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July 29, 2005

After the Party: Or how the end of class war could give us better politicians

Posted by Richard D. North

Richard D. North - author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence and of the forthcoming Mr Blair's Messiah Politics: Or what happened when Bambi tried to save the world - speaks in favour of the motion that Political parties are dead - long live the single issue on BBC Radio 4's Straw Poll on 29th July 2005. Here Richard D. North expands his argument with a series of propositions. The views expressed here are those of Richard D. North, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.


Proposition One: How to get MPs we can admire

Proposition Two: The politics of convergence and divergence

Proposition Three: The Blatcherite platform in nine points

The three propositions presented in these articles assume that there is no longer a single "natural" party of government in Britain. They assume a sort of Blatcherite convergence on "sound economics", social conservatism, a preference for a wide and shallow EU, and a fear of radical Welfare State reform.

We now have a Blatcherite electorate, and two Blatcherite main parties. There's plenty to argue about, but very little electoral will to disturb Blatcherism. These facts may destroy the two party system.

We also see a widespread alienation from politics. It may be that because we are used over many years to hearing the parties disparaged as "all saying the same thing", we have failed to note the very real problem which has arisen now that they really do.

Our two main existing parties may try to retain their present identities, in which they pretend to be Broad Churches, representing "labour" (or "The People") and "capital" (or "The Middle Class") respectively, and make increasingly phoney war against each other. If they do, many of the most interesting splits of opinion will be within and not between them.

The two main parties may split into more honest factions, or they may allow more freedom to individual MPs, or they may be challenged by independent MPs of one sort or another.

Taking this as a starting point, the first proposition supposes that a more Burkean - a more independent - Member of Parliament may emerge. This will be a Parliamentary representative of the kind Edmund Burke imagined himself to be. He or she will be less bound to party and more to their conscience and their constituents than current MPs tend to be. The second proposition suggests that whatever one believes about redistribution between income groups, there remain big questions about the role of the state. That's to say: the issue of how to provide welfare is quite different to the issue of how to fund access to it and both are quite separate from the question as to how redistributive the British Mass Affluent are prepared to be. These are all reasons why a "left-right" split is no longer simple. But they also suggest that there are still large arguments to have, if any politician thought the electorate was brave enough to have them.

The third proposition suggests what a middle-of-the-road modern Blatcherite MP of "left" or "right" might assert.

Richard D. North is the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence and of Mr Blair's Messiah Politics: Or what happened when Bambi tried to save the world.

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