“Politics? It’s all a big stitch up…”
…Said every person ever according to most news reports and to be honest, there’s probably some truth in all this: We probably are being stitched up somewhere along the line but that’s not the thing that really riles people. No, what really gets stuck in their craw is that the hoodwinking doesn’t seem to be the work of any one individual or institution. Instead, it appears to be the product of a sprawling, amorphous and seemingly unknowable entity called ‘politics’.
That’s a problem in so much as we’re quite good at dealing with distress at the hands of something that’s actually tangible. For example, it’s fairly straightforward to photoshop horns on Margaret Thatcher’s head or troll IDS on Twitter. It doesn’t change much in the world at large, but it certainly does make us feel better and there’s much to be said for that. However, when you feel like you’re being blagged by a concept, well, then things get really tricky: Have you ever tried photoshopping the entirety of politics into an SS Gruppenfurer’s uniform? No? Well, take it from me, it’s pretty damn hard.
However, the real danger of this feeling that politics is a busted flush is actually a little more profound than its implications on low-rent satire and my fear is that when we perceive ourselves to be the victim of something we can’t really define, we tend to resort to methods that are equally murky in origin and intent. Half truths take on a factual swagger, things that previously sounded crazy suddenly appear to be reasonable and the door is flung wide open for the rabble rousers, demagogues and snake oil merchants of this world.
So how did we end up here? Well, there’s the small matter of the Great Recession, the failure of both left and right to adequately explain how to make the world a better place and the absence of any better ideas worth substitution, but the answers to these problems are more than a little over my paygrade. However, one thing that I have been very aware of is that not many people have much of an idea how UK politics works on a nuts and bolts level and the very state of not knowing makes it so much harder to comprehend exactly whose petard we’re being hoisted on.
Nor am I surprised that this sort of stuff is not common knowledge, mainly because the whole of the British political system is essentially based on ‘muddling through’ for hundreds of years and a system in which muddle is layered upon muddle is not exactly the easiest to fathom. However that’s exactly what I intend to do – starting with the very basics and working our way up through a series of posts, I shall attempt to untangle how it all works in the hope that we end up in a position where news reports from Westminster actually mean more than an opportune moment to switch the kettle on. That’s not to say that I’m going to make you love our politicians, nor am I here to tell you what I think is right or wrong. Instead, it’s going to be purely about how the system works and if I get it really right, I hope you might start to get a glimpse of the perverse beauty of a system that’s built on centuries of fudgy compromises, cut corners and a Heath Robinson approach to nation building.
Sounds like a plan? Alright, let’s get this show on the road by looking at the constitution.