power-and-politics-2

The issue of whether or not the Unite union has tried to unfairly influence the selection of a potential Labour MP is an important one. It is important in understanding how our democracy works.

As a representative democracy our MPs are by definition supposed to represent us. We can never agree with everyone, so there should at least be someone in Parliament whose views represent ours. However, it is the case that we may never get the chance to actually vote for them because they might not stand in our constituency. Fundamentally having a party system that is privately funded will always mean that individuals and groups will seek to gain influence over the political system. The Conservative Party have always had their rich corporate backers, who would like the economy and regulations to work in their favour. Ever since the turn of the 20th century The Labour Party has been dominated by the unions and their desire to see a socialist economy which works for the benefit of the poor. Any government must always deal with these competing aims and deliver an economy which works for all. Unfortunately power does not work that way.

People will always seek to control the outcome of events, particularly when they are pumping millions of pounds into the process. Politics is an expensive business and like any investment those who put money in want to see a return.

Yet it is sad to see such blatant attempts to control the process. If a person is unable to sway the majority in a room of strangers who share similar aims, then how can they be expected to convince so many others in society. He’s our man or woman, is no way to hold a vote. People need to think as objectively as possible when selecting a candidate. Whether the unions like to admit it or not, the country has a natural centre/right core. There is no respected socialist blueprint for the economy anymore. Unlike the past, the liberal free-market rules. Whether it should or not is a matter of debate but until socialists come up with a credible alternative there is no point in selecting people who talk a good fight but don’t deliver.

This question also goes to the very heart of what it is to be a Labour Party member. For some generations there is absolutely no difference between Labour and a Trade Union, the party is merely the political wing of the union. But times have changed. People have lived through the 70s and the Blair years, they see the two as distinct entities. Activism in political parties is at a low level. This can only seek to undermine that as it sends out the message that one select group is dominant and there is no place for other opinions. The Labour Party has always tried to claim that it is a broad church, capable of addressing the needs and wants of the 21st century.

However, if it is just seen as a clique of one union or another it will lose the appeal of the middle ground and people who feel disenfranchised by this government but who have no yearning to revisit the 70s. If we want to see a broad spectrum of our society represented as councillors, MPs, MEPs, etc then it is vital that all who take part in a candidate selection process feel that they are doing so on a level playing field. There is nothing more demoralising than turning up for a hustings with the victor grinning like a Cheshire cat knowing that the result is already in the bag. A good candidate is one who seeks to know the opinions of all the people who may, or may not vote for them. Too much union dominance of the Labour Party is just as bad as too much dominance of the Conservatives by wealthy donors. It does not help create a healthy democratic system, it openly opens the way for corruption.

The morally bankrupt notion of safe political seats further undermines a system where a muppet can get elected if they know the right people and perch themselves for decades on the mantle piece of power gathering dust.

Whether any laws have been broken will be a matter for the police to decide but clearly there has been one of trust. Trust in a system that is supposed to be fair, but then this is about power and power has nothing to do with fairness. I am however, sadly living in cloud cuckoo land. Our democracy, if we are to call it that, will forever be dominated by a small group on the left and a small group on the right. Each group exercising power by the tightening or loosening of purse strings. The question of whether Ed Miliband comes out of this a stronger or weaker leader is of no consequence. The damage has been done and the truth has been revealed.