Back in 1990 I lived in Frankfurt, West Germany, at an extraordinary time in world history – the total collapse of the USSR and dismantlement of the Berlin Wall.
I had a subscription to Time magazine and week on week it would report what they expected to happen in Eastern European countries, but things were happening so fast no one could accurately predict what would happen next. “Trabbi Trummel” moved across western border points at breath taking speed and articles were out of date by the time they hit the news stands.
At the moment life in politics seems to closely mirror these events. Any one of the revelations about MPs expenses is something that would normally have run and run in the papers for weeks. Now there is so much that we are almost immune to the seismic implications.
But we shouldn’t forget that much as the USSR seemed invincible, it eventually fell. Not surprising when you consider that:
- The leadership were out of touch with the people and world events
- They had spent the nation’s wealth unwisely on foreign wars
- The elite had their Dachas and the people paid for their western luxuries
Those who cynically call for a general election are merely opportunists. The problem of our Parliament is fundamental. The solutions are fundamental. And the reforms need to be radical. Not tinkering with a few things such as fixed duration parliaments and publishing expense claims of MPs and well paid public servants.
I smile at the Labour rush to endorse our own Roy Jenkins proposals on the introduction of Alternative Vote Plus system – 10 years after it was suggested – whilst the Conservatives reject it out of hand, deeming it to take away power from the man and woman in the street and hand it to the political elite. Funny how everyone wants change – except when it might affect them. Gorbachev tried to save the political elite by controlling the extent and pace of Glasnost and Perestroika, but as he learnt to his peril the momentum had built up and the system was just too rotten to be saved. All the walls fell.
Come the next election and the demise of the few MPs tossed overboard – and the significant number kept in with a stinging slap administered from their bosses to the fingers that have been in the public till – we need to remember one thing: opening the gates and allowing a new cohort of party apparachiks in, is not going to be enough to fix what’s wrong.