We are a divided nation

Britain of the past two weeks has started to take on the worst aspects of American politics, divided into opposing tribes each with world views the other finds incomprehensible, who regard each other with mutual loathing.

In England and Wales, there’s a gulf between the prosperous cosmopolitan cities and university towns, and the small towns and declining former industrial regions. One side effect of being a progressive rock fan is you do get to visit places like Bilston, Crewe or Wath-upon-Dearne. It’s a different world from the bustling cities and leafy suburbs, and it’s a world many from the prosperous regions probably never see.

What this divisive referendum has exposed is the way our structure of government and electoral system disenfranchises large parts of the country. People who don’t live in marginal constituencies had got used to their vote not counting for anything much in general elections, and used the one time their vote actually did count to send a message to the elites that had been ignoring or taking them for granted.

Whether we do end up leaving the European Union in the end, and it’s by no means as settled as some politicians would like us to think, we will have to heal those divisions.

It ought to be obvious that the fruits of whatever prosperity we might see in the future must be shared more fairly, and we need to think about the best ways of doing this without either stifling enterprise or creating political client states.

But constitutional reform needs to be high on the agenda. There needs to be a more representative electoral system for starters; never again should mainstream politics be able to ignore entire regions for decades. But there also needs to be more regional autonomy within England. It’s not clear quite what a more decentralised England might look like, but if people voted to “take back control”, they should be given more power over the political decisions that effect their lives.

Quite how this can come to pass rather than see the nation fall deeper into darkness and division is another question.

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3 Responses to We are a divided nation

  1. Chris Hall says:

    Well written and right on the money as always.

  2. Michael says:

    Quite so!
    I would argue that the EU’s principle failure has been the same mistake.
    All political bodies tend to make exactly the same assertion:
    “We believe in the principle of subsidiarity. All decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level and the lowest possible level is this body.”

    I’ve even watch the equivalent sort of thing happen in synods of the Church of England.

    We have reached the point where a large proportion of the populace at large has no respect for the political class in Brussels and actually went to the polling station to show it. Those who have lost respect for Westminster usually fail to vote at all.

    The gap between the rich and the poor is getting too wide.
    It is futile to imagine that gap can be eliminated, but if something isn’t done soon the whole social order is going to collapse and that will be messy for everyone.

  3. Ian Stock says:

    I’ve just finished reading a new book called The Stupidity Paradox. It’s mostly about organisational idiocy but your comments above reminded me how it’s just as applicable to politics and society in general. Recommended read.