The Party Line is…………..Accelerated Politics

On Thursday night, Andrea Leadsom could have been excused for feeling over the moon. She had just defeated her Brexit colleague Michael Gove in the second round of the Tory leadership contest and just one individual stood between her and the top job in British politics. It was a meteoric rise for her and on Friday it became an equally meteoric fall when she learned the first rule of British politics: Never fall afoul of the British Media. In an uncensored newspaper interview, she single-handedly took a wrecking ball to her political chances in the biggest self-inflicted gaffe since Gerald Ratner’s famous “It’s all crap” speech of the 1980’s.

That inexperienced mistake has led to a weekend of ultimately futile firefighting in which she attempted to defend her position and qualify her largely off the cuff remarks. It was a fight she would eventually lose, as was proven when she exhaustedly conceded defeat. This left the remaining candidate and current Home Secretary, Theresa May unopposed and the de facto winner of the leadership election.

In succeeding Prime Minister David Cameron, Theresa May has been given a strong mandate by her colleagues to take the Conservative party forward into the next phase of its political life. Despite this legitimacy, she lacks the crucial additional component for any political leader, a strong mandate from the people. Should she come into Number 10 on Wednesday, she will do so as an unelected leader and will immediately come under strong pressure to call an election to obtain the mandate she lacks.

Great care must be taken in when this election is called as the UK remains at a tenuous stage in its post referendum state. An early election could be a step too far and would increase the climate of general uncertainty pervading the financial markets, but by the same token an election called too late would push the question of the legitimacy of her government to the fore. A suggestion could be made for an election in May next year when the current tribulations may be more settled.

Ms May faces division in both society and her own party and should immediately seek to unify both in common cause. She will face a fractured opposition in the Labour party and a strong one in the Scottish Nationalist Party, newly emboldened by its remain vote will both seek to undermine her premiership from day one.

She will face a strong adversary in the European Union, but an adversary that could turn into a strong ally as she will be free of the vitriol that pervaded so many of the Brexit candidates. In being a politician who voted to remain in the EU, she will come into this job being handed the reins to make the Brexit result a reality. Being a prominent member of the Cameron government, she will know the players in the game but she will be playing it at a whole new level and it will be a sharp learning curve for the vicar’s daughter from Eastbourne.

In the opinion of this writer, Theresa May was the best candidate for the job and represents a crucial compromise between those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to remain. I hope that this compromise and her premiership signals a new era in British politics, where a more positive, optimistic viewpoint is promoted and enshrined in the newly EU-less Britain.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………Open Season

The political campaigns of both sides of the European Union referendum debate used increasingly low methods to achieve their objectives, to the point where the referendum became a very ugly campaign.  Party divisions were magnified, mud was slung and no subject was untouched in the rush to win the vote.

Now that the referendum has been settled, the British public can be forgiven for expecting the frantic politics to stop and for everyone involved to take a breath.

Unfortunately, the divisiveness of the campaign and its subsequent fallout has infected each of the two main political parties, prompting a positively Shakespearean world where political loyalties are cheaper than House of Commons toilet paper and everyone is fair game.

It is a world of power broking, sudden political shifts and betrayal. It is a world of kingmakers and fall guys with backroom dealing becoming the practical exercise of political power. This is a world seldom seen by the ordinary voter and often only alluded to in the press but it exists just below the surface of political society.

In the aftermath of the referendum this hidden world has been thrust into daylight for all to see with the fall of the Cameron premiership.

In a scene reminiscent of Julius Caesar, Michael Gove has like Brutus betrayed his Brexit campaign brother in arms Boris Johnson publicly and finally. With one motion the Justice Secretary has seemingly dealt a fatal blow to the Prime Ministerial ambitions and political career of Boris Johnson.

However, like Brutus at Philippi, he will not be able to enjoy his victory as the perceived betrayal will not engender him to the Conservative hierarchy and membership. So Boris Johnson may have the last laugh as Gove becomes gradually ostracised from his own party.

Despite suggestions that the field of candidates be drawn directly from those who campaigned for Brexit, the defeated remainers were able to field three main candidates: Stephen Crabbe, Theresa May and Liam Fox.

