament is very unsatisfactory, and needs to be changed.
We are on the cusp of change. Let battle commence. Given the lassitude of the English I fear we shall not see much change.