The nature of power in a democracy: where New Labour went very, very wrong

Just as Ed Miliband starts to show signs of being able to listen (the cynic in me thinks that it is for the all the wrong reasons, but we have to live in hope) and even, maybe, Labour representatives having an idea or two, up pops Tony Blair announcing that he thinks Labour can’t win on a traditional left platform.

In one sentence he sets out all that is wrong with current politics, current parties and far too many current politicians (ta for that and I suppose for Northern Ireland. Now go away).

You aren’t there ‘to win’. You aren’t there just to grab power – power to do what? You are there to represent us, the people of Great Britain, and our collective public interest.

In a truly representative parliamentary democracy what should be happening is that 1) voters vote for the candidate they feel represents their views; 2) those views are then taken to parliament; 3) parliament together debates issues of national interest, bringing together all the different points of view and information on how issues will affect everybody; and 4) ideally those views are then taken on board by the executive and influence policy. At the very least the voices in parliament (of whatever side, I don’t like whips) should always be scrutinising the executive’s decisions, voting against the policies they disagree with, and forcing compromise.

All of these steps appear to be missing or non-existent. Instead we seem to have simply a mad rush to be the first to grab the executive central power, in what everyone now refers to as Britain’s ‘first past the post system’, which then imposes whatever madness it feels like upon the whole population. Might I ask exactly what Tony Blair wants to see that power used for? Why oh why didn’t he just join the Tories in the first place?

Labour were originally the voices of the working people of this country. When Tony Blair ditched the “traditional left platform”, he was ditching them, and not just for himself. In seizing the centre of politics for his battleground he cut the views of the majority of Britain’s population out of the decision-making process completely. In continuing with traditional centre political policies he deprived all the people of Britain of different voices, different compromises. And in doing so he directly caused the loss of faith and confusion among voters that we see today.

I can see what I believe to be his point of view: his predecessor Thatcher of course was another one who ran roughshod over opposition of any kind and refused to listen to any point of view, any ideas, but her own. And so the only way Labour was going to claw back any real influence was abandoning the parliamentary model of debate and reason and grabbing executive power itself. He may have believed that the only way to do that was to grab the central ground.

If I am right, it is a classic re-statement of the old question “Does the end justify the means?” together with its refutation. Unless we are talking about actual survival (and the specific case would need to be proven even then), in the large-scale social and hence political arena the end can never justify the means. Because the means never stop. There is never ‘an end’. There is only ever the process, the means, the now. In forgetting the lower classes New Labour disenfranchised the poor. In disenfranchising them New Labour laid the groundwork for abandoning the poor to their deaths.

If we had real different voices with different points of view, experiences and information in parliament right now talking seriously about all the problems that affect all the people of Britain, including the environmental problems, we might be able to find some different solutions. With a weak central executive and leadership some of those solutions might even be heard.

This is why I urge people to wake up in 2015, start informing yourselves and look very seriously at all the parties. Let’s make 2015 the year that change starts. We need new voices with new solutions – and old ones that have been proven to work – to be heard in parliament. Surely the majority of British people see the problems that unrestrained Tory, unrestrained greed, and free market thinking have brought (even if they never learned or forgot that it did the same thing in the, incidentally, pre-public sector years just after the industrial revolution). Surely we can see that the economic golden age from the end of the war through to the 70’s was, incidentally, the time of the public sector and a restrained approach to the free market. Surely the majority of people can still see the environmental problems that surround us. And Ed Miliband and co – I may be cynical, but we need hope. It certainly does not need to be this way. Keep going, please, keep going.

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