In the aftermath of the local election results this week there has been a plethora of opinion, advice, criticism, condemnation and gibberish about the political way forward for Britain.
Everyone has an opinion and increasingly expresses it - witness this blog for example. Perhaps the big question nowadays should be something along the lines of: ‘Does the free and wide expression of everyone’s opinions actually improve our democracy, our way of life, our values and understanding of each other ?’ In some ways, each of these question elements interact to produce a collective impression of current day life in this country. Does it show a united and peaceable nation comfortable with itself or does it show - still - a huge and possibly growing divide between a society so factionalised and tormented by highly polarised positions on society, politics and the outside world ?
The visible evidence would suggest we are still in the ‘tormented and divided’ phase of our social and political evolution. Does that stem from a position of greater knowledge and an increasing awareness of the value of democracy ? Quite possibly not. The political and social knowledge we have is delivered to us by an array of sources that themselves have vested interests and points of view that show a degree of bias one way or the other; impartiality is very hard to express convincingly when there is a willing audience at both ends of the belief spectrum to gobble those polarised views up. As for democracy, that is a word so wrongly used that it ceases to attract any absolute definition that can be upheld by any society. We may think we have democracy, we may exercise our ‘rights’ in what is called a democracy but if it is put to the test probably most of us would have to admit that all we have are slivers of inclusiveness in the political and national decision making processes. We might even argue that Karl Marx’s philosophy that would eventually become communism was, on paper, an absolute definition of democracy. Reality, of course, doesn’t function in that neat and precise way. What we are left with are those little fragments of the philosophy that our chosen representatives believe we can cope with as a mass, populous bloc. The result is that democracy is not inherent in our societies, anywhere in the world, only the impression of it. That might beg the question: ‘Does it matter ?’
It matters at a certain level. It matters in Britain right now because our governance is at a crossroads. How a democratic process is not only seen to be upheld it is important at this moment in time that it is also exercised to the satisfaction of informed public opinion. That opinion may be flawed, biased or highly tuned to the affairs of the country - and the recognition and application of that national opinion should be the basis of a new governmental direction. That is, if we all desire an enhanced level of democratic involvement. Let us assume we do. On that basis, Brexit should have been decided upon and acted upon three years ago - the people were given the chance to democratically intervene in a national decision and they made a simple choice: Leave the EU. That our political classes have squirmed, manoeuvred and schemed to avoid delivering this simple decision tells us all that the democratic process has either been blatantly ignored or has been deliberately manipulated to fog and complicate the act of leaving the EU for the purposes of vested interest. That interest is not yours or mine, it is the interest of those who believe they have some divine right to be in charge of our affairs. And now that we are at the crossroads, it is time for the national interest - as expressed by the population - to confront that scattering of the democratic right to express an opinion - and through the ballot box pull forward those that we believe can handle our affairs just a little bit more democratically.
Political change has always been necessary. Never moreso than now.