The BBC notes that organisations such as the Caravan Club have more members than all of our political parties put together. Commenting on this over at Anna Raccoon’s, Simon Cooke gives us a personal flavour given his role as a councillor. I wasn’t aware, for example, that councillors have to stump up part of their income from their role to their political party. But, then, I’ve never bothered to look to deeply into the matter, having no desire to run for office. And, if I did, I would doubtless stand as an independent anyway.
I’ve done my bit of political party membership. For many years I was a Labour party member – partially boosted as a consequence of union membership. I fell out of love with the Labour party pretty much as soon as they started wielding power in the aftermath of their landslide in 1997. The decline hit terminal in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the egregious David Blunkett went on the offensive against our civil liberties. My membership was terminated soon after that.
Recently for a while I joined the Libertarian Party UK. And didn’t that work out well?
Simon Cooke posits the idea that people don’t join parties because there is little or nothing in it for them. He may have a point. I don’t as a general rule join anything very much – I have a Groucho Marx approach to clubs and membership. However, I joined the Labour party not because I wanted something out of it, but because I wanted to put something in – much the same with my joining the somewhat dysfunctional Libertarian Party. I guess what I stood to gain was, hopefully, a better world. Well, we were never going to get that from Labour, were we? So, I grew up. LPUK was destined for infant mortality and was never going to change anything very much very soon, so we are back to why should I join a party – or why should you or anyone else for that matter? Unless you want to impose your will on others, frankly, I cannot think of one reason why we should.
The BBC offers some reasons:
The public have grown cynical and disillusioned with politicians.
You don’t say? Venal, hypocritical, power grasping, greedy, thieving, authoritarian, vacuous bastards to a man and woman, it is hardly surprising we have become cynical – although I prefer the term realist.
We live in a more individualistic age (Why rely on political leaders to speak for you when you can do it yourself on Twitter or Facebook?).
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although why Facebook and Twitter come in for a broadside is a little odd. Maybe because they are the flavoured targets of the moment. Blogging such as this is usually the preferred bullseye. But, yes, there is an underlying point here – that we can openly exchange ideas with others about a given subject and agree, disagree or change our minds without having to worry about the party’s position, policy or what the whips might decide. We can come to conclusions on each matter on the basis of its merit, not on what the party deems right. Now there’s a thought. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be that rather more of the population is busy watching reality TV than it is discussing the hot political topic du jour.
So we come back to the BBC’s question; can political parties be save from extinction? In which, I would respond with another question; Do we want to? Or, would we miss them? Or, who cares?