Do We Want to?

The BBC notes that organisations such as the Caravan Club have more members than all of our political parties put together. Commenting on this over at Anna Raccoon’s, Simon Cooke gives us a personal flavour given his role as a councillor. I wasn’t aware, for example, that councillors have to stump up part of their income from their role to their political party. But, then, I’ve never bothered to look to deeply into the matter, having no desire to run for office. And, if I did, I would doubtless stand as an independent anyway.

I’ve done my bit of political party membership. For many years I was a Labour party member –  partially boosted as a consequence of union membership. I fell out of love with the Labour party pretty much as soon as they started wielding power in the aftermath of their landslide in 1997. The decline hit terminal in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the egregious David Blunkett went on the offensive against our civil liberties. My membership was terminated soon after that.

Recently for a while I joined the Libertarian Party UK. And didn’t that work out well?

Simon Cooke posits the idea that people don’t join parties because there is little or nothing in it for them. He may have a point. I don’t as a general rule join anything very much –  I have a Groucho Marx approach to clubs and membership. However, I joined the Labour party not because I wanted something out of it, but because I wanted to put something in –  much the same with my joining the somewhat dysfunctional Libertarian Party. I guess what I stood to gain was, hopefully, a better world. Well, we were never going to get that from Labour, were we? So, I grew up. LPUK was destined for infant mortality and was never going to change anything very much very soon, so we are back to why should I join a party –  or why should you or anyone else for that matter? Unless you want to impose your will on others, frankly, I cannot think of one reason why we should.

The BBC offers some reasons:

The public have grown cynical and disillusioned with politicians.

You don’t say? Venal, hypocritical, power grasping, greedy, thieving, authoritarian, vacuous bastards to a man and woman, it is hardly surprising we have become cynical –  although I prefer the term realist.

We live in a more individualistic age (Why rely on political leaders to speak for you when you can do it yourself on Twitter or Facebook?).

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although why Facebook and Twitter come in for a broadside is a little odd. Maybe because they are the flavoured targets of the moment. Blogging such as this is usually the preferred bullseye. But, yes, there is an underlying point here –  that we can openly exchange ideas with others about a given subject and agree, disagree or change our minds without having to worry about the party’s position, policy or what the whips might decide. We can come to conclusions on each matter on the basis of its merit, not on what the party deems right. Now there’s a thought. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be that rather more of the population is busy watching reality TV than it is discussing the hot political topic du jour.

So we come back to the BBC’s question; can political parties be save from extinction? In which, I would respond with another question; Do we want to? Or, would we miss them? Or, who cares?

17 comments for “Do We Want to?

  1. Henry Crun
    August 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Interestingly, this morning Sky News were interviewing the former British Ambassador to Libya. He was warning that the Libyan people wouldn’t be able to form a democratic government because there are no political parties in Libya.

    Which begs the question: Are political parties really necessary for government? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced the answer is “No”.

    • August 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Libya is in a unique position to make a fresh start with an absolutely clean plate as it were. They could easily form a society without political parties and good luck to them if that is what they decide.

      • August 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

        Then there is Belgium which famously does not have a Government at all and whose main political parties seem interested in Belgium becoming X-Belgium yet that country carries on quite nicely.

        • August 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

          I think they have now, but they didn’t have one for about a year. Still had a civil service running things, presumably, and there’s part of the reason why voting in someone new doesn’t change much. You don’t get a chance to vote in a different bunch of civil servants.

          • August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

            No, they still don’t have one.

    • Lord T
      August 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      I don’t think anyone needs parties at all. After all the people you vote for are supposed to represent you not a party. That is what is wrong in the UK.

      However that won’t be the reason Libya turns into a bloodbath.

  2. August 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    The days of parties need to be on the way out. There needs to be a different sort of forum now.

  3. August 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    But what new horror would replace political parties? We’re always going to have scumbags trying to control us.

    • WitteringWitney
      August 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      The answer, Michael, is that we control ourselves. Watch out for Constitution (4) & (5) in about 14 days time…….?

    • August 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Direct democracy would be one option, but not one I favour as it would merely lead to a tyranny of the majority.

      Maybe the Athenian approach would be the right one – without the male only membership requirements of course.

      • Lord T
        August 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

        When you mess about with something that works you screw it up 🙂

        Maybe they were much much wiser than us.

      • David
        August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm

        Isn’t democracy about majority rule? At the moment we have rule by minority.

  4. Robert Edwards
    August 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I don’t like them either, but they will tend to coalesce and cluster around interest groups – low tax/high tax, urban/rural, hawks/doves, etc. I think that it is more or less a given.

    But – the essentially tribal/clannish nature of Arabian politics – always there to a greater or lesser extent (it’s a bit different in the Gulf, which gravitates towards smaller groups such as the family) – suggests that there is ample scope for them to do it properly and make fools of us all.

    The elephant in the room is, of course, irrational Islam. I only hope that they can take one look at that and tell it to fuck off. But the vacuum which will be temporarily created once Ghaddafi in gone must be a tempting target for the usual suspects.

    The terrible example of Iraq may not, I hope, provide a sequel, as the vast bulk of the population is, despiteits varied ethnicity, homogeneously Sunni and, this, insofar as it goes, provides no natural conflict, so I am hopeful for them. Wahhabism is almost unheard-of.

    Because if the crazies get to be in charge (a remote contingency), then we’ll have to fight them, as they are not our friends.

    But I doubt that parties will develop as we understand them, as they are not necessary.

  5. WitteringWitney
    August 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    That we join political parties can perhaps be laid at the door of our wishing to mix amongst our own; our belief that, as you said, we may have something to contribute; and that, if we are to be ‘governed’, then it might as well be us that does a bit of ‘governing’.

    I tend to the view that political parties will always exist, although maybe not in their present form. There will always be issues round which people will coalesce, hence the birth of Ukip, The Libertarian Party, English Democrats, Greens, etc.

    The problem with political parties is that I do not believe one exists in which a supporter of any truly feels that they represent his/her views 100% – hence the floating voter syndrome and where the Lib/Lab/Con are concerned, a fall in interest and membership.

    Hopefully, my constitution thingy, when it is completed, might present the basis for the way forward….. (he says, tongue in cheek…….)

  6. Mad Morgan
    August 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Lord T:

    “However that won’t be the reason Libya turns into a bloodbath.”

    Took me eight years living in Arab societies to know this.

  7. Mudplugger
    August 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    The problem is that our political parties are ‘policy buckets’ and it is difficult for any average person to agree with all the contents of any one ‘bucket’.
    Perhaps one approach could be to give everyone 10 votes, which they were then able to distribute at will across the candidates. That would allow the voters to express the nuances of their views and support more sensitively.
    And it could produce some spectacular results ! (Which is probably why no existing party would ever dream of sanctioning it).

  8. David
    August 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve given up on voting. This is the first year I will not put my name on the elcetoral role and the bastards can come after me – I’m ready for them. I haven’t given up on politcs though and that’s something TPTB should be quaking in their boots about, because there are more an more of us thinking along the same lines. No wonder they’re so keen to threaten £1000 fine for daring to reject their elctoral fraud.

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