The Eurozone is worried! Beppe Grillo has certainly stirred the pot. In the Italian election his ‘movement’ grabbed a quarter of the votes, propelling 160 or so non-politicians into politics. I believe the most pertinent question we should all be asking (and it is relevant to all of us) is why did the voters vote this way? Perhaps after the antics of Berlusconi (including passing laws specifically designed to exempt him from prosecution) and then coping with his rather grey successor who they never voted for, and who subjected them to austerity and mass unemployment, they took the view that to go through all that for the sake of some European intangible ideal was not what they wanted. Perhaps their frustration with the day-to-day political merry-go-round finally got the better of them. Perhaps they want to try something different!
Could this be the glimmer of the beginning of a shift away from the conventional growth-obsessed thinking of ‘the usual suspects’, and towards a carefully controlled steady state economy?
There has been plenty of corruption in Italy’s politics for years – but take a look at the politics of the rest of the world. We in the UK are always so smug about our ‘mother of parliaments’ image, but really we are no better than the others. Although ‘corruption’ is a word generally applied to the dishonest use of money or power in government, I would apply it more widely; to include, for example, politicians who misrepresent their motives and ambitions. We have had the Iraq war, clearly fought on a false premise, ‘cash for questions’, the expenses scandals, Chris Huhne’s ill-judged antics, all of which have caused us to question the integrity of our politicians. And now the accusations against Lord Rennard – concerning which we are still being ‘spun’ a dilution of the facts.
In the USA, the public are continuously misled on a grand scale – their Iraq war (again on false premises), the subjugation of their politics to Big Oil, Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, the NRA and other groupings (including religious ones) who continue to mislead on food safety, energy, sustainability, climate change, environmental issues and the manipulation of their tax dollars to favour those who least need help but who chase power and wealth.
The level of corruption in the African countries, Spain, Greece, South American nations and most others is a phenomenon we are frequently alerted to by the media – and certainly the media themselves are not above scrutiny.
Some more fanciful commentators have drawn a parallel between Grillo’s Five Star movement and the so-called Arab spring, suggesting that Beppe Grillo’s arrival on the political scene heralds the start of a Europe-wide anti-political movement. But in fact this trend became internationally visible a while back with the Occupy movement, although the anti-globalisation protests predated that. Because the Governments in Europe and the USA are in favour of free speech (at least superficially), the Occupy movement has a harder row to till; such movements thrive on opposition.
But consider for a moment the bye-election in Eastleigh, Hampshire, the seat vacated by the disgraced former Minister Huhne. More than a quarter of the vote went to UKIP. Why? I presume some people voted for UKIP for their stand on European membership and immigration. But that is a less convincing suggestion since David Cameron announced his intention to hold a referendum on Europe, which could potentially address both those issues. Very few people, I would suggest, are in sympathy with most of the other UKIP policies, such as their antipathy towards any kind of green agenda, so we must assume that it is another example of ‘a plague on both your houses’. (Interestingly, in a post-election poll in Eastleigh, most of the ex-Tory voters admitted that at a general election they would return to the Tory fold.)
However our UK parliamentary system does not readily lend itself to a ‘Grillo’ situation, especially since the complete mismanagement of the referendum on our voting system. (A good example of a question constructed to achieve the desired result!)
Perhaps our politics need some kind of purge. To many, our political systems in Europe are not fit for purpose any more. There are too many laws and restrictions, a proportion of them increasingly unenforceable and seemingly pointless, and many of them apparently designed to protect us from ourselves! Taxes take an increasing proportion of earnings to pay for top-heavy administrations and projects which most individuals see as irrelevant to their lives.
So what does Mister Average Voter want? Disillusionment with the well trodden political path taken by every party when in power, notwithstanding election promises or political colour, leaves him bewildered, bored and disinterested. Despite the rose-tinted publicity material spread through constituencies at election time, politicians just don’t have the charisma, imagination or will to do anything new. No matter what they say, we know that there will be no substantive change to the way our Country is governed, only, perhaps, a new and more polished way of presenting it.
We could do with a Grillo to break the mould. Beppe Grillo has stated that his movement will not support any political grouping, but will act as an opposition party. To avoid instability and political break-down, the right and the left will be forced to work together. The potential ramifications of failure are huge throughout Europe, and particularly the Eurozone. After all Italy is not Iceland. The Icelandic Government takes credit for turning its back on its own banks (in response to a referendum vote on the matter), and allowing them to fail, despite protestations from Europe. The new prosperity in Iceland shows the virtue of that course of action. If Italy did the same (and exited the Euro) that would really give us all a good shaking. Perhaps that is just what we all need! There would certainly be plenty of misery, but perhaps it would be relatively short lived, and might free us from the chains of our present form of democracy, allowing us as individuals to relearn how to rely more on ourselves and our communities, and less on the State. Then we could start voting for what we want, instead of voting against what we perceive to be the marginally worse option!