Crabbe’s inexperience and status as an unknown quantity has led to his early withdrawal from the contest, but he remains a candidate for the future and could potentially form part of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

May remains a strong figure within the Conservative party and has garnered strong support from Ministers and backbench MP’s since she declared her candidacy last week. She has come into this campaign with a good record as Home Secretary and is the candidate to beat. It remains to be seen if she will survive the new climate of backroom alliances and skullduggery, but she stands a very good chance of succeeding Cameron if she does.

Although Liam Fox is an experienced political operator, he’s also been forced to withdraw early from the contest due to lack of support within the party. He has been keen to support Theresa May and will like Crabbe, look to be involved within her cabinet should she be elected.

With the excommunication of Gove and the demise of Johnson, Andrea Leadsom has moved forward as the only Brexit campaigner present since day one. A popular figure during the campaigns and debates, she should command a strong vote from the Brexit contingent of the Conservative party. That vote may not be enough in the contest against such a strong opposition figure as Theresa May.

Any prospective leader of the Conservative party must have a strong beneficial presence in the media, because the media is the most powerful tool to aid the success or failure of the candidate in the leadership contest and afterward in their government. The principle individual to negotiate with in this instance is Rupert Murdoch, owner of two of the UK’s biggest newspapers The Sun and The Times.  Candidates must have his support be it covertly or publicly, but great care must be taken in obtaining this support as Mr Murdoch has had a very fractured relationship with both the British public and political classes. That being said, an endorsement of this sort would carry great weight in the days to come.

While the travails affecting the Conservative party have been aired publicly, the problems within the Labour party have largely been confined to private infighting. Mass resignations have rendered the shadow cabinet a shadow of its former self and severely affected its ability to function as a political opposition.

These resignations and the subsequent activity in the media by those who have resigned have at their heart one aim: the removal of Jeremy Corbyn from his post as party leader. Many of these individuals were unhappy with the appointment of Corbyn as leader, but could not be seen to air their distaste for his appointment due to the groundswell of support from ordinary party members and the trade unions.

Using Labour’s lack of definite activity in the referendum as a catalyst, these individuals have finally found a platform on which they can attack Mr Corbyn’s leadership with any certainty of success, staging a coup d’état against him. The party has conducted a vote of no confidence, (the traditional signal for a candidate to resign) which he soundly lost. Perceptually Corbyn’s position as leader is becoming more and more untenable by the day.

But like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, Jeremy Corbyn remains unmovable because of two key elements: the aforementioned popular support of the ordinary party members (numbering almost 200,000) and the support of the largest trade union in the UK: Unite and its chief Len McCluskey.

The trade unions, being the kingmakers of the Labour party remain its strongest constituent part and as recent history has shown, if you have the support of the unions you get to be leader. In this fractured environment, McCluskey’s unwavering support of Corbyn remains his greatest political weapon, which he can wield to crush any opposition from within the party.  If the support disappears, Mr Corbyn will undoubtedly be cast into the political wilderness.

This sort of dog eat dog environment can challenge even the stoutest of political heart and doesn’t exude an image of trustworthiness to the average voting age individual. The candidate who emerges from this sort of contest will undoubtedly face even tougher challenges as they step up to the top job in their respective party.

However, in a world where a media mogul can change the destiny of an incumbent government with a few well-placed stories or a union leader can push an entire body of workers to favour one candidate over another, it is important to stay ahead of the game, otherwise you risk becoming the next casualty of the great political turkey shoot.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is……….Exit Strategy

We came, we saw, we voted and we left.  In the tumult of the hours that followed the result, that decision was cross-examined with the voraciousness of a person questioning his identity. Had we changed so much? Had we been so eager to leave that we had become something dark and twisted? What was next for us?

There can be no doubt, last Thursday’s vote was a watershed moment in British politics as despite all the warnings and trepidation, we voted to leave an organisation that had been an integral part of the British political system for the last 40 years.

It seemed that the decision took everyone by surprise, not least the voters who took to social media to express their disbelief, their dissatisfaction and their anger. The enfranchised but largely absent younger generation accused the older generation of robbing them of their future and their elders accused them of seeking to preserve the status quo at the expense of British sovereignty.

Division and infighting was not limited to the voters, as the politicians of all parties dissolved into factions and threw many of their colleagues to the press wolves. As the strongest advocate of the remain argument, the first casualty was Prime Minister Cameron albeit with a proviso to leave in October. Sensing opportunity, dissatisfied Labour MP’s have launched an abortive coup attempt against their leader Jeremy Corbyn and it seems that before long he will have to defend his administration from a rival within the party.

Amidst all the shock, political infighting and market uncertainty, the principal problem of delivering on the exit vote moved from an afterthought to the prime concern of the UK Government. Despite all the contingency planning, there is still a lot to do before the UK can officially leave the European Union.

A coherent plan and resulting legislatory changes are required before the UK can activate Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Committees are currently being drawn up to make such a plan a legal reality.

David Cameron, in moving quickly to resign his premiership has made one of the shrewdest political moves of his career. In making this move, he both physically abdicates responsibility for the next phase in the exit while at the same time perceptually abdicating responsibility for its potential failure and after effects.

The Brexiteers, newly legitimized by the vote are now the frontrunners to administer the new process as their dissenting voices now become the perceived democratic voice of the nation. They now have the burden of making the vote a reality placed upon their shoulders. The earliest indications seem to be that they were so unprepared for the prospect of winning the referendum vote that they didn’t feel it necessary to plan for the eventuality.  The centrist politicians within the campaign who have campaigned hard over the months are now losing political ground every day by not presenting the next stage in the process to the British people.

The only one still speaking is the right-wing leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, emboldened by both the vindication of his parties’ core aim and the prospect of now losing his job has taken the opportunity to vociferously attack the EU in speeches and prose. As the only one speaking from the campaign he devalues the legitimacy of the moderate Brexit argument with his right wing barracking of the EU.

The longer he continues to act without censure, the more the leaders of the EU are likely to make our exit harder. Moderate voices must act and show the EU that the British people are not a bunch of anti- EU zealots.

These moderate voices now have their own problems, in the forthcoming Conservative leadership contest with each member of the Brexit campaign now vying for a seat at the top table.  One may win, or none may win as the party could vote to select a candidate independent of the campaign to administer the next stage in the process and carry the UK forward alone.

The problem now is that the resignation of the Prime Minister and his commitment not to activate article 50 of the treaty of Lisbon have placed the next stage in the process on hold for the next four months. Europe cannot push us out and likewise we cannot see what the consequences of the result are. It is a quandary which creates a lot of uncertainty in both political society and financial markets.

Our former European partners also fall victim to this quandary, as continued UK presence within the EU makes it a poisoned partnership and drags the other nations into our uncertainty.  The EU cannot afford to keep us in but they also cannot be seen to accelerate our exit as it would give other dissenting nations the opportunity to voice their own concerns about the European experiment.

A nation reluctant to move quickly to the exit door and an entity motivated to move them out as quickly as possible with undoubtedly come into conflict. With the exit process taking potentially up to two years, European haste and British reluctance to proceed without a coherent plan will continue to make the environment of the EU a very uncertain place.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………Decision time

Friday’s Britain will be a very different place to Thursday’s one. The political shockwave will reverberate around the UK and the corridors of power in Europe, it will be a watershed moment in British politics as the nation decides its own destiny.

In or Out? Are decisions rarely ever that simple?

We claw at the truth of each argument like a man in the dark searching for a light switch, groping anything in search of illumination. It is an old struggle that the political establishment in Britain have been keen to maintain as it keeps them in power.

Every individual of voting age in the UK needs to make their own selective judgment on this issue and right or wrong, at least their vote will be theirs and not the politicians or the doomsayers.

I say doomsayers, because regardless of their politics there have been prophets of doom on both sides preaching Armageddon both social and economic. Leaving or remaining in the EU was always going to be a leap in the dark and as such it has brought out those previously unseen divisions in Britain’s political and social structures.

Understanding should be at the heart of every political debate, except this one. This referendum is all about one thing and one thing only: emotion. We are at our heart, emotional beings with clearly defined boundaries and precepts, we know what is right for us and what is wrong for us and by appealing to our emotions the political parties in this campaign bring these precepts to the fore.

What sort of place do you want Britain to be? Do you want to stay in the EU or do you want to leave it? These are the issues at the heart of the debate and they are deeply emotional questions.

The problem is that decisions made purely on emotion are not always the best decisions. However in the clamour for your vote, the rival campaigns have lost the ability to win the argument through legitimate means and can now only win points by emotion. That is not to say that we have not been bombarded by arguments, statistics and estimates to the point where we are saturated by them.

