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MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: The dangerous splits threatening our free and stable society


The real winner of Thursday’s by-elections was the ‘None Of The Above’ Party. For in both seats, more than 60 per cent did not bother to exercise a right to vote, something which we have only about a dozen times during our adult lives.

Let us not try to diminish the Tory failure, because it was considerable. Nor should we assume that Labour is too weakly supported to win a General Election, for it is not; or that the Reform Party is not a major threat to Rishi Sunak, because it is. 

All these things remain true. But these are squalls on the surface of British politics.

Beneath lie even more troubled depths, full of potential danger for our stable and free society.

Our politics has fractured in the past quarter century. Until Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, this country was still divided politically on much the same lines that had divided it in 1950. 

One big party stood for the industrial working class, the inhabitants of council estates and 19th Century terraces, and also for a small layer of city-dwelling radical intellectuals. 

Let us not try to diminish the Tory failure, because it was considerable

Let us not try to diminish the Tory failure, because it was considerable

The other stood for the tree-shaded suburbs and the countryside, white-collar workers, for small businessmen and professionals.

But by the time Ms Thatcher had finished, and Mr Blair had begun his huge social revolution, we were a different country.

All the old frontiers had melted away, just as the Iron Curtain had melted away in Europe. Vast new problems grew and overshadowed the old ones: the replacement of industrial jobs with high-tech work or with call-centre drudgery, the flood of women into the workforce and away from the home, the astonishing expansion of universities, the transformation of family life, the computer revolution and, perhaps above all, large-scale immigration.

Loyalties shifted and blurred, as the Brexit referendum showed beyond doubt.

Yet Tory and Labour politicians still sought to win votes by using the old spells and incantations, which no longer worked – more bobbies on the beat on one side, ever-expanding promises to fix the NHS on the other. The public, unfooled, look on with increasing dismay.

How is it so many promises are never fulfilled? Why is such a rich country, full of skills and talent, now so lacking in good government that we navigate our lives amid a maze of potholes, unprotected by an absent police force, stuck in queues for everything from a dental appointment to a cancer operation?

Our politics has fractured in the past quarter century. Until Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair , this country was still divided politically on much the same lines that had divided it in 1950

Our politics has fractured in the past quarter century. Until Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair , this country was still divided politically on much the same lines that had divided it in 1950

The Mail on Sunday does not despise our politicians, of any major party. We value our ancient, free democracy and hope to help it thrive. We understand that politicians bear a heavy responsibility and in many cases are personally devoted to serving their constituents. The great majority are honest and well-intentioned.

But something has gone badly missing in their relationship with those they represent. And if this is not corrected, and if the widespread discontent and disengagement now rife among us are not assuaged, a portal will open through which dangerous extremists can enter mainstream politics.

Such extremism is personified in the worrying figure of George Galloway, who appears to have a real chance in the chaotic Rochdale by-election. As a lone maverick, Mr Galloway can do little harm. But what if other, similar figures begin to profit from discontent and disaffection?

Our mainstream politicians should stop trying to placate voters with mere slogans and instead recognise that their discontents are real and pressing, and that the whole point of democracy is that they should be addressed.



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