Thursday, 13 December 2012

This HAS to change.

Yesterday, I read the online account of Prime Minister’s Question Time. I also followed some of the Twitter response to the so-called “clash” between Mssrs Balls, Miliband and Cameron. The immediate thought that struck me was:

“How can this 18th century bullyboy-style mockery for government debate really come up with solutions to 21st century problems? I don't think it can, it's no longer fit for purpose, and possibly it never was. A complete and radical change is required; unfortunately, no-one has a clue how to think beyond their limitations within Westminster.”

The foundation of the establishment, Parliament, is based in the old French word, parley. Simply put it means to talk, discuss amicably, to resolve to mutual benefit. There is little in Westminster’s “Parley” or Parliament that gives any hope to a resolution of the trench warfare and inimical party points scoring that persists and destroys our democracy. The only surprise so far is that it’s been only jibes and insults that cross the no-man’s land of Westminster’s plush carpet, yet the effect on our economy has been as destructive as the bombs and bullets that crossed the Somme.

How can a culture become adult and mature in its outlook when it has to witness the “cream” of society behaving like spoilt brats at a Sunday-school picnic? When these “elders and betters”, these rule makers, cannot actually debate subjects without delving for insults, cheap jibes and point scoring off each other? When it sees the true policies on which we could thrive mown down before they ever manage to climb from the trenches?

Nothing is discussed or debated, no common ground is found, no compromise is ever achieved. This crock of nonsense is purely for show, and does nothing to benefit the people who voted these men and women into such powerful positions. Westminster did manage a ‘Christmas truce’ from 1939 to 1945, and they achieved remarkable things. However, since then their ideas and decisions are increasingly set in stone, polarised and already made, long before they come to the “debating” chamber. There is absolutely no point to PMQ’s – other than strutting, preening, grandstanding and point-scoring. It is an inane exercise. And sadly, First Minister’s Questions is going the same route, thanks to the Unionist parties attempt to mimic all things Westminster.

It is human nature; when someone poses a threat to us, we fight back. Therefore, rightly or wrongly, the parties who might put Scotland needs first will attack in return. Ultimately, the Union parties in their aspirations for Westminster-like adversarial conflict guarantee the useless and destructive spiral will continue.

Returning to the Twitter “debate” it really did not improve any of the events that took place in the chamber; in fact it merely continued the pathetic score-keeping of “my politician was better than your politician”, as if this type of political non-achieving is something of which we should be proud.

How is this example of non-cooperation, insults, bully-boy tactics and the rest setting any sort of example to youngsters in society? Politicians are saying it’s perfectly ok to behave likes this, but you kids have to behave in quite a different manner. Instead of leading by example, they’re yet again meting out more of the “do as I say, not as I do” nonsense that most people resent. Then these politicians become all confused and befuddled because there is a lack of respect for any of them.

Westminster is so deeply entrenched in tradition I think it is beyond them to alter the mindset. They have to be dressed like 18th century guisers to open and close the sessions, and they require the anachronistic presence of HRH Queen Elizabeth to sanction the proceedings. Now I could go on at this juncture about HRH and family being the biggest benefits scroungers out there, something for nothing layabouts, whose influence is beyond the pale, and how can you expect people to work for a living when they see this crowd at the peak of society living off tax-payers money, but I won’t. The monarchy is a different debate for another time.

So what to do?

Personally, I believe there is nothing that can be done for Westminster; this cause was lost generations ago, stuck in the mud of tradition going back centuries. It had, at best, a brief twilight renaissance between 1945 and 1950. Therefore, we must look to Holyrood to beat a path to mature, consensual politics.

The Unionist supporting parties, as I mentioned previously, appear to advocate, promote and thrive on the Westminster style of rabid, party-led, point-scoring attempts, without much consideration for any constituents during FMQs.

Our reconstituted parliament in Holyrood, having retained few of the relics from the 18th century, is arguably one of the oldest parliaments in Europe. Moreover, having only been reinvested very recently, it isn’t mired in tradition like London and it should therefore be very simple to change ways of doing business BEFORE they become rooted in the mists of time as some weird, immutable folklore defining how a parliament should function. Changes are required in the system in order to ensure we have politics that represent the people and not the party. With an absolute majority, the SNP should be looking at this as a matter of extreme urgency.

While the way Holyrood’s debating chamber is set out physically, (i.e. semi-circular instead of sitting in opposition to one another) is a good start, it is undermined as each party continues to sit in its own little clique or block thus perpetuating the tribal mentality of “Us versus Them”.

More must be done to alter the way these politicians think about their role in parliament. That means altering the entire mind set. It is time to move away from “Party Politics” and start choosing people on their individual merits and promises. For example, while I support the SNP in many, many issues, there are some things with which I do not agree. But it doesn't mean they’re not the best all around choice for me as a party. By the same token, individuals may represent my core beliefs more closely and I’d be more prone to support them. All our politicians should be in the chambers to represent those people who cared sufficiently to attend polling stations and vote for them. To play the game along party lines is nothing but a slap in the face to the voter.

Changing the mind set is probably not achievable among many of the current crop, but surely they are not so blinkered that they are unable to see how damaging this type of so-called debate is on their standing, politics in general and the nation in its whole.

All the “ya-boo-sucks” hollering does nothing to advance people’s interest in how their country is governed, and in fact alienates them from the process. Perhaps this is the true goal of those who prefer the adversarial type politicking. Put sufficient numbers of people off voting, bring about such apathy towards the process, that the politicians can do whatever they please with impunity. Literally giving us what we vote for.

Alternatively, Holyrood could simply pass legislation that makes every vote  in its chambers a secret ballot - at the time of voting; consequently, every vote becomes a conscience vote. In addition to this, the voting record of every member of the Scottish parliament would be published following the dissolution of each and every session, ensuring they are immune from pressure by the party system. Subsequently offering the sovereign people of Scotland the opportunity to see how their parliamentarians voted, before having the option to re-elect them.

Now, wouldn't that be a wonderful and brave new world?