I’m not here to continue this trend, I wouldn’t know where to start and wouldn’t presume to judge your feelings or predisposition on the EU. Do I need to? If you’re anything like me you’ve probably already made up your mind on which way you will vote.

You are reading my blog, so I assume you want to know my view and over the past few months I’ve expressed my feelings on the referendum, how it’s been conducted and the fundamental arguments involved.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Today I can confirm that I will be voting for the UK to leave the European Union.

Now that the shock of this knowledge has sunk in, I’ll explain why.

In any scientific experiment there are things that work and things that don’t. If the things that work outweigh the things that don’t the experiment succeeds and vice versa. The weight of either determines the success of failure of the experiment. The EU is an experiment in political and fiscal union.

While the EU started out as an experiment that worked, the number of adaptations made to it over the years as it has expanded has stopped it functioning as a viable political entity. It is a clunky inefficient organisation that does not exercise its political authority in a manner which benefits all. If it did, there would be no discord and federal union would be a practical reality.

Of course the central tenets of free movement and integration between countries are worthwhile goals, we live in a globalized world and co-operation helps achieve the highest of human goals, but these tenets must be executed correctly and in a manner that benefits all.

Citizens must be able to say to their leaders “your approach is not working, try something different” without fear of being labelled reactionary or as some have called Brexiters racist. Legitimate concerns have been raised and without practical redress, risk the whole structure of democracy in our country.

Claims, Suppositions and Estimates have been bandied around as facts and words like could, should and may have become ever more frequent words in the political lexicon. Saying that we should not undertake a course of action because of a fear of the consequences of what may happen is no argument. If I didn’t do things because I feared what may happen I wouldn’t do very much at all. I am are aware of both the risks of both leaving and remaining but neither will stop me from choosing what I believe to be correct.

I will make an important point here: I believe in the idea of the European Union, but the idea has been practised incorrectly in my view and is need of serious reform.  The problem is that the European Union is seemingly unwilling to embrace the need to reform its political structures, its reluctant to say that its wrong. Mr Cameron’s failed attempts to obtain a deal with the EU that was in the best interests of Britain is the best evidence of this failure to change.

We need a consensus in the EU for practical reform, but any such consensus is being overwhelmed by the actions of the larger economic powers within the organisation: France and Germany. Both of these nations have become so blinkered, so focussed on EU integration that they have lost sight of the fundamental precept of the Union: the idea of community.

Don’t get me wrong, we could stay in and try to effect real change from within the Union, but such a change has to be in our national interest otherwise why bother. All signs point to a similar reluctance to change as highlighted earlier and I believe that any attempt to reform the EU will be widely opposed and shouted down. I honestly believe that a vote to remain on Thursday will not be the end of the debate and this issue will continue to rear its head in the politics of the next 50 years.

Who knows? A decision to leave the EU on Thursday may prompt a seismic shift in the politics of the Union, shocking it out of apathy and into practical action. If this occurs and the resultant Union reform is successful, I will be the first to campaign for Britain’s return to this organisation.

All political schisms are fraught with uncertainty, no decision is without risk both short and long-term.  I am of the firm belief that when something is important to you, you do it regardless of the risks involved and Britain’s future is important to me. I want to see this country prosper and find its place in the world. I want us to become the Great Britain that I’ve always read about in the history books, becoming a greater world power and force for good.

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© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Security

Security. Peace. Freedom to exist without fear of terror. Fundamental truths that exist at the very heart of good government. Fundamental truths which are under threat on an almost hourly basis.

In a globalised world where individuals can move freely between countries, internal security and external security have a symbiotic relationship where one determines the success of the other.

Maintaining this relationship has become a substantial drain on the resources of nation states, particularly those who expose themselves directly in both militaristic and diplomatic actions in those rogue nations and regimes. Exerting this influence leaves them vulnerable to reprisals, both in their spheres of influence and at home.

There are however, mechanisms in place between the various countries in the world to both combat the increasing threats and to disseminate information across the various law enforcement agencies which operate in each nation.

At no previous point in history has there been such vulnerability in international security with truly international threats manifesting themselves around the globe. Terrorist organisations seemingly operating without borders and using increasingly covert methods of spreading their messages of fear.

