I love politics. But I’m worried we’re drifting into dangerous territory. A poll by NatCen in 2017 found 56 percent of UK citizens felt no political party represented their view. That’s even though 80 percent of the electorate backed Labour or Conservatives in the general election.
I asked a friend, who classed herself as one of the 56 percent, how she would vote in the next election and her response baffled me.
‘I’ll vote Labour, I always vote Labour.’
She clearly missed the irony in this, and it got me thinking; is this blind loyalty to political parties dangerous? I’m concerned it will create a chasm in British politics.
In my head this is a very dangerous road. By refusing to read manifestos objectively without party bias, coupled with unwavering party loyalty, I fear we risk sleepwalking into a politically aggressive and uneducated society.
For this reason, I am a huge advocate of the need for reasoned debate in politics. A person has the right to express their viewpoint (unless it inflicts harm) and not be subjected to hostility. We are all guilty of this primal aggression when someone’s views do not align with our own, but we must learn to calmly debate issues instead.
Easier said than done I know, but I cannot stress the importance of the need for politics to calm down.
People’s use of social media is perhaps the best way to see what I refer to. With the increasing anonymity of the internet, it is possible to write abhorrent abuse to political opponents with no consequence, and no reflection on the impact inflicted on another human being.
Even more alarmingly, this aggression appears to be creeping into everyday life. The police recorded a 17 percent increase in hate crimes in the year following the Brexit referendum, and the increase has not fallen back down again. To me this is terrifying. As debate toxifies, with Brexit being an excellent example, and each side shouts louder than the other, we create enormous division. Hatred blossoms and that scares me. We all need to take responsibility now and promote reasoned, mediated debate.
I actually believe the entire political establishment is partly to blame for this divisive nature through their refusal to support cross-party collaboration. One glance at the House of Commons and you can see a physical problem. It’s almost unique worldwide in that the two largest political parties physically face each other in an environment designed for confrontational debate.
With heckling allowed- and almost encouraged- how can we, the public, expect to have a reasoned debate when politicians can’t manage to do so? Watch any episode of Prime Minister’s Questions and it’s like a low budget pantomime. The whole system is archaic, based on an etiquette guide published in the late 19th century. Can we really have confidence in a political system where the Speaker of the House is physically dragged to their Chair upon election, or where debate has to be stopped when a ceremonial mace is picked up (done by MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle late last year). I understand the need for tradition, but it’s time we set down some new modern rules to end this farce. We need to allow the Commons to be the home sensible debate. Only then as a society, can we all embrace responsibility and heal division.