Politics in the UK, we are led to believe, are pretty much defined by left, right or centre. Some might argue that in Scotland our politics are defined by Yes or No, in England by Stay or Leave, have and have-nots.
Left wing politics are a belief in the redistribution of wealth, public service, and social security systems to look after and protect those who can’t look after themselves, public health and education. The left was defined by the Labour Party, the Green Party, and Socialist Workers Party etc.
Right wing politics are a belief in the individual, in the idea that you need a small state and that you should pretty much provide for yourself. The right believe in authoritarian rules to keep people in check, in the de-regulation of the markets and pretty much survival of the fittest. The right has been defined by the Conservative Party, Ukip, and far right like the National Front.
The centre ground of politics is the belief that you can have a degree of social equity and that people can move up and down the social strata. Centrist parties like to say that they have faith in the people but provide a safety net for the most vulnerable. Centrist politics in the UK are pretty much defined by the Liberal Democrats, the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales.
However, Politics in the UK has become the playground of the wealthy, all of the parties have become infected by neoliberalism to varying degrees and to an extent that we don’t even see it as an ideology at all, we just accept it as a given. We are now consumers, consumers of goods, of services, even in our politics we are consumers. We are defined by what we can buy or provide. The market is now the politics that influences everything around us. The wealthy believe that they have earned that wealth while ignoring the advantages that the wealth gave them in the first place and the poor are blamed for being poor, for being ill or for being unemployed.
Our politics now are not left, right or centre but are the politics of neoliberalism, of selfishness which allows for the transfer of power from the public sector, the people, to the private and to the few, as Owen Jones said “Socialism is for the wealthy and Capitalism for the rest of us “. It’s the belief that the market is best placed to run virtually everything including the services that many of us would class as social protection. It places its values in the tradition of the free market and it has infected all of our political parties, and this therefore means that the few have power over the majority, and can influence our democracy to suit the market and their own priorities.
Many will argue that there is no such thing, but our politics today, left, right and centre, would indicate otherwise. Neoliberalism has maybe always been there, called different things over the years but always there, always manipulating, always controlling, stripping away the hard-fought rights that many fought and died for over the years, slowly but surely and taking advantage of every crisis, of every conflict to remove power from the many and to concentrate it again in the hands of the few. And we have bought in to it, we lap it up and fail to see how we are manipulated by the politicians, the media, by branding, which is all controlled by something that is cloudy, that we can’t really put our finger on but is there in the background all the same.
When I look at the state of our politics today, when I see that fundamentally the political parties are not really that different, are manipulated as much as we are, I wonder where our decency has gone, our humanity. We are in difficult political times but the debate remains about austerity, individual power within political parties, the continued erosion of our rights and our living standards. When I think about myself and my belief in Scottish Independence do I risk losing sight of my belief in decency.
I hate inequality, I hate poverty, I hate the feeling that no matter whom we vote for we are powerless to bring about change. Have we really lost sight of our decency that we are blinded by our anger, our manipulated belief in single issues and are as branded as those that we complain about in the first place.
I have always wanted to find my place within a political party and have been a member of both the SNP and the Liberal Democrats over the years. But maybe what I am looking for, what we all need to find, is our decency, our belief in doing what is right, our instincts to help those in need. When children go hungry, that is wrong, when people are sanctioned for being a minute late at the job centre, that is wrong. When workers are treated like slaves at Sports Direct or have no rights with zero hours contracts, that is wrong. When vital public services are being removed or starved of cash, that is wrong, when billions of pounds are spent on nuclear weapons, that is wrong.
Maybe what we should be thinking about is not left, right or centre. It’s not about Tory Bastards, Lying Labour, Hippy Liberals, Racist Ukippers or Divisive Nationalists. Maybe what we need to be trying to find again is our decency, our belief in what is right and what is not right. It is not right for people to starve, it is not right for people to be penalised for being poor, it is not right for a hidden few at the top to dictate the decision-making of the most at the bottom. It is not right that we have lost sight of our humanity and our decency.
Maybe every time we vote our measure should not be left, right or centre, the union or independence, socialism or neoliberalism, but maybe our measure, my measure, should be about what is decent and what is humane. Maybe if we get that correct, maybe we might actually start to see the change that many of us are crying out for.