Intelligence, both for and counter plays an increasingly large part of the international response to these sorts of threats.  Anticipating and countering threats before they occur forms a vital part of this, saving lives and preventing tragedies.

Mutual defence treaties need to be maintained to prevent the rise of a larger foreign power with hostile intent and to provide a check against further acts of terror. 27 mid-size nations defending the interests of a small client nation have a greater chance of stopping a bigger nation exerting its agenda, being hostile or otherwise.

The mere presence of these sorts of treaties and international agencies keeps the complex spider web of international interdependency working.

But with every success using these methods, there are failures like Orlando, Paris and Amsterdam.

Terrorists and criminals hiding in plain sight, integrating themselves surreptitiously within minority communities until the need arises to perpetrate their acts.

Far too often, these individuals exploit legislation designed for altruistic methods, such as the European Union’s free movement of individuals within its borders doctrine. Organisations like Islamic State have used the smokescreen of the immigration crisis and the Syrian civil war to place individuals from their organisations into these countries, exploiting the compassionate nature of the European Union. For every altruistic act, there are those who wish to exploit it, for nefarious and corrupting aims.

Migration of individuals from these at risk countries, is being closely monitored by agencies both foreign and domestic but one has to ask the question, where do we draw the line? When does the terror threat become so severe that we pull up the drawbridge and look to our own security?

It is a political issue that speaks to the heart of every community within the European Union. When does the Union allow too much terrorist activity to occur for it to remain a viable secure entity?

It is a vital issue in government and has been drawn to the heart of the EU referendum debate in the campaigns of both the Brexit and Remain campaigns. Dire prognostications of doom have been made, should the vote lean towards the exit door with assumptions being made that our security services will be unable to cope with ongoing international threats without the support of our partners within the European Union. What they fail to state is that the bulk of the organisations designed to counter these threats do not depend on Britain remaining in the European Union, they are instead internationally independent agencies. The failure of the Brexit campaign to explain this obvious distinction explains why the Remain campaign are winning the security argument.

But in utilising these sorts of sentiments, they are engendering a climate of fear to what should be a legitimate question: Can the EU provide for Britain’s future security, when it perceptibly cannot manage its own?

In a globalised world, we cannot simply baton down the hatches and expect to survive the storm unscathed, we must take a positive assertive role in preserving our own security. International Co-operation and intelligence resource pooling enables us to do this and should form the bedrock of what we do to counter external threats.

Relationships of this nature thrive on co-operation between nations and although the EU referendum may result in us leaving this political union, our greater spirit of co-operation with our neighbours in this area should continue as it is mutually beneficial for all.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………..Fear

Like it or not, we live in a world which is shaped by politics. We may not see it or come into direct contact with it, but it is always there lingering in the background of our lives.  When we receive our pay packets we are experiencing politics, when we shop at a supermarket we are experiencing politics and by simply existing in society we experience politics.

It is a beneficial relationship to both the individual and the society they live in, as both receive compensation for their contribution. A relationship which starts as beneficial will not always be so, as times change and society and the politics that govern it evolve. Relationships can often become toxic to both, with both individual and society changing radically. Toxicity to this relationship can often start with the smallest of changes to the political structures or outlooks.

The implied relationship between individuals detailed above leaves both vulnerable to the politics of fear. For example, politicians can be forced to bow to political pressure to avoid losing their constituencies and people present in society can be forced to change their political views for fear of losing something of value to them.

A toxic symptom is currently finding fruit in British politics: the usage of fear as a political tool. It is a tool that is being used extensively in the current EU referendum campaign.

I do not apply a partisan view to this statement, both campaigns are using this as practical political process. Only their implementation differs.

Britain has long been an unconquered nation in Europe. While other nations have been occupied and subjugated, most notably in World War Two, Britain has stood apart. This idea has taken root in the public consciousness and manifests itself in the belief that Britain should continue to remain separate. It exists in notions of empire and history, but in the modern age it has become a focus for anti-integrationist sentiment. Politically, successive governments have encountered opposition to proposed greater integration with the EU and this trend will in all likelihood continue, due to this fundamental idea being entrenched in British culture.

The prominent assertion is that British sovereignty should not be surrendered. It is this assertion that The Brexiter’s have exploited in their campaigning, claiming that the EU is steadily eroding British sovereignty and that this erosion, coupled with rising immigration from the EU is destroying Britain’s ability to exist as a country maintaining its own cultural heritage and perceived position as a world power.

This loss of sovereignty may have some basis in fact, particularly as governmental policy is increasingly becoming influenced by Europe, then again it may not.

The Remain campaign, frustrated at losing the immigration argument has pushed the emphasis of their campaign towards what the British people would lose if they were to leave the EU.

Legitimate statistics and estimates have become the ammunition of both campaigns, with The Remain’s economic arguments employing the more direct usage of fear. Bringing the cost of exiting the EU to a household level may have won them more votes than attacking immigration but it should be remembered that at the heart of the matter these numbers are estimates only. The actuality of cost to each family and to the country as a whole is not known with any degree of certainty, beyond the immediate future.

By the same token, Brexiter’s have quoted migration and financial statistics slanted towards two clear points: Migration will increase to uncontrollable levels and we are giving more to the EU than we are getting back. It is an approach that likewise gains votes but engenders fearful sentiment.

The campaigns have been supported in their usage of fear by an increasingly partisan press, eager to increase circulations and consequently revenue. Scare stories appear in the media on a daily basis, with different institutions taking contrasting viewpoints on the debate. The key thing that seems to be missing is clear objectivity. Although it may seem that they take a moderate view, the media coverage is increasingly one way or the other, depending on who funds their organisations.

The EU referendum is at its heart a debate and in any debate it is the persuasiveness of the argument that determines the winner. Although the campaign started out as a debate, it has increasingly become a contest of fear mongering. Politics should be about winning the argument using persuasive and ultimately right expression, not about using statistics and statements to make people afraid to exert their political opinion.

As negativity and fear in political campaigning becomes political currency, legitimate debate becomes less and less important. A climate of fear mongering challenges the long-term stability of political societies, leaving it vulnerable to extremist views. It vicariously endangers those freedoms to which we all depend: It must be stopped.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………Immigration.

Throughout the centuries, groups of people have traveled across the continents of the Earth. Some have done so for political reasons, some social and some economic. Often a key factor in this is the need to migrate to avoid financial/personal calamity.

Migrants from many countries have made Europe their home for centuries and as the EU has expanded so has the number of migrants coming into it. The unrest and civil war in Syria and other outlying countries has exacerbated the upward curve in migration figures, which has in no small part led to the current crisis.  Images of personal tragedy in the media have become grim reminders of the risks that these migrants have to endure to find a better life.

A central tenet of the European Union since day one has been the free and unrestricted movement of the individuals within its borders. It has become the sociological underpinning on which the union has built its economic and political success.

As this migration has increased the burdens on member states have increased, forcing them to accept larger and larger groups of these at risk individuals. Stresses, both economic and sociological structures have endangered the stability of these states exposing them to more extreme politics.

It is a trend that has not gone unnoticed by the many member states, in particular the UK who have looked to address the problem of uncontrolled migration in renewed negotiations with the EU. These negotiations and the eventual agreement brokered triggered the proposed referendum in the UK as to whether EU membership should continue.

This referendum is the greatest challenge to the EU since its founding.  Legitimate concerns about the direction of the EU have been raised which if unanswered will be only to its detriment.

Key to this has been the battleground of immigration and the free movement of individuals, it has been the central pillar of the EU experiment and is vital to its success. The problem is that this policy has failed to anticipate the population explosion in Europe. Since its founding the population of the European Union has rocketed to just over 508 million individuals.

508 million individuals….. it seems an insane number doesn’t it? All the signs are that this will increase exponentially over the next 25 years as new states join the European Union. Many of these states are in economic collapse with record levels of poverty and unemployment, yet are allowed into the EU. This “perfect storm” of circumstantial forces has prompted many to migrate both legally and illegally to those more affluent member states.

Speaking plainly, these potential member states are simply not ready to be part of the European Union and the fact that large numbers of their respective populations choose to leave these countries is the best illustration of that lack of preparedness. Checking mechanisms which exist in the Union to ensure preparedness are often rushed in the drive toward greater inclusion. Migration remains a practical necessity in the globalized world, but migration without effective conditions of limitation will likewise be detrimental to the long term success of the EU.

