UK politics is a frightening subject at the moment. We have an unelected and unchallenged Prime Minister who earlier this week confirmed that she wouldn’t hesitate to kill 100,00 innocent people, an unelected cabinet of unpopular ministers to make her seem less terrifying (Boris is sure to make a fool of Britain on the world stage and Hunt will continue to piss off our Doctors), and a non-existent single-party opposition that will almost certainly split after wasting two-months campaigning aimlessly for unity. Add to this that there’s been a rise in hate crimes against British people who aren’t white or born here and we look almost as ridiculous as America (I was genuinely scared we were bypassing them on ridiculousness until watching the Republican National Convention).
Now it would be easy to blame this political mess on those who voted for Brexit, since all of the above would not have happened had we voted remain. But it is not the fault of the leavers, it is the fault of an already failing political landscape, which funnily enough was exactly the reason a lot of people voted to leave – Brexit was the ‘anti-establishment’ vote, or perhaps more precisely the ‘anti-power-holding’ vote. It’s a painfully simplistic consensus to leave on, but at a time where so much austerity is causing people to feel so powerless, it’s understandable that the outrageously repeated 3-word slogan “Take Back Control” may sound appealing…I just hope such people who were appealed by it are questioning now if they really have taken back any control.
The fact I kind of wish David Cameron was still Prime Minister, as a student now paying a sickening amount to study, demonstrates just how bad things have become, but that is not to say he should not go down in history as being a foolishly reckless PM for allowing this referendum to happen. I get that referendums are democratic but before offering direct democracy surely the country should be passing the test for representative democracy, which it clearly isn’t. I’m sure a lot of people in this country don’t even know what the difference between direct and representative democracy is (I only do because I studied Politics A Level) and this exemplifies one of the most disastrous failures of the current political system: to educate people about politics.
Most students leave school being able to do basic algebra but without any political knowledge, and the fact that the most googled terms the day after the referendum were “What does Brexit mean?” and “What is the EU?” screams just how ill-informed this referendum was, even if you personally might regard yourself as an expert on the matter. On top of the lack of political educating throughout school the campaign itself was disastrous from both sides at educating the electorate. To think after so many months of campaigning these terms were still being googled and that even now it is unclear what Brexit actually means (other than Brexit, which Theresa May intelligently pointed out), is beyond belief. Unfortunately Britain was not ready to have this referendum yet, but it did, and I hope people who voted out as well as those who voted in now put their differences aside to collaborate collectively to take back at least some control…
Because there is a way – and I’m actually surprised it’s not being talked about more. If we really want to ruffle up the establishment, and we really care about democracy, then Proportional Representation (PR) is surely the answer? Under the current voting system even when our PM is elected, they are only done so by around 37% of now more than 66% of the population that actually votes. 4 million people voted for UKIP, over a million for Greens, and each were only rewarded with one MP in parliament. It is because of First Past The Post (FPTP) that this referendum was able to happen, and it is because of the two-party structure that people feel as if they have no control.
The Labour party will split, and when it does Corbyn ought to direct his understandably powerless feeling support towards a national cross-party campaign for proportional representation, whether he maintains his leadership or not. Also Owen Smith’s side of the party should then realise that they too will benefit from PR, and should back the same cause – if not the Tories will win almost certainly win the next election. Similarly the Lib Dems talk about this ‘#fightback’, but should acknowledge that the only way they will ever be able to have any real influence again is through PR.
It’s bizarre to imagine that at a time where politics is so ugly and divided that there is a solution that could benefit such a range of parties and people. And I know what some of you might be thinking (although I’m sure most won’t remember): we had a referendum on this in 2011 and voted against it. But in 2011 we were in a far better position democratically than we are now: Our MP was elected, we weren’t being so badly destroyed by austerity measures so didn’t feel so powerless, UKIP (arguably the most successful party in the history of British politics since June 23rd) actually had a leader and an objective, and Nick Clegg – the only prominent figure campaigning for PR at the time – was the most hated politician in the country (although now doesn’t seem so bad in the current climate).
PR scares the hell out of the establishment because it takes control away from them and gives it to the people. That is what you call taking back control…and now politics is hot topic I’m sure a referendum on it would draw a higher turn out than the 40% it drew 5 years ago. Don’t expect the mainstream media to be bigging up the idea for us though –Rupert Murdoch is very much part of the establishment, so it wouldn’t interest him and the 1/3 of daily news circulation he has control of.