Saturday, December 21, 2019

Two tribes?

In a recent piece for the London Review of Books writer James Meek satirises British political opinion as a division between those living in Remainia and those in Leaveland. Reworking the old two nations idea Meek characterises Leaveland as 'a country of the old, white and the nostalgic, of ruined factories and boarded up shops'. Inhabitants of Remainia inhabit a more affluent, more diverse space and enjoy more mobility, living in a world that has few points of contact with Leaveland. As left-leaning liberals lick their wounds after a scalding election defeat, Meeks's piece is worth returning to. Is he right? Certainly new divisions in society seem to be taking shape, but it might well be that the simple choice forced on us by Cameron's Brexit plebiscite has distorted party-based constituency democracy to the extent that it now seems redundant. Can a Labour Party still embody the values of twentieth century socialism when labour itself has been so radically transformed? And can a Conservative Party with all its accumulated history really represent the interests of those who feel left behind in the re-making of post-industrial Britain? Viewed like that our two main political parties seem like dinosaurs trying to herd a nation of hunter-gatherers. It seems to me that we have outgrown party politics. This was brought home to me when I was presented with a questionnaire which required me to rank order my political concerns (the environment, education, animal rights, the NHS and so on). The result didn't align me with any particular political group but it made me think that the complexity of current concerns is such that it never could be properly addressed through a two party system. I'm not sure what an alternative might look like, and since our political system has a built-in resistance to change, I'll probably continue voting by making what often appears to be a choice between the lesser of two evils.

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