At 18 years of age the following statement may well be indicative of somebody who needs to get out more but it nevertheless is something which concerns me going into adulthood: I haven't got a clue who to vote for.
I should tell you that this has nothing to do with ignorance. I follow politics zealously and I see the capacity that the democratic model has for hosting pacified ideological warfare, which makes me wonder: why is the political debate in the UK so exasperatingly dull?
The answer is of course ploddingly simple, that the mythical 'centre ground' is the pursuit of every ambitious leadership. Of course the right and left still exist in academia, but away from the Lecture Theatres and Social Science Library the political options available to those who are not racist or apocalyptical greens are, in reality, just different brands of the same product. Of course there are nuances of difference amongst the red, blue and yellow parliamentary triumvirate but the deafening lack of atmosphere in the political arena is leading to a pandemic of apathy.
So how did this abandonment of distinctiveness come about in our political parties? Much of it has to do with the change in International circumstances. The death of the Soviet Union shattered the credibility of socialism as a practical ideology for governance and fatally weakened the left. New Labour is founded upon the principle that socialism doesn't sell. The Tories' venture to the centre has much to do with the natural growth of liberal morals, making it electorally unrewarding to appear authoritarian on such issues as the family and immigration. It could be argued, therefore, that the battle-lines have been redrawn by precedent and public attitudes - surely no bad feat?
My concern is not where the battle-lines were redrawn but how, over the last decade, they appear to be narrowing rather than re-widening. Left and Right need to be redefined along with all the shaded areas in between. There are major issues which need confronting and in order to achieve the strongest possible outcome there needs to be, at first, copious options which are debated, beaten down and voted upon. That is democracy. But in 21st Century Britain there is a dangerous consensus amongst the political classes which threatens to isolate the people from the elected representatives who exist to serve them.
The political spectrum has contracted and those beholding views which are contrary to the status quo cannot get their voices heard. The political arrangement as it is leaves no platform for those on the right of Cameron's Conservatives, Secularists, Republicans or Eurosceptics. (UKIP has one seat in Westminster out of 646). Having three seemingly interchangeable parties has led to debates on economic, foreign, and social policy being conducted within the confines of perceived moderation whilst ignoring more radical, but potentially preferable alternatives. There is not a party which truly advocates a small state. However unpalatable the unfettered adoption of free market economics may be, it should be a legitimate option to the public, some of whom desire it.
An interventionist foreign policy on the grounds of spreading Human Rights should be what the old left adopts as a primary cause to counter the energy imperialism we have seen under the banner of neo-conservatism. Instead there simply aren't realistic alternatives to how we conduct our international affairs. There are big issues which affect our society and our daily lives which simply are not scrutinised or debated. Globalisation, multiculturalism, the Monarchy, the House of Lords, abortion, faith and independent schools, the penal system and Europe are issues which I have strong views on but cannot relate with any of the political parties. It's not that they have contrary policies but rather that they have none at all or are in agreement with each other, surely signifying the death of democratic choice.
I am not naive. I know that I live in one of the freest democracies in the world and I would not substitute our political system for any other. But it can be improved. Party politics is not the issue as you may have come to think I believe: it is the Parliamentary system. We need not to kill political parties but enliven them and have more of them. Political Careerism is inevitable and the brightest sparks want to be at the top with a powerful party, not a fringe movement. This attitude is positive and avoids intellectual wastage. It needs to be easier for parties to access Westminster, gain credibility and attract heavyweight political figures; the national debate would diversify, intensify and diminish voter apathy.
Proportional Representation is the solution. Perhaps I am overly optimistic; I am aware that it is not a flawless system but it is more democratic and would lead to a vibrant Parliament which is home to alternative views alongside conventional ones. And so what if the BNP get a seat or two? If they won the votes they should get the representation. Parliament is not a liberal club it is the voice of the nation.
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