Remember, Remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot… Or so the phrase goes. I have always loved bonfire night and fireworks. I knew that Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament but that his plot was foiled and he was subsequently arrested, tortured and then executed. What I didn’t know was who Guy Fawkes was and what his beef was with Parliament. So when my young daughter asked me about it, we decided to do some research. Contrary to popular belief he wasn’t actually burnt at the stake - he apparently fell from the scaffold where he was due to be hung, drawn and quartered and broke his neck - a far less hideous death than was planned.
His beef was based on religion rather than politics and was an attempt to assassinate the king (James I) and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. A somewhat extreme way to achieve your goals - I wonder what would have happened if he had succeeded? It would have undoubtedly resulted in utter chaos with no guarantee of the desired results being achieved. Which feels like exactly where we have ended up as a country right now - utter chaos and no clear direction, focus or sense of purpose. Because it would appear that the dual gunpowder barrels of Brexit and Covid-19 have done their worst.
Alongside this chaos we are experiencing gaslighting on a national scale. For the uninitiated, gaslighting refers to psychological abuse whereby an individual is manipulated in such a way that they are no longer able to believe their own experience of reality (it stems from the 1944 film “Gaslight” starring Ingrid Bergman). The rules that exist to govern the government and the general maintenance of order in running the country seem to have been either ignored, dismissed or blatantly flouted, whilst claims are simultaneously made denying that any such thing has occurred. Even the Daily Mail have called it out this time (they called it sleaze - I call it what it is: corruption) with this week’s example being the MP Owen Paterson who was facing sanctions for receiving large sums of money in return for lobbying parliament. But this wasn’t the worst part of the story - oh no, not by a long shot. The next stage in this fiasco saw the government seeking to overhaul the system for addressing wrongdoing by MPs, potentially allowing Paterson to be absolved. In addition the Tories whipped their MPs to vote to support this move - once again highlighting how utterly broken our political system is. And in a further plot twist, the Prime Minister was forced into a U-turn on the plans after widespread criticism. All of this culminated in Paterson’s resignation citing the “cruel world of politics”. For those unused to scrutiny, accountability may well feel like cruelty.
The world of politics is currently devoid of accountability and the standards of those in power are pitifully low, with the opposition barely doing any better. I want to feel inspired by those who lead us. I want to look up to them, reassured by their actions that they have the best interests of the country at heart. I want to be free to get on with my life, safe in the knowledge that our government is governing, rather than feeling like I have to be on constant high alert for the next unmitigated disaster. There are some simple steps that could address these issues:
- No second jobs for MPs whilst in office
- Transparency of gifts, incentives and business connections, with all details published regularly to enable public scrutiny
- Regular reference to the Nolan Principles to embed a constructive, positive political culture focused on continuous improvement
- Limited terms for MPs - long enough to allow them to be effective but not so long that they forget who they serve
- Increased simplicity and transparency of parliamentary process so that the public can actually understand and engage with matters of government
- Political education in schools to increase engagement and understanding that politics affects every aspect of our lives
Metaphorically blowing everything up and starting again is probably too risky for us as a country. But what we do need is an end to the stagnant two-party cartel, reform of the current electoral system and the implementation of some of the above suggestions - all of which would go a long way to making a tangible difference to the way our country is run. At Renew we want more than a short-lived pyrotechnic show with loud bangs and flashes - we want long term, sustainable change for a positive future for all. Join us!
If you want to be a part of this new chapter for Renew, look at our refreshed website to learn more and sign up to be a member!