Friday, 17 June 2016

How do we make Britain better?

I had a long chat with my Dad earlier today who made some incredibly interesting points about the state of the world today. His over-arching belief is that it is the duty of my generation (and the generation below us) to re-invent the way that democracy works. It sounds highfalutin in the extreme, but I sincerely feel he has a point.

I think almost everyone in this country would agree that politicians feel out of touch, and that part of the reason for the hell we’re currently experiencing is the desire of the British people to punish those in power. There is a reason why Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, and this was because we were sick of preening, shiny, media-savvy leaders who didn’t understand us, and seemed more interested in understanding how to stay in power at all costs. I personally entirely lost interest in Miliband when he allowed his loyal friend, Emily Thornberry to resign after making a disparaging comments about an English flag in Rochester. Many politicians, particularly on the right, are the product of boarding school educations. They’re pulled away from their mothers at too young an age and expected to fend for themselves without showing emotional weaknesses. They go to university after school and then immediately enter student politics and then Westminster politics without any experience of the real world or of those of us who haven’t been journeying on the same trajectory. How can we expect a professional politician with this kind of background to take charge of social policy? Even those of us with cosmopolitan values who spend our lives worrying about racists and bigots will never truly understand how it feels to live in Boston, Lincolnshire, for example, where 1 in 9 of the residents are Eastern European, or a suburb of Bradford where you’re one of a handful of native English speakers. For whatever reason there are many British people feeling utterly disenfranchised at the moment. And all of them feel that Westminster politicians have no idea what it actually feels like to be them.

This absolutely has to change. And now is the time for it to do so before we enter Civil War and they start sending the intelligentsia away to concentration camps.

We are still living with the consequences of Thatcherism: divide and rule politics, greed, an “I’m alright, Jack” tendency, a desire for status and money outweighing a desire to do good or help. This will always lead to large groups of people feeling overlooked.

But why is this? And more crucially, what can we do about it?

Ironically, what we need is more MPs to enter parliament who are like Jo Cox. Cox was elected to Parliament in her very early 40s and lived in the real world for the best part of 20 years. She worked for Oxfam and other charities. She understood the plight of people in Yorkshire…

Personally, I feel we need to immediately end the era of professional politics. No one should be able to stand for Parliament below the age of 40, and they should be forced to retire at 70. This will ensure that there are no out of touch fusty people hanging around, and that those who stand for Parliament have done something in the real world first. I’d possibly go one step further and make it pretty difficult for anyone but a former educationalist to head up the Department of Education and anyone but a health worker to head up the Department for Heath. We need politicians who understand life.

Secondly, and more importantly, we have to do something about the media. This is vital. We can’t have them whipping everyone up into a frenzy like this. It is wholly inappropriate for them to turn us all into baying harpies and then cry crocodile tears when someone like Jo Cox is murdered. We need a wake up call which makes us understand what the newspapers are doing in their quest for column inches, and learn quite how powerful they have become in shaping the way we think and behave.

Britain isn’t going to become better by cutting ourselves off from the world, or a sudden and irreversible shift to the right. Nor will we achieve anything by slinging every migrant out of this country because the newspapers are telling us that they’re steeling our jobs. A country ruled by those who understand life would be open to debates on immigration. There are problems with immigration which we can’t sweet under the carpet, but don’t seem to be able to discuss in a climate where anyone who says anything negative about immigration is branded a racist. The press allows us to be all too easily offended. They turn the wonderful colours and shades of the world black and white. There’s a major issue in this country with white, working class men of retirement age who feel utterly ignored by politicians. They’re angry and there are way too many of them to blithely ignore. A better Britain will be discovered through being better at listening to and understanding people, and not through holding knee-jerk referendums which we, as a nation, are not yet mature enough to cope with.

I leave you with one quote, which very much picked me up today.

A letter to a man who had lost faith in humanity:

Dear Mr Nadeau, 

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


E. B. White

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