The people not the party

How come political parties in decline are still in power?

The party needs you? The party needs you?
It is an anomaly that so few people are members of a political party yet the party system has such a powerful effect on UK politics. We should also be aware that we have a representative democracy form of government. Singly they are each a problem and in combination a disaster.

However, the political party framework is useful to the political elite as all they have to do is appeal to the party. It being such a small group it will be easier for the elite to influence and steer the public towards their wishes; rather than the other way around and be influenced by the public.

Then they can proclaim the the result is democracy in action. But is it? Traditionally there are but a few political parties in action at any one time. Can it be that the diversity of the voters, millions of people, can be satisfied with just two major and a few smaller parties?

The dynamic is wrong too. The voter must join them to make a difference. Whereas, you would have thought, that the parties hoping to get votes should do more to reach out and appeal to the public. But this is representative democracy in action. A system of many faults!

And it gets worse. Our failing system gives up its power, with scant reference to the public, to other power blocks. The EU is often portrayed as a counter-weight to 'failed' or 'obsolete' nationalism. But it too is a flawed system with a democratic deficit. And two flawed systems don't make a right. Not least because the power of the super-state is, wrongly, portrayed as naturally superior to that of the nation.

It's long been established that the peak for political party membership in the UK was in the mid-1950's. In 1954 just under 4 million people belonged to the two main parties with the Conservatives ahead of the Labour party with about 65% of the total. Generally, the post WW2 economic boom was felt by everyone and in 1957 Harold Macmillan told the UK that they 'have never had it so good'.

A similar claim could have been made for the political parties, in their case they would never have it so good again. Membership began a decline and now over 50 years later we see a surge of writing, HERE, and HERE and HERE . So predicting the end of politics in its present form, which based upon the numbers of paid up political party members looks possible.

But 50 years is a long time and we should be careful not to make assumptions. The unpopularity of political parties then, why membership faded, might not be the same reason as the reluctance now to join in and sign up. Also the past is the province of historical research which counts for little in the here and now of a campaign to change our entire political system, and that is what we require.

But that's a practical approach. It will not go down well with the people who think that the past is the bedrock of all knowledge. These are the people whose affection for some golden age of the past chains them to it. Hence they are stuck in the past with their 'Britain finest hour' or the 'benefits of nationalisation' rhetoric. These same people are easily fooled by the concept of the party system.

But the battle to get a better system than the present one dominated, and damaged by the political parties, will be hard fought. Not just the parties but the whole of the political and public service establishment would prefer things to stay as they are. The list is long. The civil service would clearly be on that list as would all other public servants from the police to the NHS.

All would claim to be wholly beneficial and best left to carry on doing what they know to be right. All would claim to serve the public but would fight like rats in a sack if changes where proposed. This tells you all you need to know about them and their relationship with the public who, via taxation, pay the bills.

So what to do? In future posts we will look into alternatives to the representative democracy based system we now have. But as we can see some people while they recognise the decline of the political parties fail to grasp what's going on. They cannot see that 'patching up', will not do. The mood has changed and being taken for granted is no longer tolerable for the public, they want far more than that.