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Opinion

Politics is beginning to look like a toxic sludge

After all the lies and cover-ups, the party seems to be over for this government, but how can we get ourselves out of the mire to focus on what’s really important?

It’s interesting getting on a train that is packed with dressed-up young people. Drinking and joking, screaming and arguing. A vast, unco-ordinated party – and we other passengers have to fit in around the mass of celebratory teenagers and young people. It reminds me of a scene from a movie, of pieces of history that have been made into film, celebrating the end of war, or drunken weddings. Parliament and its leadership seem to be going through a meltdown, much of it because of other riotous parties where at times – we have been told sensationally – that people were sick in waste paper bins.

Well that was the bit of sensationalism I remembered most graphically. Now I was sitting in a train with hundreds of party people crammed in.

Parties seem to be the currency of government corruption. At a time when, on the edge of Europe, a war is played out between weapons of enormous sophistication and inflation undoes whatever little prosperity some people might have. It feels as though a concoction of history, bad manners, Covid and conflict are mixed up in a giant cement mixer and the outcome can only be a sludge. Added to that now is the incredible power of those Whitehall party stories to undo the political consensus that the Conservative Party had built up three years before.

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People came out to vote against the government because Partygate finally did more damage than almost anything else about their leadership. Proving once again that it’s often not the wrongdoing but the cover-up of the wrongdoing that scuppers the ship of state.

In the middle of all this, poor people have been made poorer by inflationary fluctuations worldwide. A stable government is sorely needed now, to keep this harsh reality foremost in our minds. Yet haunted by the cover-ups, which are then being used as the most corrosive political weapon in Parliament, unity over rescuing people from war and poverty is nowhere in sight.

Politics is beginning to look like a sludge. What are the answers to the current bevy of price rises that should be our most pressing concern? Where is the call to get us out of this by the clarity of all political voices?

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Of course most people are seeing the Partygate affair as the tip of a toxic political iceberg. As the chance to aggregate our political disdain for such things as sending people to Africa who have almost died on swimming pool inflatables.

But is there any political clarity, calm, order, thoughtfulness coming out of this maelstrom of rancour and frustration? Or is it just a sludge? Are we entering into an era of the complete weakening of the word of government? And will what comes out bring us to the promised land?

It’s not surprising to see the dislocating of government making for good headlines. Surprise, reversals, political chaos pumps the adrenaline around the media faster than anything. They all await some late-night outdoor revelation as politicians jump in cars and are swamped by reporters; counter-productively getting no answers at all. Why? Because hopefully someone has fallen, is pushed, is dumped by the party.

Everything seems filmic these days. Even loud, raucous young people celebrating the power of drink and money to forget about everything and everyone else. Would the partying youth really care about Partygate? They probably care more about how many parties and celebrations they can attend before the prison of adult life settles around them.

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Prosperity is the key to lifting people out of poverty, and I’d like to know where that is going to be found in our current period. The enormous damage done to our social and political life by Covid has not been absorbed. Our bulging hospitals and delays and cancellations at airports are just two signs that chaos is being encouraged by shortages brought on by Covid. Inflation is Covid by another name you might choose to see it as. It’s certainly as crippling and as undermining.

A good bit of cool thinking, dispassionate and careful reflection would not go amiss. But most commentators seem to be egging us all on towards a permanent riotous assembly. Breathless speculation is everywhere. Perhaps we may have to weather this storm and hope for clarity later. It’s certainly a bit of a shitstorm going on.

John Bird is the founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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