test-‘Independent, Local, Trusted and Loved’

‘Independent, Local, Trusted and Loved’: The Disintegration of Traditional Party Politics1

Richard House

Even before the recent Rochdale by-election result declared on 1 March 2024, which drove a coach and horses through the traditional party-political system (on which, see below), there were already a number of straws in the wind suggesting that the old tribalist party-political system was, and is, becoming increasingly threadbare, as its legitimacy in the eyes of the public is now in free-fall. And it’s not just the outrageous behaviour and gas-lighting perpetrated by our government and elected MPs in the recent Covid ‘pandemic’ that are responsible for this trend, for the rise of widespread public cynicism about elected politicians, and about the party-political system more generally, constitute a much longer-term phenomenon.

We can go back several hundred years to the American revolution to find some telling wisdom about tribalist, divisive party politics. In 1787, when delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to determine the foundations of their new government, they pointedly excluded political parties from the new nation’s founding document. Far from being an accident, those framing the new American Constitution were determined to avoid the divisions that ripped England asunder in the mid-1600s civil war. Many of the American founding fathers viewed political parties as ‘factions’ – corrupt relics of the monarchical British system that they wished to replace with genuinely democratic government. Founding father James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, maintained that one of the functions of a ‘well-constructed Union’ should be ‘its tendency to break and control the violence of faction’. And American founding father and statesman Alexander Hamilton even called political parties ‘the most fatal disease’ of popular governments. Hamilton might well have been speaking of the situation we find ourselves in today.

In both the academic literature and in opinion polling results, there’s plenty of evidence on the rise illustrating public cynicism in the existing faction-ridden party-political system. As far back as early 2012, nearly a decade before the Covid debacle, Professor of Politics John Keane was writing in The Conversation (27 March; see tinyurl.com/mww2cdh5) that ‘Disquiet and disaffection, like a fast-moving swarm of sticky locusts, are spreading through the drought fields of democracy…. Public disenchantment with politicians and official “politics” is on the rise everywhere, stirred up by factional infighting....’ And Professor Keane continues,

Parliaments are... worse than talk shops. ...[With the] the present-day dramatic jump in the use of executive powers, in a whole range of matters, from drones and nuclear weapons to imposed fiscal austerity and environmental protection, decisions of basic importance to the lives of millions of people are being decided (or blocked) arbitrarily, often behind closed doors.... [W]e are living in times when parliamentary democracy is suffering arteriosclerosis. Big money disproportionately wins votes. Surrounded by lobbyists, legislative committees outsource vital political decisions, politicians are consequently mistrusted and parliamentary mechanisms often seem toothless.

Keane quotes the provocative American journalist and writer H.L. Mencken (1880–1956), who characterised conventional ‘democracy’ (often termed ‘bourgeois democracy’ by those on the left) as ‘incomparably idiotic’, an ill-conceived and unworkable system that beatifies mediocrity, unleashing ignorant mob rule by demagogues. And celebrated Indian novelist and Booker prize-winning political activist Arundhati Roy asks whether there is life after democracy. ‘What happens once democracy has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning, when its institutions have metastasized into something useless, or dangerous?’, she poignantly asks.

Opinion polling also confirms these viewpoints. We read in the Guardian on 4 December 2021 in an article titled ‘...How UK voters lost faith in our leaders’, for example, that ‘More people than ever before feel disaffected by our political system’. We read further that since the Second World War, ‘there has been a gradual decline in trust in politicians across the decades, to the point where today it is close to non-existent, raising profound questions about the health and future workability of our entire democratic system which must rely on mutual respect between elector and elected to work’ (my italics). One could quote any number of studies, academic papers and poll findings supporting this long-term mounting disillusionment and demoralisation.

For Professor Keane, then, these disturbing trends

demand unorthodox political thinking…. We must try to... set aside givens… with fresh democratic thinking, new democratic imaginaries... requir[ing] different methods of saying things, of articulating what cannot easily be said, of exposing silences and taken-for-granted presumptions.

The present article is precisely concerned with such ‘unorthodox political thinking’ that Keane rightly identifies.

More anecdotal ‘straws in the wind’ evidence merely reinforces the impression gleaned from perusing the academic literature and poring over polling findings. For example, in canvassing returns from electors’ viewpoints gleaned on the doorstep in Stroud constituency (Gloucestershire), where I live, ‘I won’t be voting for any of them!’ is becoming an ever-more common refrain, I’m reliably informed by local activists. Recent by-election turn-outs (Mid Beds, and Tamworth) have also been very low; and in my own street campaigning over the past 3–4 years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard chapter and verse on the utter contempt in which the political class is held by ordinary people eager to share their views.

As something of a political nerd going back some five decades, I tend to trace this rise in cynicism particularly to the Blair/Campbell ‘New Labour’ era, where political ‘spin’ became the norm, and how things appeared via cynical, choreographed narrative- spinning became far more important than the actual substance of things. In my view, the rise of manipulative ‘spin’ has been an unmitigated catastrophe for our public life and polity, about which I wrote many a press letter at that time; a toxic genie, moreover, that, once out of its bottle, will never be revocable under the existing political system. Which is where the recent, aforementioned Rochdale by-election result and the arguably unusual title of this article come in.