Policies implemented by the UK government that have attempted to control migration into the UK by these increased numbers of migrants have utterly failed under the weight of political and judicial pressure from this free movement obsessed Union. Unwanted migration, coupled with the overtly “ever closer union” agenda being pursued by the EU has resulted in the current groundswell of anti-EU sentiment being expressed by elements of the British parliament and its populous. The practical expression of this sentiment is the current EU referendum on membership and it has become a key campaign issue in the political manifesto’s of both the Brexit and the Stronger In Europe groups.

I’m not saying that EU idealism is unwarranted, every citizen wants long term security and prosperity for themselves and their children. The governments of Europe have done what they thought was best to avoid a repeat of the two world wars of the 20th Century and what they have achieved is truly admirable. The problem is that the idealism has clouded their judgment and prevented them from seeing that the world has changed and as a result requires a fresh approach to meet these new challenges.

UK exit or continued inclusion could signal the sorts of reforms which address this issue in the long term or it could be a case of out of sight out of mind as the EU continues on its current course regardless.  The proximity of the referendum has drawn this issue to the forefront of British politics with campaigning reaching fever pitch over the next few weeks. A similar ideological referendum on a larger scale needs to occur in the EU with the free movement of individuals at its heart.

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is……….Democracy and the vote: Time for a change?

Democracy.  Nine letters, Six Consonants, Four Syllables, Three vowels and One Idea: Freedom for all with restriction for none. Men have raised armies to defend it, more people have died for it than can be counted and as an idea it has grown into one of the defining political ideas of our age.  Yet for all its bluster, all its redeeming features and promises, all the moments of great change that it has inspired, it remains at its heart that same idea.

It sounds a wonderful idea, doesn’t it?  Freedom of existence, of speech, of expression and freedom from suppression by means internal and external.  Ideas are always very romantic concepts and it is easy to associate grand sweeping changes with them, but taking away all the romance and grandness, the reality is still an extremely interesting and socially stimulating idea.

One of the many realities of democracy is the ability to remove current mechanisms of government and provide new ones for the ongoing security of the populous as a whole. This is the democratic process and includes the fundamental concepts of choice and different political views. This choice is expressed using the electoral vote.

Still with me?  Good.

A vote is a very simple thing, a small piece of paper by which a populous expresses its collective political views. Individuals who vote are exercising this right to choose their political leaders based on the policies and views of that group in relation to their own.

Bringing this into current events, last Thursday there were a number of local council and mayoral elections across the United Kingdom.  Nine political parties contested just fewer than 2800 seats in 124 councils. Also four cities chose new Mayors with 36 elections of new Police and Crime commissioners. Aside from the general election it should be the greatest expression of the democratic process, yet if you were to ask the man on the street to name his elected official or their policies, he would struggle.

Surely in such an interesting and varied process, voter turnout should be 100%, everyone should be interested and energized by their role in this expression of public will? …… No not really.

In point of fact, voting numbers have been reducing steadily over the last 50 years.  In providing freedom of expression, democracy has contributed to its own decline: as numbers of individuals participating in this process reduces.  The public are disinterested, dissatisfied and disenfranchising themselves from the political process in ever bigger numbers.

At some point in the future, the turnout for elections will be so low that single votes will determine the success of political parties. It is a future which would signal the death of the democratic process, as collective will gives way to individual prejudice.

The problem is that democracy has not moved with the times. In today’s information bombarded, one born every minute world democracy has been left behind in a haze of progress.  There is no great need to change the fundamentals of the democratic process, merely the way they are executed. If you understand what is going wrong with the constituent parts then you can address these issues and strengthen the democratic process as a whole.

A thorough examination of the individual issues relating to the democratic process would take a great number of minds a very long time and would be beyond the scope of this essay. For the purposes of this blog, I intend to focus my attentions on the Voting process: its effect on the populous and what should and needs to be done to increase voting numbers.

A key factor in the decline of voting numbers is the sheer apathy that many voters feel towards the political parties. It is a symptom of the disconnection that individuals perceive between those authorities which govern and those authorities which actually implement policy on a lower level.  They may see the roads being repaired, but they do not make the link between the road repairers, the council they work for, the MP who represents the constituency, the parliament where the MP sits on a regular basis and the policy which is implemented by this MP in parliament itself.

