Opinion

Paul McNamee: So the house of cards has started to fall. Now what?

The Independence Group represents the mumbled hope new British politics is built on

The Independence Group

We’re really hard to please.

For the longest time, we (that’s you and me) have banged on about politicians being careerist and following party lines rather than standing up for what they believe in, or speaking first and foremost for the people who elected them.

And then, whaddayaknow, when a number of them make a stand, for reasons that they say are to do with personal belief and what they feel is right, we have a go at them.

The Independent Group of 11 MPs are (and you can insert/delete according to need) just what Britain has been aching for/careerists who put personal desire above party unity/going to make a No Deal Brexit happen/going to stop Brexit happening/going to destroy the Labour party/going to destroy the Conservative party/going to make an ongoing series of bad film title puns.

What do we want?

Do we want politicians to believe in something? Do we want more by-elections? Do we just want the bins taken out on time?

There are two things clear about the new grouping of MPs.

The first is that at present they all represent English constituencies. They are, essentially, an English party. Even though they’re not officially a party yet. Which makes them unique among the parties of the United Kingdom and this limits their influence and the influence on them.

Something is shifting. We should welcome that.

The second is that they are not pulling up any trees. They have not come out swinging with a hugely energising, clearly defined statement of intent. Politics is broken, they say, let’s change it.

Our aim, they add, “is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the party’s interests”.

That’s fine and upstanding, but it does not commit them to anything. At present it feels like a debating club or pressure group. And that is perhaps why space exists to have a pop at them.

The clear let down is that their move exposes reality. The mooted new way in British politics has been built on a mumbled hope – that this way would hold some golden keys and lead us through a new door. And through that door would be sunlit uplands where the Brexit impasse would be resolved and a solution to austerity and galloping poverty would be found. And everything would work out fine. Instead it’s well-meaning people who “recognise the value of healthy debate”.

Despite all this it is no reason to dismiss them out of hand. At least they are moving things, albeit incrementally rather than by revolution. Something is shifting.

We should welcome that.

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