We have taken a wrong turn somewhere as a society when far and radical right parties are starting to take over our institutions. Does no one remember where this lead last time? We have turned right into the start of WW3.
Everyone has the right to vote, and the right to vote right, but only if they really know what voting right means beyond the rhetoric of the Daily Mail. There are several things that are worrying about the results of the local, and European elections, but also some hope and lessons to be learnt by us here in the UK before we go to the polls again next May.
To start with the local elections. Labour had the biggest gains by far with an increase of 338 seats, this is something which has been somewhat overshadowed by outsiders UKIP jumping from two seats to 163. This bodes well for 2015 as voting trends are more likely to follow local patterns than how people vote for Europe. We also saw strong increases for the Greens and independent candidates, which shows that not all disenfranchised voters are flocking to the extreme. What is concerning is the current government’s reaction to the UKIP numbers, with Education Secretary Michael Gove appearing on the BBC as the votes were coming in saying that the government believe this is not a protest vote, but a message from the British people.
But it isn’t really is it. With as low turnout as ever, it is most certainly not a message from the British people. Unfortunately, people who have voted religiously for years (I can certify this as a front line bar maid) have lost faith in the system so stayed at home, allowing the extremes to make gains. Russell Brand has sexed up our apathy, but unfortunately, unless the entire population decides not to vote, his theory won’t work, and those who choose to abstain may as well roll out the red carpet for the extremes. Things are now going to get a hell of a lot worse before they get better. In our apathy we have waved a red rag to the Tory bulls, who are now going to shift the centre further right yet again, as Blaire did in the nineties – again just look how that ended up. The mainstream are going to pander to the racist rhetoric of the far right to appease the voters that have put their faith in UKIP to try and win them back. There is now stronger talk of a referendum which of course is a great thing as long as all people bother getting out there on polling day, and big Dave has started constructing more UKIP friendly immigration laws.
The poor Lib Dems have had a clobbering, and wrongly so in my opinion because yes they broke promises but no more than any other parties ever have, and what people seem to forget is they have, until now, managed to water down the Tories. That ship has sailed, as now the Tories will run with the easterly wind with hurricane force. Clegg has little choice but to resign, as his reputation is damaged beyond repair, but wrongly so. It is somewhat amusing to think that polls at the last general election believed he may have become Prime Minister. The only saving grace is Labour being rebranded away from the Blairite ‘New Labour’ or ‘Tory Light’ as I like to think of it, and is actually trying to build itself back up to the strong working class party it once was. Whether it can do this under Miliband is yet to be seen.
Back to the positives – look at the state of Europe! Far and radical right parties have properly taken hold across the continent lead by France’s Front National. The most frightening are the German Neo Nazi National Democratic Front, Hungary’s militia centric Jobbik, and Greece’s Golden Dawn. Looking at the line up UKIP seem positively communist in comparison. We have had a lucky escape from such radical raucousness AND we have finally wiped the BNP off the UK political map. Farage has so far refused to get into bed with Marine Le Pen in Brussels, but who knows what will happen when you put a bunch of radicals in the same room. Sounds like the start of a joke, but sadly this is not a laughing matter. As Europe disintegrates, separates, and renationalises as more MEPs try to reverse the inevitable effects of colonialism, capitalism, and cronyism we could indeed begin to hurtle towards more wars, rebellions, and destruction. I think it is really time to realise that we one globe, one race, one people, and we all have to live here together and share the little resources we have left. Our moral compass must point due north, not west west west.
The media has followed a similar pattern in the EU election reporting, as the rise of the extremes has taken precedence. But a number of countries also swung to the left. This demonstrates that across the EU people are disengaged with the system, and are voicing that through opting for the outsiders. This gives us hope, as albeit a smaller number, these lefties may provide a balancing force against the rising right in Brussels and encourage the mainstream which has become increasingly centred over the years to revert back to form; left as left and right as right. We needed ‘an earthquake’ in politics, and boy did we get it. Now the population of Europe has put the frighteners up our representatives it is time to ensure that they do what we want – change the system. Unlikely, yes, but we cannot run with the rhetoric of the extremes much longer, it isn’t sustainable and it certainly isn’t going to help anyone.
We need to turn the fear, and the fight that fuelled the voting swing this time around for good, to educate the next generation so they do not see themselves in such a position that they must use their vote as a form of protest. We need to arm our children with the political knowledge and media-savvyness they realistically need to navigate this world ran by MPs and media moguls. Political studies and media studies should be taught in school.
Media is a subject often scoffed at, but in actuality it teaches you that the media lies, and you must approach it with an educated scepticism to learn the truths of our world. DO NOT JUST READ THE DAILY MAIL. Kids get all of their information from even less trustworthy sources nowadays, such as web blogs, social media sites, and entertainment services dressed up as news sites such as BuzzFeed. They do not watch the BBC news, or read broadsheets, which are also increasingly dumbing down content due to budget restrictions and to meet the desires of this new cohort. It is frightening. The manufacture of consent has never been stronger and we need to educate our young people to that fact, because that is going to have a greater impact on their lives than pythagoras theorem.
Politics, whether you like it, believe in it, agree with it or not IS in everything we do. It is the air we breathe, the food we eat, the transport we take, the homes we live in. And young people know so little about the choices, or moreover, the lack of choice. They are alienated from the political conversation due to the lack of education from day dot, when they are the future. Whether 16 or 18 young people need to know the importance of democracy, and need to be aware of the history of the parties, their ideological differences, and their current policies. Certainly more than they need to know the chemical symbol for magnesium. They should be reading Animal Farm, watching Newsnight, and hosting debates on issues that really resonate in society today.
The problem with this proposal for education is, Mr Gove would have to initiate it. Mr Gove quite likes things the way they are because it ensures the survival of the elite political class and antiquated constructions of the political ideological framework which is simply no longer relevant to modern society. And so, as always, the buck gets passed to us. Parents, guardians, teachers, siblings, anyone and everyone – do not give up on politics and the media. Just ensure that the young people around you are educated and understand the system so they can be the ones who change it someday. Let’s educate away from fascism and towards a more democratic form of democracy. Let us right the wrongs.