Politicians and parties can look to repair this disconnection by merely spending more time in their constituencies among the people that they represent. By being on the ground, they can prove that they are involved in the community and that they care.  The MP can move from being a nameless face at Westminster to the integral link between the community he serves and the party he represents.

Additionally there is a popular perception that despite whoever you choose to vote for things will not change with “all politicians being as bad as each other”. This perception, in some cases borne out by empirical evidence (the expenses scandal of 2013) is not entirely accurate. Each political party is vastly different from its opposition in both outlook and policy: one may choose to favor one economic policy and another one the other, it all depends on the individuals and the politics involved. The similarities that occur sadly in the type of individuals that are perceived to constitute the bulk of the political parties membership; upper class public school boys or people of better means and breeding than the working man. Some politicians buck this trend, but mostly for the benefit of the media and revert to type once the cameras are off.

Putting all cynicism aside, the perception that politicians are slippery customers can be rectified with greater transparency in the political process and to some degree the political parties have recognized this issue.  They have begun to make greater strides towards transparency, like the legislator changes to expenses claims and accounting and publishing manifestos in advance of elections. The problem is far too often these changes are motivated by unfavorable media coverage like in the case of the aforementioned expenses scandal. More transparency is required if individual voters are to understand the relevance and difference of the political parties in the UK.

The problem of voter apathy has its greatest impact in the younger voters of the UK. While many older voters vote in force due to the traditions instilled in them by their forbears, the voting apathy that pervades those individuals born in the last 40 years has spread to their children and perpetuates itself.  Unless the younger individual is politically minded they may not feel that voting matters due to the previously highlighted reasons.

A system of incentivised voting may prove to be more successful in increasing the percentages of those younger people who do not currently vote. Implementation of financial rewards for voting would be opposed openly by those who do not qualify, however other sorts of rewards such as discounts and preferential treatment on certain council and government utilities would be of benefit to these groups without alienating the rest of the voting populous.

The voting process could be expanded to include the capacity to vote online, thus decreasing the need to attend polling stations. However the removal of physical evidence of voting and the potential fallibility of online systems/sites could stop this from being a viable plan.

This incentivised voting could run from age 18 to 25, providing a vehicle by which more individuals of that age could be encouraged to vote. Incentives could be provided for one vote only, with the promise of additional incentives for the duration of the period. To be truly impartial the incentives could be provided by a central independent authority set up independent of central government like the electoral commission.

Any sort of incentives need to be effectively promoted and mirrored by a corresponding increased emphasis on making political campaigns more relevant to younger voters. Utilization of social media, promotion in outlets frequented by younger voters, appearances by high ranking politicians at youth events would increase their exposure.

If incentivised voting proves to be a success with this demographic, it could potentially be extended to cover additional demographic groups. As with any incentivised system of benefits great care must be taken to ensure that the system is not misused.

Policies aimed specifically at enhancing younger voters lives would also be well received, although care must not be taken to exclude or otherwise discriminate against the already active voters in the UK. Dovetail this with the positive efforts to make individuals understand their place in the political process and we could see a significant upturn in voting turnouts.

As with the older generation, distrust of political figures is prominent but in this case it is added to by immaturity. Voting needs to become a mature choice and part of taking your place in society and this would involve a significant cultural change. Positive propaganda could achieve this, by using celebrities and significant youth culture figures and appealing to individuals through youth markets.

Some politicians like Barack Obama, have drawn on younger voters to increase their own political base and all signs point to this trend continuing into the future. Politicians as whole need to learn to appeal to all demographics of voters, not just those who form their key voting base as the apathetic younger individuals of the present become the uninterested older individuals of the future.

Democracy does work, the UK and the other countries in the world that have adopted it are proof of this success. If it were not a successful and appealing process, countries would not choose to use it in their political destiny. However, the fact that it works does not mean that it is infallible and should be maintained in perpetuity, things need to change in order to remain successful & thriving and democracy is no exception to this rule.

Recognizing that changes needs to occur to the democratic process by individuals at the highest levels of government is what is required. The biggest problem is reluctance to do so, but how long can we afford to let the decline in the democratic process continue?

Making these changes can ensure the long term stability of this unique system of government, providing for future security while being a source of encouragement for other countries to adopt democratic political systems.

 

 

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