ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: BRING DOWN THE PARTY SYSTEM

Politics have always been corrupt, although there have been corrupt, although there have been historical periods when a few individuals have brought up the moral and intellectual tone. One think of Burke, Disraeli, Parnell, Nye Bevan and a few others, often defying their party to say what had to be said. It is the party system that is corrupt and always will be, because all that matters there, is automatic unquestioning obedience to the leader who can distribute patronage, favours, wealth and promotion to eminence and fame.

Now, surprisingly, because of one successful television appearance, where Nick Clegg outshone the other two party leaders, the party system has a chance of being overturned. The sudden rise in credibility of the Lib-dems, that overnight increased their support according to the poll by 50%, means that three parties are now almost equal in public support and there is a reasonable chance that in the last few days the Lib-Dems could emerge with the largest popular vote, even if, because of our perverse electoral system, they have less seats than that vote would justify.

What we are looking for at is a probable reform of the voting system to some form of proportional representation. It is not impossible that Clegg may find himself at the head of a government, where the most able elected MPs from different parties are able to work together to form a national assembly that gives space and opportunities to the national parties, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, as well as to individuals from the major parties, which may now start to decline. The role of the press, dominated by oligarchs with their own agendas, would also be much reduced. None of this is certain, but there are chances for a better democratic system.

What we will see when the election is over is a reality when everyone up to now has dismissed, ignored or lied about. We are not coming out of recession, but about to sink into the depths of a long-lasting and very painful depression. This will mean long dole queues, real hunger and homelessness, and brutal repression of all protest activities, that is, if we try to maintain the present laissez-faire attitudes of the last forty years. The alternative, which is the only fair and civilised attitude that can gradually make things better, is to return to poat-war austerity, creating Keynsian principles, a jobs-for-all economy under nationalised industries and projects, bringing back a culture of rented accommodation in publically-built housing and with taxation levels that reduces individual spending to about one to fifteen. This means bringing back the Old Labour Clause Four, renationalising everything that was once in public ownership, breaking up the big companies that are now so badly and irresponsibly run into smaller units, some private, some public, but above all putting high employment above profit considerations. Tight regulation should control all financial institutions. Take-overs should only be allowed in extreme cases and never foreign ones.

Education should be expanded, both to create responsible, honest and able managers of all institutions and to further cultural knowledge and interests so that the acquisitions of what can be put into the mind becomes desirable and what us in the pocket is irrelevant, because taxation will make everyone roughly equal. That is how things were in 1950s when post-war society, although pilloried by those who had lost a privileged affluence, was humane and people learned to share, cooperate and cultivate their minds. The arts, never mentioned today by politicians, made life seem rich to those who were open to them. Nye Bevan, who gave us the National Health Service, also backed the Arts. If rationing must come back then let it! What we can avoid is hunger and homelessness with a caring government of honest and able MPs drawn from different parties. At present there are too many. Three hundred is more than we need. The Scottish Parliament meets during the day and that makes it impossible for members to hold down another job, as so many do in London. That is why the British Parliament meets in the evening, so that so many can earn money, sometimes large amount, in the day. In the evenings most of them sit around gossiping until the whips come and tell them to vote, often with no idea or interest in what they are voting for. MPs by ordinary standards are well-paid. They have no need to earn more. The incentive to enter politics should be a desire to improve society, not to become rich.

The voters have a chance to change the system. It could be for the worst or for the better. There are hard times ahead. We must prepare for them and develop a sense of reality and as willingness to sacrifice a period of illusionary, debt-ridden affluence based on great inequalities, and crime hidden by corrupt accountants, for one with fair shares, full employment, greater accountants and a future that with care can gradually get better if we can control our tribal and animal natures. Otherwise we shall return to a new version of the dark ages.

John Calder 03/05/2010