I was pondering the nature of ‘politics’ the other evening and while accepting that New Labours lies led us to ‘dodgy dossiers’ and the deserts of Iraq, I think it is important to keep a sense of cautious optimism, all is not lost. Politics is not entirely sleazy New Labour spin and quiet Conservative club backroom deals and backhanders and many ordinary motivated people do actually care a great deal about the communities where they live and other causes.
And speaking of Iraq, don’t get me wrong, I had little love for Saddam and overthrowing him was a good idea, if only a matter of being twelve years (it should have been done in 1991) and thanks to the sanctions - half a million dead Iraqi children to late for the post invasion fallout to go anywhere good. Saddam's passing should not be lamented save for the fact that it was far too hastily, denying many Iraqi's, the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds their day in court and real justice.
We in the West also missed out on an opportunity for a judicial process which could have investigated which European Governments (the UK, the then West Germany, France, etc) rushed to break the sanctions with military imports via Jordan. Many of the same Western Governments were also quite happy to supply all the necessary technology and chemicals to Saddam so he could create, and use poison gas on the battlefield and in Kurdistan.
When you have a Government (New Labour or otherwise) that can lie about the big issues so blatantly, so openly and seem to get away with it… whether over Iraq, over miner’s compensation, the NHS, the real state of our farming industry, etc …it’s no wonder people get disillusioned with ‘politics’.
When you have a Government who when defeated in the courts openly and quietly changes laws (at the 11th hour) and the rules to get its own way as it did with the Chagos Islanders (who won their right to return to home yet were denied when the Government changed the law); and the Gurkha's who have one again been denied justice (http://www.gurkhajustice.org.uk/) after many years of loyal service have been betrayed by the very Government(s) they have served.
Successive governments, New Labour and Conservative have broken the soldiers covenant, they have left soldiers dependents in often sub-standard accommodation; and they know that many soldiers use their own money to buy their own kit, because the Government issue is sub-standard. When a Government betrays those very people who have often been called upon to give the last full measure of devotion in the worst of circumstances – where does that leave the rest of us?
We have a government that invaded Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban and puts in power the very collection of murders, drug dealers, rapists, criminals and warlords who were so appalling when in power that the Afghan people were prepared to trust the Taliban. We have a government who invaded Iraq and to get out of a hole put the Iraqi equivalent of the Taliban in power, is it any wonder people are so disillusioned with ‘politics’?
All is not lost – there are many people who have said enough is enough at local level and have ‘got involved’. Ordinary people are involved in a huge number of grass roots campaigns: whether against the proposed M4 levels motorway, or the Severn barrage, or campaigning for better rail services, or preventing their communities from ending up as retail chain dominated clone town deserts, or saving their community schools from closure. The good news is that they can with persistence and organisation, win their battles and enrich our communities as a result.
Our communities need elected representatives who are on their side, who will listen, who will act on their behalf, who will help rather than hinder and who will deliver at all levels of government from European level down to community level. When the election comes the real choice will be about what sort of communities we want to live in, how we can make them better, how can we fix what’s broken rather than tinker with things for the sake of it – that’s what politics is or should be about.