Your front-page story tells us that there is “£50m backing for new party to ‘break mould’ of UK politics”, (News). Once again we are in the realms of the short-term “fix” for a deep political malaise. The besetting sin of British politics has always been its focus on immediate policies and its inability to grapple with the political philosophies necessary to underpin any set of policies. Cobbling together a manifesto designed to fill what is defined every few years or so as a vacuum in the centre is certainly feasible but it cannot be relied on to deal with the crucial questions of what kind of society we want and need and how we inspire the electorate – particularly younger voters – to be active in politics.
I have spent much of the past 25 years working with new and emerging democracies around the world, trying to encourage and establish structures for enduring democratic governments. All that I and other equally committed colleagues could do in installing healthy electoral systems or devising parliamentary rules was ephemeral unless the parties had a firm basis in political philosophy. Parties based on tribe, religion, region, charismatic leader or liberation movement were all incapable of developing coherent and stable long-term government and opposition. We have an example close at hand in Northern Ireland, where the inherent weakness of the power-sharing agreement is that, apart from Alliance, the political parties are predicated on their attitude to the border and not on political philosophy.
Andrew Rawnsley says that “a new party would have to have a policy platform broader than just opposing Brexit” (Opportunity knocks for a new party. But will anybody dare open the door?”, Comment). He also says: “What is extremely hard is… to break through an electoral system that is highly hostile to new contenders.”
What we need is something like the wartime coalition. I suggest that the new party should have just two policies at the election: first, to cancel Brexit, then to enact a new voting system and call another general election. That would allow existing MPs to run on the new ticket if they chose, then revert to their “home” party afterwards if they preferred. After all, both main parties have many voters who are currently disenfranchised by the first-past-the-post system.
The new party should be called the Democratic party and should be led by one or more elder statesmen who would serve for one term only. I’m sure we can all think of their names. Let’s just do it.
The way to beat malaria
I was interested to read Robin McKie’s article about the resistant strain of malaria in Pailin, Cambodia (“Could a remote town in Cambodia spark the next great malaria epidemic?”, Focus).
I was born and grew up in Cambodia and…