Monday, 1 October 2018
Playing or practising politics?
Yesterday I caught a radio clip from Theresa May's TV interview with Andrew Marr. She claimed that Labour were "playing politics" with the Brexit issue whereas she was striving to achieve what is best for the country.
As a forensic examination of the situation this leaves a lot to be desired. "Could do better," on a school report would be generous.
My preferred definition of politics is "government by discussion" and it would be nice to think that our politicians were all calmly engaged in discussing what is best for the country. Even better if they extended their discourse towards to what is best for Europe and, beyond that, the World. The creation of the EU and the UN are both important and constructive steps in that mature direction.
I presume that by "playing politics" Mrs May means abusing the political situation for personal or party advantage rather than the good of the country.. If so she has not stinted on cheek.
It is perfectly obvious that it is the Conservative party that has used and is using the European Union issue for party advantage. It was the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron who called a referendum, not because it was in the national interest, but because he feared that his party's support was leeching to UKIP.
Until the UKIP leaders, described by Cameron as "fruitcakes and closet racists," began stirring the pot, membership of the EU was in the mid-teens in the order of of voters' concerns, way behind the economy, employment, housing, education etc. Mrs May, who clearly prefers the softest possible Brexit (she voted "Remain") keeps the no-deal option on the table in order to placate the extreme Brexiteers and hold her party together.
It can hardly be argued that the leading Brexiteer, Boris Johnson, is campaigning from conviction. Before the Referendum he allegedly agonised until the last moment as to which side he would support. Presumably he therefore feels there is not much difference either way. So what can the motive be for his intemperate anti-EU campaigning other than personal advancement?
Labour's position is not, by contrast, Simon-pure. Rather than "playing politics" it could be argued that they have opted not to play at all, but to watch from the side-lines as the Tory factions tear their party apart, or so they hope. This could be a good strategy, but again, for party-advantage rather than what is best for the country.
To be fair, all parties believe that what is best for the country is to have them in charge and making the decisions.
However, in our current political situation, the most serious since the Second World War, it is surely time to put country before party. The way to achieve this, as I've argued earlier, is for parliament to take off the party whips and have a free vote among members. That is the British way.
Our constitution is by no mean perfect, but it has been honed over several centuries. We are now a representative parliamentary democracy. MPs are not delegates: they are elected by their constituents to hear all the arguments and use their judgement for the good of the country.
Parliament is the place where all options can be on the table, calm and informed debate can take place and politics can be practised at its best, not played as a tawdry party game.