Ryeview – October 2005

These Party Conferences haven’t impressed me

John Clark writes…

First published: October 2005 – Gazette & Herald

“Nonsense” heckles an immigrant. Security guards forcibly evict him from the Labour Party Conference. A Good Samaritan tried to prevent them. He too was evicted. Later the octogenarian heckler with 50 years membership of the Labour Party and peace campaigning tried to return to the conference. His ‘identity card’ had been changed. The police then told him he was forbidden under the Section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act to enter the conference. Is this the ‘way of life’ the terrorists are trying to destroy? The next proposal is to give the police powers to ‘dish out’ fixed penalties. No doubt in future a heckler will be given an instant ASBO.

I’ve only listened to small parts of the Party Conference season so far. I am not impressed. No it’s not because of their different political views. It is because there appears to be little or no political debate. Even the television and other media ignore the limited debate in the conference hall. They prefer to spend most of their time discussing who is going to be the next leader and when. What matters is where we should be led.

The Arctic Ice Cap is melting so rapidly that respected scientists (USA!) believe it is irreversible. This produces a series of questions. What are the consequences? What is the impact on humans? How will our climate change? Will we still be able to grow food? What should the politicians be doing? No these questions are not debated. The political debate revolves round will Brown follow Blair? Is Charles Kennedy the right leader for the Lib Dems? In the case of the Tories so far we have a choice of at least five with possibly more to follow.

Other major issues not debated include the renewal of our nuclear weapons. At the General Election it was ‘not the time’ and we would have a full national debate after the election. Once again not debated at the Party Conferences. In fact the Minister has approved the MoD withholding all information on the replacement of Trident. At the same time Britain jumps up and down on Iran because it may be heading towards creating a nuclear weapon. In a democracy we should have these issues debated in public by the politicians; maybe at the party conferences.

The list of non-discussed major issues include a possible flu pandemic – tens of thousands may be at risk of serious illness or death; how and when do we get out of Iraq; Britain’s obsession with the arms trade – the government is asked to expel dissidents and drop a corruption investigation into BAE; how long do we continue to keep our pensioners in poverty while our MPs are paid a minimum of ten times the state pension for a ‘part-time job’; the number of women who get breast cancer increases while the authorities fail to look for, let alone tackle the causes. The list of ‘non-debates’ goes on and on.

Why are the politicians not debating these issues? Why are they afraid? I suspect the answer is that many of the solutions require a cost. Many probably mean a cut in the standard of living for the better off.

This would require ‘real’ leadership. It would involve a risk of losing. However it would mean that the issues would be tackled in a democratic way. The present approach is in danger of presiding over our decline. At least the Romans had music to listen to while Rome burned. It looks as though we will be watching leadership voting whilst the planet comes to an end.

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