DISCLAIMER: The following article is the opinion of its author and does not represent the views of the People’s Assembly or of any political party
For nearly a century and a half, progressive groups like the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Trade Unions and many more like them have opposed the ideologies of feudalism, capitalism and now neoliberalism. They have won may victories in that time, yet the right still persist as a force (in the UK & US) that can compete in and win elections.
Organisations like the conservatives in the UK and the republicans in the US are bankrolled by the rich and still appeal to the traditional values of the ever ageing ‘angry white male’, so how do we kill them (politically speaking, I’m not inciting murder here) off for good? The following points are based hypothetically on Labour winning a majority in 2015.
I don’t mean that street dance crew that won Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago (yet they do provide an example of one solution). We need to make the UK more immigration friendly (especially in school and in the local community) and encourage those who are already here from other countries to integrate more, obviously this should be reciprocated by those of us born here.
This will hopefully bring the old Britsish values of tolerance and inclusion back to the fore and lessen the capability of far right groups such as the BNP & the EDL to sread hatred and intolerance.
We should learn lessons from Barack Obama’s successful election campaigns of 2008 & 2012. One of his campaign managers, Jim Messina (now ironically working for the tories) used ‘Big Data’ to identify and target Latinos, African Americans and other minority groups in the US, whether that was to encourage them to register to vote or educate them on the differences between the ideological differences of the Democrats and the republicans.
The Obama campaign in 2012 managed to attract 71% of the Latino population (who make up 14% of the US population, the country’s fastest growing minority) to vote Democrat. An incredible 93% of African Americans and 73& of Asians also voted for Obama. This coupled with the 55% female and the usual core democrat vote, the 2012 US election represented a turning of the political tide across the Atlantic, where the old conservatives are dying off and are being replaced by a young, multiracial/cultural progressive generation; (this explains the rise of the Tea Party as the right’s reaction to this).
2. Proportional Representation (PR)
Introducing Proportional Representation to replace our current ‘First Past The Post’ election system would be advantageous not just to Labour but to any party which rely on the young, multicultural urban vote (i.e not the Tories). Counting on the national percentage of voters instead of individual constituency results would benefit Labour, who have their strongholds in the cities and large areas areas of the north who generally have more voters per constituency than Conservative held areas in the rural and sparsely populated (in terms of electoral wards) in the South.
In 2011 we had an Alternative Vote Referendum which gave the public a chance to decide if they wanted change from first past the post. The ‘yes’ campaign (in favour of AV) lost so the voting system didn’t change; the reasons for this result were:
- The turnout was only 42%, just like general election results this isn’t representational of the whole country’s view (usually conservative supporters are more active when it comes to voting, and the Tories opposed AV)
- AV is basically a watered down version of PR, this is less appealing to the undecided voters
- Labour had no official position on this issue (sounds familiar), creating fragmentation in the party
- The ‘No’ votes cynical advertising campaign shifted the debate away from the core issue and focused on the cost of AV and its supposed complexity (just like the Tories are doing now with austerity) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-obZ9OG_XKA
3. Compulsory Voting
Australia has compulsory voting laws; if you don’t vote or your ballot paper is not clearly marked (i.e spoiled) you will be fined $20. If you don’t pay that fine you would be taken to court and ordered to pay $50 plus court costs. A system like this in the UK would incentivise a large percentage of the non-voting public to participate in elections; and with increased education in politics (explained in point 4), inexperienced voters can make an informed choice. As the majority of the population of this country (as with an nation, except maybe Monaco) are working class or similar, the potential influx of votes for the parties of the left could deal a knockout blow to the right.
A half way house to this could be an opt out voter registration system (similar to the recently proposed donor card idea), with eligible individuals automatically being registered to vote; taking away the complexity associated with this process. If they explicitly don’t want to vote, they can opt out (by filling in a form which includes questions on why they don’t want to participate electorally.
The national curriculum should include more teaching of political history (in the UK and abroad), ideology (left, right & centre) and how democracy works. Currently (or when I was in school 6 years ago) these topics were slightly touched upon in citizenship studies, but this only interested pupils who were already involved in political discourse (like myself); the majority of the class weren’t interested. This will increase knowledge and hopefully up legislative participation in politics; lowering the legal voting age to 16 would also help.
We also need to teach children about religion more, by the end of secondary school they need to know the basic theology behind every major religion (and also atheism) to for them to attain a more rounded view of the world, their beliefs and the beliefs of others. This will increase tolerance of individuals and groups towards different ideas and faiths, diminishing the influence of the EDL and other groups who hold religious prejudice at there core.
5. Reform the Armed Forces
We should look into considering the article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which outlaws war as a means of settling international disputes between states. Included in this legislation are laws preventing the military from being anything more than a self defense force and the phasing out nuclear power as both a way of producing power and using it for the production of weapons (doing away with the nuclear deterrent).
This would severely limit the influence of the armed forces politically (the leadership nearly always support the Tories) and prevent us from entering foreign wars like the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Conclusion: Used separately these ideas would surely fail, but used in conjunction with each other my a Labour party which is returned to its traditional voter base would do a great deal to end the endless tooing and throwing since the Second World War in the UK that you inevitably get with a two party state who’s main priority is to reverse the decisions made by the previous government and nothing more (kind of like the three super-nation’s perpetual war in ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.