In the Rochdale parliamentary by-election of late February 2024, a genuinely independent, local candidate – Dave Tully – improbably, and to virtually everyone's great surprise, won more votes (= 6,638) than the mainstream political parties, Conservative and Labour, put together (= 6,133). Moreover, three other ‘Independent’ candidates, taken together, won 1,224 votes. In other words, in this by-election ‘Independentcandidates won over a quarter of the votes cast.

From all I hear and read, the general level of cynicism about, and rejection of, the old, outmoded Con/Lab tribalism has never been greater than it is today. Newly elected MP George Galloway’s graphic metaphor of ‘two cheeks of the same backside’ certainly struck a telling chord with many of us. Ever greater numbers are now abandoning the ‘left’ / ‘right’ Uni-party clown show, a status-quo-reinforcing configuration which Noam Chomsky characterises thus: ‘...all the time, the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate’. The polarities that matter today aren't the tired old ‘left’ versus ‘right’ opposition, but rather, freedom versus tyranny, truth versus falsehood, localism versus globalism, human versus post-human, and good versus evil.

Proposal for a new post-party-political system

Here, I present a tentative proposal for a post-party-political system which places independence at its core. What if, in every constituency across the UK, there were to be one candidate in the next general election running under the label of ‘Independent – Local, Trusted and Loved’? Autonomous groups in every constituency (crucially, free of any centalised control) could get together to identify the local person most likely to win their seat as an independent candidate. The chosen candidate would need to be honest, intelligent, trustworthy and free of ideological baggage and uncritical, tribalist left/right allegiances. Eloquence and charisma would be bonuses, of course – but being local, trusted and loved would be by far the more important credentials for all such independent candidates.

If the burgeoning wave of cynicism about party politics can be caught at the right moment and in the right way, we could even end up with a parliament of genuinely independent, free-thinking MPs, free of insufferable party-political biases, control-freakery and Machiavellian power-moves. This in turn would surely bring a blast of political fresh-air that this country hasn't experienced since the founding of our parliamentary democracy all those centuries ago.

Other possible features of this initiative would be organising a local campaign – including concerted fund-raising, a dedicated website, a compelling local manifesto, creating a street presence, and regular press letter-writing by the candidate to local and regional newspapers (see tinyurl.com/writing-a-press-letter for an extended essay on press letter-writing). In my experience and based on any number of diverse conversations, people are positively thirsting for honest, trustworthy people to represent them – something that the degenerate, tribalist party-political system can never provide.

I am aware of the ‘Independent Alliance’ (ia) initiative spear-headed by David Fleming, as reported in The Light newspaper, issue 38, page 11 (see tinyurl.com/34w7572k; see also https://theindependentalliance.org/), that will be seen as a ‘competitor’ to the proposal outlined above. My issue with David’s proposal is, first, that it’s centralised (and so highly susceptible to control-freakery), demanding that all other non-mainstream candidates stand down in favour of the ia candidate; and secondly, that ia candidates are required to be ‘awake’, ‘truther’ candidates. For me this is too prescriptive and controlling – and, moreover, with ia candidates likely to be written off and smeared by the mainstream-media (MSM) propaganda machine as ‘the conspiracy-theory candidate’.

My proposal as outlined above merely stipulates that chosen candidates are genuinely independent, and are people who already have a trusted profile in their respective constituencies. I’m then prepared to trust that a parliament populated with such representatives would be far more able to agree policies that were free of toxic vested interests, partisanship and technocratic globalising agendas – MPs who wouldn’t allow themselves to be pushed around by globalist technocrats or ‘Yes, Minister’, administrative-state shenanigans. And just as important, such candidates would be much harder for the MSM to smear and ‘cancel’.

Maybe this is all just pie in the sky, with the bread ‘n circuses Tweedledum/Tweedledee political system being so deeply entrenched in the psyche of the populace that change just isn’t possible at this time. But the principled drive to transcend the prevailing toxic system has to start somewhere; and how and where better to start than with 650 excellent candidates across the land, cogently making the case for the existing system being terminally dysfunctional and bankrupt (such a case will certainly be pushing at an open door!), and that this is the moment to trust our governance to the good offices of open-minded, independent, incorruptible men and women who are free of the Machiavellian duplicities and power obsessions of narcissistic party-political egos.

Let’s give it our best shot!

1 A shorter version of this article appeared as ‘Party-political biases and control-freakery’ in the Western Daily Press, 6 March 2024, p. 19.

Richard House formerly lectured in psychology, psychotherapy and education studies (early years) at the Universities of Roehampton and Winchester. The author / editor of 15 books, his next book will be a collection celebrating the great critical thinker, Ivan Illich. He currently campaigns for freedom and truth, and against post-human technocracy, in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Website: independentviewpoints.net


"I’m running as an independent in the next general election. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can either have an MP [gesturing towards the Houses of Parliament] who represents a [political] party in your constituency, or you can have an MP who represents the people in Parliament – but you can’t have both.... Independents are the answer; because the party system is completely corrupted from the top down.... This is a world-wide problem…. What we need to replace the whole of that Parliament with…: we need to halve the number of MPs, and what we need to do – all the laws, every three months, they have to be voted on by referendum by the people; it’s direct democracy – that is taking back control. Because if we sort this mess out [gesturing again towards the Houses of Parliament], I don’t want to ever be in the position where this can be done to the people again. And direct democracy is the answer – that will stop it.... [This is a global movement], and it’s going to get bigger!"