I went to bed last night wondering what would be different in 2024. The news is dominated by conflict and people’s inability to live peaceably side by side. Climate change affects us all and can no longer be ignored. Even those with doubts cannot help but notice the increasingly severe weather events we’re experiencing, even here in the temperate UK.
As my eyes closed, I began to think about politics. About how rebuilding our electoral system is more important, and would cost a lot less, than rebuilding the crumbling palace of Westminster. I dreamed of a new, collaborative, collegiate approach to running our country. One where creating a sustainable, prosperous and happy future is the focus, rather than the current bickering and point-scoring that halt real progress.
Then I woke up, and a bold, exciting future seemed to be just a dream
I’ve never written about politics. It’s time I did. Choosing how to vote should be an opportunity to support the candidate whose party and personal values best align with your own, but this is becoming impossible. I no longer feel that either of the major political parties have the good of the country at heart. They’re both proposing polices they hope will win them votes without any thought of the longer-term impact on our prosperity or our planet. It’s time for radical change.
Looking back I see an East Anglia Bylines piece from last year that indicates I’m far from alone in my disillusionment. A public poll had shown that only 20% of voters believe the current system works. The writer goes on to suggest that proportional representation is the way ahead. I’m not so sure. That would require legislation, and why would the Tory turkeys vote for Christmas? They’re not that daft!
And it’s not just here in the UK
How did America find itself in the situation where this autumn’s presidential race will be between two old men: one who acts his age and the other who promises to deport all who don’t fit his model of what an American should be? Elsewhere we see leaders with extreme views starting needless wars in which thousands of innocent people are dying. Some are driven by religious extremism, others by greed and some just want to turn the clock back to how things were when they were young. What has happened to democracy?
Let’s stop competing and start collaborating
At the last general election, most constituencies had three opposition candidates all vying to unseat the incumbent Tory. This achieves nothing more than guaranteeing that the Tory candidate gets re-elected. Yes, the polls are suggesting an overall Labour majority. With a March budget likely to focus on winning over the floating voter, that predicted majority will be slim if it exists at all.
But just suppose the three competing parties formed a coalition right now, created a bold and exciting manifesto that is not only deliverable but can also enable sustainable, positive change? And just suppose those three parties demonstrate their commitment to collaboration by fielding between them, just one opposition candidate in each constituency, perhaps the one with the best chance of success. This could mean a Green candidate in East Suffolk, a Labour candidate in South Norfolk, and a Lib Dem in North Norfolk, where Steffan Aquarone already has a good chance of success.
Back in August Stephen McNair, a man with far greater political understanding than me, suggested something similar, a progressive alliance. But surely collaboration is an opportunity to do something special, rather than a necessary evil, if the Labour Party is to put their man in Number 10.
I’m reminded of that wonderful cooperative value, where all are equal, irrespective of the size of their shareholding. A coalition in which each of the three opposing parties are truly equal, however many seats they each have, would create a far stronger government and appeal far more to the voting public.
Would you vote for change?
My fear is that apathy will prevail and many will choose not to vote at all in 2024. Politics is no longer exciting or inclusive. We can all guess the result in most East Anglian constituencies, so why bother to turn out when you know your vote won’t make a difference? Neither can we rely on some political white knight to appear over the horizon promising change. The last time that happened, it prompted a referendum and we all know where that took us.
But my hope is that an innovative, creative, collaborative approach could capture the imagination of even the most jaded elector and see this year end with an exciting new government that delivers the change we all need to see, and in doing so becomes increasingly secure, so able to take a long-term view, rather than just try to win votes.
Can my alliance dream come true?
I woke on New Year’s Day with the sinking feeling that my dream of a three-party coalition government could never happen. There are too many with vested interests in maintaining the status quo, and who am I to suggest something so bold? I have never dipped my toe into the world of politics, beyond spending time as a parish councillor, and that hardly counts. Will this be both my first and last public political comment? Let’s see what happens.