It’s no coincidence that both Boris Johnson and Joe Biden have chosen ‘Build Back Better’ as their mantra. From education to employment, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated inequality within society, and many people have come to realise that the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ was simply unsustainable. As the summer sunshine finally arrives and we cautiously begin to look towards a post-pandemic world, we have a real opportunity to create a better future than the one we had before.
However, we cannot build back better without first addressing the ever-increasing polarisation in society. Political discourse in this country has become like a football match, with many people more concerned with rooting for their ‘team’ than they are with finding solutions to the challenges that we all face. Social media has intensified these divisions even further, with nuance and civil debate all too often replaced by abuse and misinformation.
If we are to have even a chance of solving our society’s biggest challenges, we must take a systemic approach. The good news is that there’s a lot that we can agree on. Regardless of political affiliation, the vast majority of people want politicians to put aside petty squabbles with those on the opposite side of the chamber and focus their efforts on bettering the lives of their constituents.
The problem is, our current first past the post system incentivises the hyper-partisanship that is responsible for much of this division. MPs in safe seats know that they don’t have to waste precious time appealing to the entirety of the electorate, so they focus instead on appealing to their own party’s base. This leads to those with more extreme views being given a bigger platform, while the voices of moderates are drowned out.
Proportional representation would begin healing these divides by placing a greater emphasis on a candidate’s ideas and vision, rather than the colour of rosette that they wear. Candidates would be truly accountable to the people living in the constituencies that they serve, instead of party elites in smoke-filled rooms. Leaving behind our outdated first past the post system would also give the electorate more agency in the political process by giving people the freedom to vote for the candidate that most accurately reflects their views, instead of the candidate who they feel would do the least damage. It would shift the power from the parties, to where it belongs -- with the people.
It is only by addressing the root causes of division that we can begin to heal. Building back better means being unafraid to build back differently. Here at Open Britain, we’re working to build a democracy that works for everyone through grassroots-led, systemic change. Let’s make this a summer of action. Join us.