We haven't had a working government in Stormont for 2 years now. It's a political stalemate between the 2 extremes of Irish Republicanism (Sinn Fein) and Unionism (DUP) which are, in all probability, irreconcilable. Especially, since the DUP hold the balance of power in Westminster and are keeping Theresa May in office and the Conservatives in government.
The same political stalemate is happening in the US with the stand-off between a Republican president threatening to close down the Government again and the Democrat-controlled Senate refusing to fund his wall.
Then, we have the political shambles of Brexit with Theresa May incompetently lurching from one crisis to the next and unable to deliver a 'deal'. There is political stalemate with Europe refusing to renegotiate and neither the Left nor the Right anywhere able to fully grasp the reality of life outside the Parliamentary bubble for the rest of us and deliver what we want and need and not just on Brexit.
The stagnation of politics in the West at the present time is because we are caught between 2 irreconcilable positions, the Left and the Right, or public vs private and there is no-one of competence, capable of stepping up and delivering a coherent and practical alternative. (Well, apart from me!)
The other problem is that the political structure and the policies of the Left and Right are years out of date and do not serve the world of today. The Right dominates at the moment because the Left have collapsed and failed to address the reasons for this. Tony Blair did attempt to move Labour from the old policies of the 70’s that had kept them out of office and towards the middle but unfortunately, he kept going in that direction and ended up more right-wing than some Tories.
The Right believe in capitalism, especially Free Market Capitalism which has been the doctrine since the 1980’s. It doesn’t matter that it collapsed in 2008; those on the Right still refuse to acknowledge its failure or to acknowledge that it worked best when it came with a social conscience as it did in the time of people like Cadbury and Rowntree.
The political doctrines of the left and right were drawn up when the parties were formed, either in response to or opposition to, events or social and political conditions as Labour did after the Second World War when the populace demanded change. The Welfare State was set up to address the demand for better health care, education and housing and to provide a safety net against poverty. However, the Conservative Party detest the Welfare State and have been doing their best to dismantle it since then. Their belief in the private over public is best seen in the way they sold off and privatised all the nationalised industries.
Here in the North, Sinn Fein are becoming strangulated by their ‘ideals’. Their refusal to sit in Parliament was a policy drawn up a hundred years ago as a protest against British rule in Ireland. Since they have signed and accepted the Good Friday Agreement, they have accepted British rule in the North so why are they not taking their seats? They also have a problem with the oath to the Queen but let’s be realistic about it, would anyone think they really meant it? Or they could do what Tony Benn always did and cross their fingers. If they were in Parliament, they could at least drum up support against the oath from other Parliamentarians and get rid of it altogether. Ironically, if they had taken the seven seats they won after the last election, they could have made life very difficult for the Government and since they were able to change their position on the EU from anti to pro within a couple of years, I don’t see why they can’t make that change.
The doctrines of the Left and Right, like Sinn Fein and the DUP are based on certain ideals. Each has their own belief in what the world should be from their perspective and they try and shape it to fit in with those ideals. That’s not to say that having ideals is necessarily a bad thing but when it translates into policies and dogma that are unchangeable and cause political stagnation then it becomes a problem.
The politic world is ripe for change, a middle way has to be found between left and right, a balance between public and private because as history has shown us, neither of these options has worked when put into practice. It is time to abandon the doctrines of the past and move towards a new way of working. Brexit has shown that issue-based politics has driven a wedge through the left and the right but it also offers hope of a better way of working in the future. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) it would mean the parties within Westminster would have to abandon their dogmatic political position and work to deliver a solution where politicians would work together to resolve the issues instead of trying to impose a party-based solution more concerned with keeping a government in power but which cannot deliver in the long term.
We need a complete restructuring of the political landscape. We should decide on the issues, healthcare, housing, transport, security, education, what are we willing to support through taxation, what kind of society do we want and what are we willing to do to create it? In abandoning party politics and moving towards issue-based politics, we would be dealing with the actual problems, free from the dogma and rhetoric of the past and instead, focussed on finding a solution to today’s problems. It would also mean a reduction in government and an end to cronyism and corporate predominance.
There should also be rules in place so that only people who actually live in a constituency have the right to stand for election in that constituency. This would get rid of the London-centric politics which has split the country and left those outside the London and Parliamentary bubble feeling disconnected and forgotten.
While many are worried about Brexit, we should see it as an opportunity to redraw the political landscape. Once Britain is free from Brussels, we have the chance to start over, to wipe the slate clean and rebuild society and the political structure. Margaret Thatcher once said ‘there is no such thing as society’, this was a very famous quote but it was only part of what she said, she went on to say, ‘There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after ourselves and then look after our neighbour. It is time to look after ourselves.
Change will come, the disaffection of the people with politicians and the political structure is evident across the world. We have hit an impasse and Brexit has revealed the failure of the Left and Right to find a way forward or to offer a solution. If we are to move forward, then we have to address the realities of the world today and create a political structure that serves the needs of the people and the country first. The day of party politics is coming to an end, change can be frightening but with a little courage and imagination, there is no telling what kind of society we could create. All it takes is the will to make it happen, we can be idealistic and wish for a better world but at the end of the day, it is up to us to create it. Idealism does have its place, it can and does inspire us to action, great men like Mahatma Ghandi were idealistic and achieved so much but it was achieved through action and by facing and dealing with the realities of the day.
Idealism fails when it doesn’t deal with reality as we have seen only too well in the last century.
Albert Einstein once said, ’Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’. I think we should learn from yesterday, act today and tomorrow will take care of itself’.
A few weeks ago, a bomb went off in Derry; a stark reminder of what can happen when the ‘ideals’ of the past, impinge on the present reality. When vacuums open up in politics and leadership (quite often between their ears!), the worst elements step in and try to fill them.