Perhaps the one thing that has been most difficult to understand as the life of lockdowns has progressed, has been the complete absence of or failure to launch of any political movement that has even a hint of what it is going to take to overturn the damage that this political class has done to the UK.
Yes, it’s a big ask to see the first signs of growth or early genesis of that which will make the changes and new starts right across government and the public sector that this Country (or what will soon be left of it) will need to make it work best for everyone in the 21st century, post-COVID age. But you would hope that near 10 months of this would at least have seen a start.
For the growing number of normal people who quietly oppose everything this Government is doing – whilst also having the civility to do what they are told, the chilling and rather disconcerting reality is that the anti-lockdown groups and ‘new reformists’ that have emerged since March are falling victim to their own madness. Conspiracies abound amongst them, being used to explain the ongoing chain of decisions made by Government that should instead just be attributed to stupidity or the disfunction of the current political system in some other non-emotional way.
Abuse or misuse of a public platform upon discovering that you have one is nothing new. Part of the problem within British Politics today is too many Councillors and MPs have the habit of believing their own hype the very minute that they are first elected. For many of the would-be leaders finding that social media has been the first medium to give them a voice, the effects are very much the same.
Good leaders continue to listen when they have ‘power’ or ‘influence’. They observe, ask questions and remain very open to the possibility that everything around them that they already know could otherwise be easily explained.
Regrettably, this has meant that through the COVID-19 Crisis to date, many of the figureheads of the anti-lockdown ‘movement’ have reached their critical mass based on nothing more than their own existing thoughts and viewpoints. They have not looked anywhere else for answers to understand why the anti-lockdown movement or change of any kind is suffering a terminal lack of groundswell amongst the public and therefore a complete failure to launch.
Now enter Nigel Farage and Richard Tice off the back of the Electoral Commission finally approving the change of name from The Brexit Party to Reform UK on 6th January.
With ‘reform’ as the name for a ‘new’ political party, it would be very easy to imagine that what comes next will be the vehicle or movement for change that everyone across the UK now need and can therefore relate to.
But can it really be so?
Farage exhibits what arguably looks like deliberate amnesia, increasingly appearing to suggest that a 4-step evolution to Reform UK didn’t involve either The Anti Federalist League or UKIP, and that it has only been the transformation from the successful and apparently cross-party Brexit Party to Reform UK that was involved in this political move.
Sadly, many of the same people who will jump up to back him and Reform UK now and put themselves forward as candidates for this new movement will be the very same who have been travelling the same road and the same journey all along. Many are just wannabe politicians, not unlike like those still flocking to the banners of the establishment Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat causes too.
The question must therefore be asked what exactly it is that could possibly have changed from what we have seen before where this new political vehicle is concerned?
Don’t get me wrong. We should value the fact that the new Reform UK Party is at least shining a light in the direction of the institutional and establishment wrongs that are heaping layers of injustice right across society.
Indeed, what made the Farage narrative so powerful as the Country came out against Membership of the European Union was his possession and use of a voice that appeared to describe the effects of how this relationship was doing us all wrong in almost clinical detail.
The argument that this narrative and the succinct solutions that it offered helped to win our departure from the EU did not focus on or explain the causes. Issues that could have – once communicated properly and in terms that those who are willing to listen would understand – created much more significant buy in and made far more sense than the case made by the Leave side of the debate ever was.
Sadly, this is the Farage, Brexit Party and Richard Tice formula through and through. Therefore, you can safely assume that it will in time prove to be the Reform UK formula too.
We can see how this tried and tested formula is about to be rolled out with key Reform UK policies such as electoral reform, where the elephant in the room that gives the lie to the supposed fairness of Proportional Representation does in fact underscore that First Past The Post is much fairer when politicians behave as they should. FPTP is the most reliable way to gain democratic consensus rather than damming government to the permanent need for compromise between many marginal and opposing parties and their ideas which almost never have thought for consequences or the collective good involved.
These first policies from Reform UK are not about reaching across the political divides and being inclusive where our current political system has failed. Through measures such as targeting market liberalisation and neoliberal thinking, they are inadvertently seeking to compound the problems we have where those who control the money rule and everyone else is disadvantaged – despite all that we are being told.
Farage appears a sell-out to the finance system that he was once a trader within and therefore a part of. That much is clear from the adverts that easily find you today on YouTube where he appears to be talking up a better way, but where self-interest and selling financial packages that profit somebody is clearly involved.
This isn’t about making Farage or his new Party wrong. But self interest and ideas driven by disenfranchisement and anger with the establishment – no matter how badly the Politicians in power today are treating us – is not what this Country needs now.
A name like Reform UK will surely be wasted on this vehicle if it should remain in this form. That is a great shame for us all, given that top to bottom reform is exactly what everything beyond our basic freedoms in this Country is what we collectively – and quickly need.
Indeed, the irony should not be lost on anyone that the Electoral Commission approved the change of Party Name despite the well-established existence of the think tank called Reform – which has long championed change at a smaller level – but has arguably failed by only achieving what it has been politically fashionable within the ‘mainstream’ to do.
Reform UK has its work cut out if it wants to make any kind of significant mark on the local elections that as I write are still scheduled to go ahead in May.
It is surely no accident that the approval of the name change was held up until after Brexit was done and that the announcement came itself at almost exactly the same moment that the Conservative Party declared that there would not be any kind of physical campaigning taking place for its own candidates at any time between now and Election Day in May.
The Conservatives may indeed wish to rely on the power of incumbency to see them through these elections and keep new pretenders away from what would otherwise be a crowded door. But now that this political gauntlet has been thrown, the Reform UK Party would be wise to forget its first run at elections as being in May 2021, unless they already possess the organisation and leadership behind the scenes to run a fully online campaign at local level, ensuring that distance campaigning is theirs to own in 2021.
An educated guess would be that Reform UK simply don’t have either the expertise or the time to do it. And that their presence and entry to the political field now will not only fail to make the impact in the long term as an alternative that the country needs. But that it will also discourage and distract others who could make a real difference from seeing this time of great uncertainty as the right moment to step forward and be part of what could otherwise be genuine change.
Farage has undoubtedly helped deliver that which he has always been about. He should be Sir Nigel at the very least. But in reality, should have been advising government on the exit from the EU and should now be sat in the House of Lords.
The management of our future is in no way anything like the binary question which Farage championed as his cause on one side of the Brexit debate.
The future of the UK is complicated to a level that even our politicians and decision makers fail to understand.
We need a new and human way of driving our future forward that uses experience to give a voice and new reality to all others, rather than heralding the idea that this is just another group shouting loudly that this is ‘our time’ and that anyone else will simply have to wait for theirs in turn.
We are in this together is a phrase that can no longer be used as a hollow form of words.