When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

The old politics of fear is dead? Trouble is we need new leaders who are not wedded to the past

The quite ridiculous recent debate about renewing the Trident nuclear missile deterrent made me think about how out of touch our politicians and media really are. We have for years lived in a society where government and the press have told us what is good for us, what we should be concerned about and who are enemies are. Both also know how to get us to vote with fear in our hearts.

My guess is that public thinking is actually far more advanced than right wing journalists and the majority of our politicians may think.

Firstly, Trident is the product of the cold war and even Jeremy Corbyn can’t quite grasp that despite him being high up in CND circles. It needs to be phased out as part of a wide ranging defence review that tackles where the threats to the UK actually are as opposed to where they once were. Keep the submarines but take the missiles away, really! Or, we must keep the missiles because they provide UK jobs? So should we base our economy on producing weapons to provide jobs? Neither idea is credible public policy in 2016 Mr Corbyn.

Right to die – Apart from the few people I speak to with strong religious views everyone seems to think that all of us should have the right to die as we choose; with all the proper safeguards in place of course. Politicians and the press just get in a tangle about this without wanting to allow us to do what we want to do. If you can’t control your own life, what freedom do you have? If some folks don’t want to exercise a right to die then no one will make them do so but to deny that right to others is utterly appalling.

And what about our ridiculous drug laws which have had the unintended consequence of creating a crime wave that we can’t escape from? Is it not time to open our minds to newer more radical solutions that other countries are seriously trying? Yes, our present drug laws may well keep many police and customs employees in jobs but is that or indeed the similar argument for keeping Trident a sensible way of making public policy?

There are of course many other major public policy issues (not least the environmental catastrophe that awaits us if we can’t successfully address global warming/clean energy) but I use these 3 to highlight my concerns. Our ruling politicians and media barons try to control what we think and how we react because it suits them to do so. They want to stay in power/in control. But every few years they are forced to rethink their old fashioned ways of doing things so that they can try to stay in power and in control. Are we approaching another such change?

When people started to flock towards Corbyn (by joining or rejoining the Labour Party) they were not doing so because they thought he was going to make a great leader. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks he would be such a great leader. They flocked towards him because they wanted and still want change; to loosen the power of the ruling classes over us. In this case the New Labour ruling classes.

When Farron was elected as the Lib Dem Leader last year the same thing was happening in that radical thinking non-socialist people wanted him to challenge the old certainties.

I think it fair to say that Corbyn has proved he is no leader and that he is probably stuck in the political past. It is also fair to say that Farron is yet to find his truly radical edge to match what at times can be quite powerful rhetoric.

I suspect that both of them realise that society is changing fast but the Westminster bubble still pulls them towards the old realities that those in power are comfortable with. It will be interesting to see if either of them manages to set themselves free from the old politics or whether someone new rises to the political surface who is not encumbered by the old political baggage.

A look over the pond to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new Prime Minister, shows how radical politicians can break through. It may be in the fullness of time that Trudeau disappoints in the way some think that Obama has but both started with really positive agendas that folk were willing to support and even get enthusiastic about. Of course, a similar thing happened here with Blair and but he ultimately proved to be a great disappointment to many especially over the war in Iraq.

Oh for credible, radical leaders who are not prisoners of the past. The challenge is there but is anyone up for it in UK politics?