Let’s Push Politics into the Present

Alice Dyke:  Guardian journalist John Harris has written a piece on the need to transform politics with radical ideas, and the need to rethink the left-right divide with a ‘coming together’ and beginning new conversations.   He believes the Convention is one of a few good examples of where this has taken place. Below is an extract from the article.

“Put simply, the centre of politics needs shifting – and what heightens the sense of frustration with Westminster is the fact that all kinds of groups and individuals increasingly share a basic understanding not just of what’s gone wrong, but what needs to be put right. Large swaths of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, the Green party, and the progressive bits of Plaid Cymru and the SNP understand how broken-down politics is becoming, and the crucial issues that Westminster isn’t going near (even the odd Tory is on roughly the same page). The same applies to the more clued-up trade unions. Some lefties may be unsettled to hear it, but within the church, plenty of high-up voices are making the right noises – as, of course, are scores of campaign groups and NGOs.

This isn’t to suggest such a massively diverse range of people would even begin to agree on the stuff of hard policy, but rather to recognise that they have a shared interest in the same basic change: a decisive end to market fundamentalism, and a politics that can start to meaningfully deal with equality, environmental sustainability, and the broken-down state of our democracy. Thinking about it, there’s at least one policy on which you’d expect instant agreement: the long-overdue introduction of proportional representation for Westminster elections, from which a good deal of seismic change would follow (by way of getting some argument going, the New Statesman piece comes with 10 suggested policies that would kick things in a new direction, from a land tax to a living wage).

…all those people need to start talking – about their shared interest in pushing politics into the present (let alone the future), and making it meaningful again. We’re not talking about any kind of electoral alliance or lasting pact: both during and after the process of joining forces to shift the terms of debate, divisions would remain and politics would go on. When it comes to what form all this might take, there are past precedents: the Scottish Constitutional Convention that delivered devolution in the teeth of Tony Blair’s opposition, past campaigns such as Charter 88 – and, more recently, the Convention on Modern Liberty (if only as another example, it might also be worth thinking about, dare I say it, the Countryside Alliance).

As with everything else, if the right coming-together started to happen, exactly how to make the right interventions would be among the first things discussed (though, to tackle one point by paraphrasing the Billy Bragg song, getting 50 celebrities to sign a petition is not enough, in days like these). The conversation would doubtless be messy, and difficult, and prone to spin out of control. But as one of the politicians who got us in this mess used to say, there is surely no alternative.”

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