When I talk about British politics with people my age, there is a trend. The direction of each conversation steers towards the same conclusion: ’we are doomed’.
The situation is too much and to cope there is an agreed sense of despair. Whether it be Brexit, the next prime minister, the climate emergency, or any other frightening reality, Britain has sunk so deep that our coping mechanism to try and escape has virtually vanished.
However, if we believe the dark feelings in Britain today are permanent, we are wasting our time. I want to challenge this trend so that my next conversation will not end like many of my last ones.
As June turns to July, it is hard to deny that the mood in Britain feels especially gloomy. It seems that society is no longer just fraying at the edges but right through to its core. It may get worse too, as the drama of the next Conservative Party leader is played out. A scenario described by Ian Dunt as ‘the most pointless contest imaginable’.
Just 160,000 Conservative Party members will decide the next prime minister. Like their voters, the candidates also represent a tiny majority of Brits. They are both privately educated, white males in their 50s who studied at Oxbridge.
If nothing seriously goes wrong, the winner will be Boris Johnson.
It has been hard to watch the momentum gathered behind Johnson. His supporters have ignored his past remarks and brushed over his neglect for the truth. Recently George Osborne, a long-term colleague of Johnson and the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, publicly backed him. This is fine, of course, if it were not for the fact that it came from the editorial section of The Evening Standard — where Osborne is the Editor.
Britain’s revolving door spins smoothly these days.
Clearly, it’s a tough time for optimists in Britain. Britain is divided across a series of fault lines, and many have described the atmosphere as a culture war. I agree and believe Britain overestimates itself as being globally influential and relevant. To recover, it must reimagine itself and hope this is where progress can be made.
This year optimism reared its head in the organised protests of Extinction Rebellion. We have 12 years to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent to avoid ‘catastrophe’, and the protests created a new environmental consciousness in Britain. This was an explosion of positivity founded on the energy of the British people seeking a different type of society. In this space, I predict a collective sense of nationalism on new terms, leaving fossil fuels in the ground and showing compassion to our earth.
Support for the two main parties has faded and the environmental consciousness can feed a new structural consensus. By this, I foresee an end to our two-party system and a redistribution of control to parties with modern interests. The two parties, held back by the pressures of special interest groups, will struggle to deal with the issues of today, and I predict their decline.
A green agenda will also promote a new electoral system. Removing, First Past the Post — ‘a dazzlingly stupid way to organise a modern democracy’, says Nick Cohen — for a more representative system. Disrupting the status quo, smaller parties will not be pitted against each other and radical change can become more realistic.
Structural reform can also take shape in the form of a citizens’ assembly; one of Extinction Rebellion’s suggested policies. The future of the earth is a matter of equal public concern, and the assembly would take decision-making out of the hands of our politicians who are ill-equipped to make the most controversial calls. People’s agenda would supersede that of Government, offering the pivotal change required to confront the 12-year time frame.
For Britain to progress, it must reject the current consensus and invest in a new agenda based on environmentalism, democracy, fairness and compassion. If Britain is able to do this, I do not believe it is ‘doomed’. People my age must understand this and choose a new way to engage together.
In your next conversation, you must choose hope. ‘Despair is the pain of unfulfilled hope’ says Sophie Walker, and I agree. To declare Britain as doomed is a cry for an understanding of a different future. This rise of environmental consciousness and the potential for a new structure in British politics can provide that hope. Conceding defeat is the easy option, but it will clearly not rescue us.