I’VE got an idea to start the week. Let’s forget about Brexit. Why don’t we give some serious thought to the NHS, poverty, education, anti-social behaviour and knife crime, mental health and social care, equal opportunities and aspiration instead?
These are the things that form the cornerstones of society; without due care and attention they fester and fail and eventually fall away. Who wants that? When Brexit has eventually been and gone, we will still live in a country. And a democratic one at that, although recent events might suggest otherwise.
Please don’t remind me of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street speech last week promising oodles of money for this and that. I think we all know it was a load of flannel and simply a precursor to setting out his uncompromising Brexit stall.
And his trip up to West Yorkshire for that speech on police funding, carefully choreographed with officers lined up behind his podium, has been roundly derided as a disrespectful stunt.
There. I’ve already wasted enough words on the current situation. ‘Forward not back’ might not have been one of Tony Blair’s better battle-cries, but 14 years after the 2005 election, it has never been more apposite.
When the next one is called – today, this week or next year – the onus should be on all Parliamentary candidates to engage with voters like never before.
As last week’s tumultuous scenes in Westminster proved, it is every man – or woman – for themselves, these days. We’ve seen them stripped bare; human qualities of survival, anxiety, pragmatism and naked ambition to the fore.
We need some of the passion and pride which saw bruised and battered Tory rebels cross the floor to inject politics going forward. Principles and personal honour in large helpings, please.
When even the Prime Minister’s own brother, Jo Johnson, quits the Conservative Party and forfeits his seat where he took more than 60 per cent of the vote at the June 2017 election, there really is nothing left to take for granted.
Red. Blue. Liberal orange. Once these were simple colour codes for a set of beliefs and values we all recognised and grew up with. No more. An individualistic society, where a single issue has been so proven to entirely cut across boundaries of geography, age, sex and class, demands individualistic MPs who set out their belief systems clearly to those whose votes they seek.
Come the eventual election, the onus will be on each Parliamentary candidate to engage with voters like never before.
On a personal level, and also in terms of their commitment to the policies that really matter to society.
Trust and respect should be the watchwords. The referendum severed the bounds in many constituencies because it pitched Remain-leaning MPs against Leave-supporting voters. Yet it’s not impossible to respect a personal viewpoint, even if you disagree, and accept that your MP may have more to offer. To make this work however, politicians can no longer afford to be duplicitous.
If they want to retain their seats, they must show that they are listening to and respecting their constituents and are concerned about their problems. Too many MPs have cited pressing matters in Westminster as an excuse for neglect. Self-serving ambition should be called out.
And let’s shelve old assumptions. Everything has been blown out of the water on the floor of the Commons anyway. I’ll give you an example; the Tory party was always considered the home of self-sufficiency and aspiration. But what kind of modern Labour movement would eschew these values in favour of benefit dependency and lack of ambition and social mobility?
There are many more questions like this. All political parties need to be beavering away right now on credible and cost-able manifesto pledges which put people first and are ultimately, deliverable. If not, the election will end up as a rerun of Leave/Remain all over again – and, hand on heart, who really wants that?
Yes I know, as does every inhabitant of the United Kingdom, that the massive issue is still Remain or Leave and there is no getting away from that. However, it is more reason, whatever you think about our role in Europe, to put in place politicians and a political system that is fit for purpose.
Can I make a plea that all politicians start to teach themselves to look over the edge?