Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 18°C

min temp: 11°C

ESTD 1874 Search

East meets Westminster: Is social media prompting a new dawn of rebellion?

00:00 18 October 2012

Is politics as we know it dead? MP Douglas Carswell argues old rules do not apply anymore

Is politics as we know it dead? MP Douglas Carswell argues old rules do not apply anymore

Archant

POLITICS is dead - or so believes MP Douglas Carswell, writes Richard Porritt.

shares

The maverick member for Clacton writes in his new book The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy about how people have less say on what actually happens in the UK than ever before.

And he blames the plummeting number of people who can actually be bothered to vote on this among other things.

But the good news is that after playing a leading role in the Arab Spring, social media is now turning its rebellious attentions to Western politics.

In the book he writes: “As a process of deciding how most Western democracies are governed, politics has come to an end. Of course elections still happen. Candidates keep running for office. The winners make speeches. But those whom voters elect in Britain, America, Japan and Europe no longer decide what government does.”

Now, anyone who has read any interviews with Mr Carswell or flicked through his previous book – the highly influential The Plan: 12 Months to Renew Britain – will recognise this anti-big government rhetoric.

But does he have a point?

Mr Carswell goes on to highlight YouGov stats which state a huge distrust of politicians by the very people who voted for them. Supposedly only 15% of people think their MP is doing a good job and a massive 62% think MPs lie all the time. Even more worryingly almost 60% think that it makes no difference what party actually wins.

It is true that the choice between Conservative and Labour is not what it once was. Tony Blair must take the blame (or praise depending on your view point) for this merging which has continued at pace with the Tories under David Cameron.

Third Way politics – although rarely mentioned these days – is alive and well and camped in Westminster. With it though came a distinct lack of personality.

After Neil Kinnock quit as Labour leader an overhaul of the party began. Upstarts like Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair recognised the party had to change if it wanted to ever govern again and that meant capturing a great swathe of soft Tory voters.

New Labour did this with such gusto their success threatened to wipe the Tories off the political map. But they were also the most obsessive, paranoid and controlling administration in living memory. MPs were routinely fed lines to ensure no-one was off message.

At first this obsession appeared successful – the New Labour media machine had everyone onside, marshalled and cajoled by heavy weights like Alastair Campbell. But soon the public became savvy to this mass, media management.

Speaking to East meets Westminster Mr Carswell said: “The peak of MPs being controlled came in the 1990s – people were fed a line and expected to be on message. But this is not the way it should be.”

Mr Carswell’s main point is a vote has very little influence on things at a local level. But he also believes that from the ashes of old politics something far more healthy will rise.

“Back in 1910 when Harry Newton won Harwich he was able to meet large numbers of the people who he would represent. Those people were able to make a decision about how they would vote based on the man himself rather than a load of party lines,” he said.

“When I was elected – because of the much larger electorate – this would have been impossible. But now a change is happening and it is technology-driven.

“People can now ask questions of their MPs instantly. And from the answers they can make a decision. And for MPs the real feeling in the constituency is becoming easier to gage.”

But what is actually happening is more than just people having easier access to their elected members. A seismic shift could be about to occur and Mr Carswell predicts it will leave chief whips waking up in cold sweats for generations to come.

“It has been claimed that this is a very rebellious set of Tory backbenches,” he said. “But actually it is MPs doing their jobs. When the vote came over Europe and scores of MPs defied the leadership it was not because we wanted to see our own side defeated, it was not some plot – it was us listening to what our constituents were telling us.”

This throws up major problems for party leaders and ambitious MPs going forward. Any party in power runs the risk of immediately becoming disjointed when they enter Downing Street as ministers do as they are told by the leader and backbenchers get brave enough to follow the public will en masse.

“If MPs can look a chief whip in the eye and say ‘I know what my constituents want, because they have told me in their thousands’ what possible grounds could they have for not defying a three-line whip?”

Coalition government was always going to leave elements unhappy and the risk of further rebellions looms large for this administration. But with a healthy dose of iDemocracy MPs can now stand up to their own parties with the confidence that their people back home will not punish them for it.

Rebellions prompted by people power are possibly the most democratic thing that ever happens in Westminster. British politics may not, then, be dead. It may in fact be resurrected.

Richard Porritt is on Twitter @Porritt.

richard.porritt@archant.co.uk

shares

0 comments

Graham White, Suffolk NUT

Nearly 1,000 pupils were excluded from Suffolk primary schools in just one year – one of the highest rates in the country.

The Buttermarket shopping centre , Ipswich.

An Empire cinema is set to open in the Ipswich Buttermarket centre late next year – and the move has prompted hopes that the town’s former Odeon building on Major’s Corner may get a new lease of life.

Health bosses in Suffolk last night pledged to work with the county’s NHS 111 phone service provider as new figures were released showing it has continued to miss targets in referring patients to clinical advisers.

Police officer bailed

suffolk: A Suffolk police constable arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and breaching confidential data laws has been re-bailed until September 4.

Cineworld, Ipswich.

If the opening of the Virgin multiplex (now Cineworld) on Cardinal Park was a new hope for Ipswich film fans, the latest new really does show the Empire strikes back!

A road is being closed near Woodbridge because of the potential for cows to escape.

The crash at the A14 Dock Spur roundabout on the edge of Felixstowe this morning - a lorry with a trailer has run up the bank at the side of the junction.

A lorry has come completely off the A14 near Felixstowe.

The new Enviro-400 bus at Tower Ramparts Bus Station in Ipswich.

Bus passengers in Ipswich are getting the chance to try out a brand new £200,000 double decker bus that could become part of the company’s fleet over the next few years.

Carl Robbins

A 40-year-old man who absconded from Hollesley Bay Prison has handed himself into police.

Southwold - a great place to retire to. Picture by Janice Poulson.

New research into the wellbeing of the country’s pensioners shows there is a lot to consider when it comes to deciding where best to spend your old age – with some places better than others when you decide to retire.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages