|The Brighton Salon||
Do we Still Need Political Parties
Political people who want change seem to have run out places to go. Whilst the excitement around the ‘Corbyn effect’ on revitalising young people to join the Labour Party has been undercut by vicious internal squabbling and fears the party may split; whilst Conservative triumphalism over a surprise election majority disguises a greying, dwindling party base still threatened by UKIP. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats committed ritual suicide in the Coalition; and the Greens still have only one MP (as does UKIP).
Perhaps these institutions can be made fit for purpose? The Green Party form a Brighton council coalition with the Conservatives, retaining the deputy leader seat despite losing half their members last time and some senior party figures have mooted supporting Tory Zac Goldsmith in the London Mayoral election. Labour has lost Scotland and big bits of the North, while gaining Hove, making a General Election victory unlikely for the foreseeable. Since their surprise majority win in the General Election, recent Conservative pronouncements on curbing trade unionism, further privatisation and authoritarian responses on vaguely defined ‘extremism’ seem to suggest it is more interested in re-running the battles of the 1980s than the present.
Does party politics matter when the parties are so similar'? Are there other ways to engage people who want to do something about the world, especially the youth, that don't involve committing to creaking institutions with even creakier ideologies? The Scottish National Party, for all its astonishing success in recent elections, is probably limited to Scotland and there has been a growing acknowledgement that it is not quite the left-wing alternative. Despite waging its election campaign primarily around social issues, the Greens' natural ally on environmental and rural issues seem to be the Tories. Labour has lost the working class and has an increasingly fractious relationship with its traditional trade union base. The promised mass international movement that was Occupy is now nowhere, whilst occasional big demonstrations against austerity or student fees struggle for wider purchase.
There were once no political parties, they all had to be built, idea on idea, person by person. Is it time to build a new political vehicle, one more suited the way ahead? Do traditional political parties have any relevance for contemporary 21st century political life? Has the emergence of new radical groupings elsewhere – such as Greece’s Syriza or Spain’s Podemos – provided any lessons for the UK? Will the forthcoming referendum on Europe have a similar galvanising effect on politics as the Scottish independence vote?
Lyndsay is the elected Activities Officer who represents students in matters relating to active involvement within the Univeristy of Sussex Students’ Union and its sport, volunteering and other student-led activities. She is involved in alternative forms of activity including a bicycle recycling project and the Role Models initiative that gives school pupils advice on health and social issues.
Jakub Makowski moved to the UK in 2009, and has lived here ever since becoming increasingly involved in the local community and British politics. He lives in Colchester and has been the leader of Colchester Youth Council for two consecutive terms as well as representing the town in the UK Youth Parliament for two years before taking on a different role in Youth Parliament. His involvements in youth representation lead to a keen interest in local affairs and local politics. He sits on the Essex County Council Youth Strategy Group which has a set budget to allocate and commission out towards Youth Related projects. The group consists mainly of County and Borough Councillors. Jakub is also involved in a political party and will be standing for election to Colchester Borough Council in May 2016. Jakub is the Regional Chair of Liberal Youth in the East of England and has been the youngest ever person to be elected into that position.
Thomas Soud is founder and Chair of Brighton Left. A Youth led organisation which aims to promote Left Wing ideas throughout Brighton and Hove. He founded the organisation in 2012 at the age of 15; Brighton Left now has hundreds of articles published, a weekly slot on Radio Free Brighton and their site receives 900 visits a month.
On top of this Thomas has worked as the Member of Youth Parliament for the City and currently manages members of Youth Parliament across the South East. He was also involved in creating the Brighton Youth Olympiad and Sussex Voice. In November 2014 he spoke at the dispatch box of the House Of Commons.
Before graduating with from a BA in Politics at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Joel interned at the online magazine, spiked. He now writes for them as well as other publications including the Independent,openDemocracy and Culture Wars reviewing documentaries and discussing a wide a range of issues covering international politics, freedom, education and the arts. Joel competed in the Debating Matters Competition in 2007-8 and joined their team at the Institute of Ideas in 2013.