I have spent a lot of the last few weeks on a task I have put off for a long time – Tidying the house.
It is not a simple matter. A quick whisk with a duster and vacuum would have been impossible and would simply have moved mess from one place to another. This has been a much deeper exercise on creating order one cupboard at a time; Removing things that are no longer needed; Shrink wrapping things to store for later; Finding the right place to store art equipment or sewing equipment that have built up in different places at different times; Working out ways to make the house work better for each of the three individuals that live here together; Finding ways to make the house meet our changing needs.
Whilst I have been doing this I have listened to the adrenaline fuelled build up to the European elections, and now the more thoughtful reflective beginnings of a response to the results.
This morning I listened to the interviews with Ken Clarke interviewed by Evan Davies, and Tony Blair interviewed by James Naughtie on BBC radio 4 today. It was clear to all of these men Europe must be made more engaging and we need to restate what it is actually for. I believe that they all saw the importance of the role of broadcasters and politicians in ordering information, to help us all make sense out of it. I sense a change in the way that the broadcasters are approaching their task, a new sense of responsibility. I hope that I am right.
I have also spotted the emergence of a man who I have held twitter conversations with in the past, as a key member of UKIP. This is Patrick O’Flynn who used to write as political commentator for the Daily Express and is now a UKIP MEP and director of communications. The important thing to understand about Patrick is that he is a man of some charm and some intelligence. There is a tendency on the part of many people in established parties to see UKIP as nutcases and racists. This will not do.
Around 10% of the electorate went out and voted UKIP – we need to understand why. Around 60% of the electorate stayed at home, and we need to understand that too. We have less than a year in which we need to rethink the way in which we do politics. We need to see why things are in a mess, what no longer fits or works, find out what matters and how we can make our politics fit the urgent and changing needs of the whole of our population.
For me this has to begin by looking at the non voters, and the voters that choose UKIP. These are I think two sides of the same coin – each saying “the way decisions are made has nothing to do with me”. This is a question that I have been grappling with ever since I first became involved in politics – more than a decade ago. Few people have the commitment to turn up to party political meetings. Public meetings when they occur are rare events, and often fractious. Public Consultations often pass completely unnoticed by the public, because no one in the media or press recognises them as news, Canvassing on the doorstep is worthy but curiously old fashioned, and may mean at best a brief conversation once every 5 years or so.
There is a way forward on this. I think it is about creating the right spaces to store the ongoing conversations about a number of key issues, such as NHS, Social care, Employment, Communities, Energy, all of which have a local and a national face, and inviting people to play a positive role in this. Once the conversations begin then consultations and public meetings work better, and we can begin to support elected representatives to ask much better questions on our part.
Subsidiarity is an ugly word – but the principle is a good one. It is about having a place for everything and having everything in its place. It is not a simple once and for all matter, it is a continuous process, changing with our changing needs.
For me creating a politics that works for us all has to happen one cupboard at a time.