Time for a party?

January 9, 2021 4:00 PM
By Alison Eden

If you were starting a new political party, what would you call it? I idly asked my social media world this question over Xmas.

"We don't need any more political parties" was at one end of the responses with 'We don't need political parties" on the other.

Alison Eden. Central Devon Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson

Alison Eden. Central Devon Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson

Amidst the witty replies ('the party party', the garden party, the cocktail party) were many that reveal how distrusted political parties are by those who aren't active members and quite a few who are!

The rudest suggestion, which I must asterisk, comes from the Spanish husband of a vicar friend of mine: 'The not an absolute bunch of ****s party'.

So why are political parties so distrusted? Some friends who are not involved in politics at all made suggestions that show how desperately we need to change our politics. "The honest party" suggested one person in a more elegant and less asterisk-requiring articulation of the same point.

"How do you tell if a politician is lying?" The answer: "their lips are moving" is an attitude I have spent my adult life arguing is grossly unfair. Then I got elected and started to see at close hand why the public holds these views, especially at a national level.

I like the idea of an influencer in fashion who said 'Compassion party would be nice. Something that's been lacking for decades.'

"No referendums party" makes me sort of nearly laugh although my classical education itches to correct that to 'referenda'. Point made though.

The Equality Party? Or the Party for Social Justice? What about the Fair Society Party? said a former military man with whom I agree.

So from my reasonable sample size of respondents across multiple geographies and settings, can be derived one consistent opinion: politicians lie and we live in a world that fosters inequality.

So what to do…

After much cogitating, I conclude that we do need organized, structured parties because on a practical level, if all MPs were independents, it would be a tower of Babel in terms of ever gaining a consensus. 650 different opinions on wind power? No thank you… We have enough hot air as it is.

But we need a system that stops this endless ping-pong between the Tories and Labour. Consider this - the roots (sorry couldn't resist that) of the Green Party go back to the 1970s. That's 50+ years of courageous, committed tireless campaigning resulting in the grand total of one MP.

We need to make votes matter. All votes. If we had a more proportional voting system, everybody's vote would count. That would improve trust and involvement in politics. The idea that first past the post protects us from extremes is, in 2021's go it alone England, conspicuously false. Although UKIP and BREXIT as parties are/were diametrically opposed to pretty much everything I believe in and campaign for, based on their vote share, they should have gained parliamentary seats. If we look to other countries, eg Germany, we can see that proportional voting systems deliver robust economies - it's time for change.