Let’s face it everyone, 2018 was not a good year for liberals in politics globally. In a year that saw the right-wing advance in Europe and South America and a particularly vicious strain of racism hit the United Kingdom.
For the clear anti-Semitism and misogyny in parts of the Labour Party to the anti-Muslim and ‘keep the girlies in their place’ actions of the Tory Party to challenges on the street to people speaking Polish or looking ‘foreign’ have left our Country weaker and more divided.
For the past 2.5 years the United States of America seemed to exemplify much of what is wrong with the global body politic. A petulant, mean spirited, sexist and immoral man had been elected as the President of the most powerful Country in Western Politics. Admittedly, he lost the popular vote by 3 million but in the peculiar system which America has he won. He then started cutting away from long-standing alliances; causing trade wars which are damaging his economy as much as anyone else’s and appealing to his unattractive and illiterate base.
But then in November something wonderful happened. Donald Trump, the Great Satan, lost! He lost the popular vote for the Senate and he lost the House to a blue tide which swept the Republicans out of power. But that only tells half the story. Just look at that blue tide. Women; Moslems, Christians, Native Americans; people of Somali descent. In fact, a diversity which reflects the USA as a whole. Compare that with the shrunken Red side of the Chamber. Of their new congress people only one – yes one was a woman!
I looked on with awe yesterday as this motley collection was sworn in. What a joy to see these vibrant young people take their seats. They hold out to me not only a hope for the future of the USA but perhaps a signpost for the way forward in the United Kingdom.
Our Parliament looks a bit like Congress used to prior to last November. On one side, a predominantly male, wealthy and white Conservative Party. On the other a much more diverse group of people on the Labour benches with different ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s hard to talk about religions because we do not carry religious affiliations on our sleeve in the way that they do in the US.
My own Party is moving steadily forward. Our team of MPs is one third female with one from a minority background as the first UK MP of Palestinian descent. In my own Council Chamber in Liverpool our Group is 50/50 in terms of gender and I am the oldest member of our group by some 20 years with a good middle-aged spread (!) but not the proportion of 20+ year olds that I would like to see. Two of our members also are descended from recent immigrants to our Country.
Can what is now happening in the USA also happen in the UK? On their first day in office the Democrats took decisive action to try and break the impasse on the budget. They acted but did not move from the principles on which they had been elected. They fought the wall although it would have been easier to try and appease a group of right-wingers who support Trump and backed it or fiddled around at the edges.
They have set out clear ambitions about climate change; health services; social care; taxation; foreign policy and a host of other matters which there is a clear line between them and Trump. They are bold and their new law-makers will not allow them to be anything else. They may not yet be able to totally change the policies of Trump but they can neuter much of what he wants to do and show that there is a better friendlier and more attractive America.
In our Country there is far too much appeasement and too little principle. May decides her policy on Brexit, the key issue of our generation on political calculation and her reliance on a largely white, ageing and suburban/rural membership. Corbyn has only one thought – how to get a General Election. The fact that a General Election after Brexit would leave him unable to deliver any of his pet projects because there would be no money is irrelevant to him. An impoverished ‘People’s Republic’ is more appealing to him than staying in a system which would help to deliver strong services for those that need them most.
So where do we go from here? We need to remove power from the white baby boomers who still predominate in all the Political Parties. Yes, that does include me! But the omens are not good.
My own Party has more than doubled in size since the 2015 General Election and we have succeeded in getting a good number of those new members into positions of authority within the Party and elected on to councils. Half of the people who I expect to get elected next year will be people who have joined us in the past three years and half will be experienced returnees to the Council. Progress that is welcome but so many of our new members happily support us on twitter but not on the streets.
That is not only a problem for our Party but also for the Labour Party. I’ve just seen a motion approved by the Wavertree Labour Party which is redolent of student politics at its worst. Instead of hard actions they want protests and demos on the street of Liverpool and the Country. Actions which will do more to get people to vote Tory than anything else although it might make the protagonists feel more self-righteous, although that is a feeling that they have in abundance anyway!
So, I close with an appeal. If you are between 20 and 40 get involved with a political Party. This applies to anyone but especially to people who are women or from minority backgrounds based on sexual preference, race, faith or disability. Then don’t just Tweet but campaign to change the minds of people by example and by practical actions. I clearly hope that you will join my Party and if you are in Liverpool would be delighted to talk to you. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But if you want to join another Party please do so.
I want our Parliament and our Council to look like the House of Congress did yesterday. Diverse, young, vibrant and committed. Well done América – we can once again say we want to follow your example!