Tribal Politics In The UK Is Dissolving Democracy And MPs Need To Act Now

The job of Government is to take the anger and frustration that so many different groups in the UK are feeling about their future and turn in to compromise. Governance is about healing these divisions and unifying the very best of all of these ideals, not just the mainstream ones, or those that stir the most emotions.
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For democracy to be effective, parties at the very least have to function. The implosion of the Tory Party since Parliament returned has been difficult to stomach, irrespective of your political stance. The degree of infighting amongst key cabinet figures is accelerating. The attitude of some Tory backbenchers about Theresa May's decision-making on Brexit and position as leader is alarming. To add, a shaky performance from the Prime Minster during Party Conference season has not helped sooth irritation amongst her biggest critics. Some (and depending on your stance, most) of this criticism is valid. There's also the fact that May's large ambitions for a post-Brexit U.K. have been all but side-tracked by having to defend her decision making not just to the British people and to the opposition, but to her own backbenchers and cabinet ministers who want the hardest kind of Brexit.

The most extreme ends of the Tory Party have taken control of the political narrative and now the loud minority are trying and succeeding in limiting May's range of political movement. This phenomenon is not just limited to the Tories though. In the red corner, Labour has moved further to the left than we have seen in decades. Neil Kinnock, Labour Party Opposition leader from 1983-1992, is often vocal on Corbyn lacking a 'commanding, managerial capability, the broader appeal to close [the] gap with the Conservatives and to secure a Labour Government'. Many who have traditionally supported Labour are managing their own discontent at seeing a party in Parliament they barely recognise anymore. Jeremy Corbyn has indeed found success in his approach, particularly his appeal to young people, which has been tried and failed by the Tories. Take Cameron's 'hug a hoodie' slogan or the Tory Party's inability to enjoy any of the real rises in youth voting in recent years.

We are at a time in the political and economic history of the U.K. where we have to ask the question: Why has the political discourse shifted in this way and what are the consequences for the British people?

In the immediate term, the social impact of this shift can be readily observed. A variety of populist policies from right-wing Conservatives and leftist policies from Corbyn are the manifestation of an increasing rejection of the 'establishment'. 17.5 million people voted in favour of Brexit, a move that was billed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as an opportunity for the UK to 'leave the EU, not Europe' and become more in independent and agile in our relations around the world. With sixteen months before the U.K. has to leave the EU, the public are yet to receive a coherent series of government statements to which real accountability can be applied. Details regarding what the deal is going to encompass in terms of rights for EU nationals that contribute to the vibrant nature of our society are just one.

According to the Home Office there have been substantial rises in hate crime and this has to be coming from all parts of the political spectrum. We have to think about what feature in society leaves someone who voted for Britain to remain in the EU a traitor of the worst kind. My guess is that it has something to do with the populist streams of the Conservative and Labour parties and the personalities within them rocking the boat.

The 'minority' are by definition the smallest number or part, representing less than half of the whole and yet these populist ideas that have always circulated at a lower decibel are now reaching the surface, squeezing out the majority and leaving centre-ground MPs in both Conservative and Labour camps who don't prescribe frustrated.

Looking at it from a different perspective, perhaps a political environment filled with different colours is not such a bad thing after all. The myopic centrism we have been seeing for most of the 2000s and 2010s has contributed to the economic and social problems we deal with today. The time period was also coated with apathy and the alienation of citizens from the world of politics. Albeit with populist politics, Corbyn's engagement with young people is an astounding achievement. The mobilisation of young people through social media is not ground breaking but the decision to do so and the execution that followed leading up to the General Election in June has triggered curiosity across an entire demographic that was not there before. We still need to remind ourselves that just because people are passionate and excited about politics, it doesn't mean they are content. If anything it means the opposite.

Labour have indeed managed to galvanize a sentiment around Corbyn and his populist policies that is more unified in its approach than the divineness shown by the current Conservative Government. This is all surprisingly with the absence of a robust, viable alternative to 21st Century globalisation Corbyn refutes so explicitly. That in its self is becoming increasingly problematic for members of the Labour Party or Remainers who may support him on other policy issues. The problem with identifying so much of the party's image with Corbyn and how different he is, is that it could all crumble should he no longer be leader or the Conservatives choose a similar route. All it will take is for the Tories to identify a member of their party who is too, capable of stirring up such change. James Cleverly, for example may be the remedy the Tories need to make such a bold statement and enjoy similar success, not to mention stronger leadership than what they have now.

Ultimately, the current tribal nature of UK politics runs the risk of MPs no longer being able to consolidate those at the furthest end of the spectrum without succumbing to ignorance and exclusivity. The job of Government is to take the anger and frustration that so many different groups in the UK are feeling about their future and turn in to compromise. Governance is about healing these divisions and unifying the very best of all of these ideals, not just the mainstream ones, or those that stir the most emotions.


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