Ninety-nine years ago today the British Parliament passed the Parliament Act. It limited the powers of the House of Lords and set up as official the idea that the chamber should be democratized. The Parliament Act 1911 also changed the way the House of Commons operated by reducing the maximum term of that chamber from seven to five years and introducing MP’s salaries (then at £400 p.a.). These Commons measures were along the lines of what the Chartists and others had long been campaigning for: shorter terms to give the electorate greater voice (because we can vote more often), and wages for MPs so that a private income is not needed to take up the political ‘hobby’.
Last night I saw the new Labour Party election broadcast featuring Eddie Izzard. The Labour Party rolled out this passionately clever comedian to front this broadcast at the same time that the Tories courted Gary Barlow, boy-band singer, pop-song writer and charity worker. Both are great Britons, but whereas Izzard brings a wry humour and indomitable otherness, Barlow comes across as a rather superficial populist.
Anyway, Eddie Izzard’s broadcast reminded me of the absolute root of the difference between the political right and left: the right have always played on people’s fears (crime, economy, immigration) to gain power, whereas the left pleads for people’s hopes (free healthcare, education, equality).
Izzard makes two main points in the short broadcast. Firstly, he mentions that the Tories have massively more funding than any other party. Prominently, Ashcroft, tax-avoiding non-domiciled Tory life peer, has invested in campaigns in marginal constituencies. As Izzard says, they probably expect some return on their investment.
The other point is a refutation of the Tory slogan Broken Britain. Since time immemorial people have complained about the kids not respecting their elders, fears of crime and general dissatisfaction. The rightwing media have spearheaded this ‘feel bad’ message. But it is this curse of fear that is the real problem. As a Christian, I believe in hope as the fundamental motive of our action (from faith to love). As a Briton and an Englishman, I love my country for all its quirkyness, beauty, dodgy food and funny people. Britain’s not broken, it’s brilliant.
For the record, I’m a paid-up member of the Labour Party. Watch the broadcast here: