Become an activist again. Yes, you.
Fifty years ago or so, moderate people on the left, the right or even the centre started to give up on activism. In 1950, Labour had a million members, and the Conservatives had even more, three times that. The Conservatives, at the last count, have lost 96% of them, with the effect that the average constituency association now has around 200 people who will, amongst other things, select and monitor their MP or candidate. It is fair to say that the preponderance of these members are on the uncomplicated right of this once centrist party, and that they will be front of the mind of many of the MPs each time they go through the lobby to vote. Labour is the same, only with more members (remember Ed Milliband’s wheeze), largely on the far left. Moderate Labour MPs are constantly reminded of their constituency association’s right to deselect them, and have this to ponder on and weigh up while they work out what is good for the wider country.
Fundamentally, moderate people throughout the political process have given up activism, and we’re now starting to pay the price. We gave it all up in the years of plenty, and with all the distractions of the modern interconnected world to entertain us. We came to the collective conclusion that, whoever else got involved in politics, it wasn’t people like us. And the result is that decisions are now being made about your and my future that are designed merely to appeal to, or to appease, a tiny number of people on the dark fringes of politics. Or people with intolerant regional interests, who have lost count of the number of fucks they couldn’t give about anyone else.
The rest of us console ourselves with those two great political lies: ‘I don’t vote; it changes nothing’, and ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. In short, it does, and they aren’t. People who think voting changes nothing were obviously asleep in June 2016, quite apart from being hugely disrespectful to the people who died in two world wars and since so that we could safely go on doing it. And the third lie (‘our electoral system provides us with stable governments; just look at Italy’) has to be challenged and changed, too, but that’s one for the future. For now, the 90% of us in the middle are just cheap extras in the play, mere incidental group shots that fade in and out of focus depending on how close we are to an election.
So my uncalled for contribution to the debate is that we have to start the process of taking power back. And I would normally try to make this a little bit funny at this point, and laugh about my having the nerve to contribute anything, let alone naked political advice, but I can’t: the joke’s turned too sour for that. So we need to join in.
It will take time, but it could just work. Granted, we can take to the streets if we want, or set up new political parties, but those are open to misinterpretation and failure respectively. The parties are there already, and they are where the levers of power are right now. And there are good people in them, near the top of them already, who just need us to enable them to drown out the background shouting. It doesn’t matter if we are Brexit or Remain, free market or command economy, a high taxer or a high spender, our views matter, and almost certainly more than we are allowing them to. So, unless I have completely missed the point, all we need to do is the following:
Step 1: Select the political party whose core philosophical offering (i.e. NOT what they have become in 2018) most reflects your own.
Step 2: Join it.
Step 3: Participate, even if it simply supporting your preferred candidate.
Step 4: Stay in it, even if when it annoys you. Because, if you don’t, the marginalization of your views will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Standard Conservative membership will cost you £25 a year, Labour £50, the Liberal Democrats from £12 and the Green party from £36. In differing ways, all members have a direct say in the MP they select and leader they elect. Here are some of their links.
Just join up.