Be An Activist, Not An Apologist

The European elections are unique in British political life in the sense that a) people have no idea who represents them so they vote purely on a party basis, b) they do not see it as an election where the issues count as the European Parliament is (wrongly) assumed to be an obscure body that does not really affect them, and c) people are more willing to cast protest votes because after a) and b), they don’t think it will do any long term harm.
 
There has been much horror about the apparent success of the BNP. I share that sense of horror. This is a shameful moment for Britain but we now have the chance more than ever, whatever our political persuasion, to scrutinise them to the bone, take them on and expose them for the fascist opportunists they are in reality beneath the natty suits and the softened language.
 
Let’s focus for a moment on the three major parties. The Conservatives did, to be fair, do well but they did not achieve the same level of support as they did in the local elections. The Liberal Democrats, despite the mildly delusional claims of Nick Clegg, did badly and lost seats. We should not forget that almost half of their supporters are euro-sceptic and this is often exposed in European elections when their federalist views are front and centre.
 
As we all know, the Labour Party suffered unprecedented losses and fell behind UKIP into third place. The first loss to the Tories in Wales since the khaki election of 1918 and the first nationwide loss in Scotland must leave their supporters desperate and many MPs hastily preparing their CVs, like so many people in this country have done in the last 12 months.
 
It’s an undeniable mess. The EU elections always create a mess for the three reasons I started this blog with. It also gives the smaller parties a chance to prosper. Even before proportional representation, the Greens won 2.2 million votes and 15 per cent of the vote in 1989 in the dying days of the Thatcher administration.
 
That doesn’t mean we should take the results lightly. We have seen a record number of UKIP MEPs elected, a motley crew of political golf club bores and barrack room lawyers who lack any coherent vision – with some even saying we should stay in the EU – and of course the BNP representatives.
 
It’s not a proud moment but let’s avoid this collective self-flagellation that we seem to be indulging in by assigning blame on PR, on the expenses scandal and on the lack of trust in Britain’s main parties. That doesn’t get us anywhere and plays into the hands of extremists if we, the mainstream, seem unable to offer the answers.
 
We should not simply placate those who voted for the BNP either because they share their racist views or indulged in the most abhorrent form of protest vote. We need to challenge them and to show them that mainstream parties do have the answers rather than any knee-jerk reaction in the form of “tougher” immigration policies.
 
On a wider level, politicians must not do the predictable and beat themselves or each other up about this set of results. Let’s get on with fixing the expenses system. It’s not difficult. There are plenty of simple solutions out there. Let’s get on with discussing the (improving) economy,  education, the NHS.
 
Then we can go out there not as apologists but as activists with our heads held high to fight this perceived lack of trust in politicians. It will spread like a cancer if we do not address it aggressively and regularly.
 
Politicians are decent people, in most cases, and are in political life for the right reasons. The public needs to understand this and politicians should not be afraid to confront the media and the public with this fact if necessary. This can only happen if we have something positive to offer. An alternative to the gutter politics which fuels reactionary voices and cynicism.
 
If this country is going to get out of this recession it needs optimism that its politicians are on the side of the people and are focused on this challenge. All parties need to take this on board and must offer new ideas, not just on the economy but on other big issues facing our society that people really care about and that we are hearing nothing about at the moment.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

One response to “Be An Activist, Not An Apologist

  1. At least UKIP have a group in the EU Parliament; I have no idea how the Tories plan to get anything done!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s