Westminster cannot compete with the lords of money and Brusselsby Andrew Marr / August 20, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in September issue of Prospect Magazine
Having spent most of my lifetime reporting on British politics, it’s hard to remember such a potentially bumpy, and exciting, coming together of big events. There’s the Scottish referendum. Then there’s the general election, following on from the first coalition government in my lifetime—and depending upon its results, there’s then an in-out European Union referendum with a strong chance of Britain leaving.
So we could have, in theory, an independent Scotland trying to get back into the EU, while the rest of the UK is muscling its way through the exit door. Or we could have a Labour majority government in Westminster next year—but one dependent upon Scottish MPs who are bound to leave when independence negotiations conclude. All this shaking-up is happening against the international background of chaos in the Middle East, the worldwide rise of Islamism, a sharp downturn in relations between President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the west; stagnation and political lassitude in the EU; and an uncertain United States which has been less decisive and influential on the world stage than at any time in living memory. Back at home, politics has managed to find a way of dipping below its already low reputation: our merely local village stories include lurid claims about child-sex rings at the top of previous governments, and the aftermath of an incestuous relationship between tabloid journalism and government. The novel arrival of a coalition, even though it has produced a government less radical and assertive than a Tory-only one would have been, has not been welcomed by the tepid British people as a brave new world. They’ve changed their minds again: they don’t agree with Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Politically, we are living through a very strange time. The challenges—from the decline of real-term wages and the shortage of affordable housing, to the arguments over global climate change and the triumph of jihadist groups—are all too obvious. And yet what seems to be happening to our democracy is a weary turning-away from the only political structure we have that could potentially address at least some of these.