Politics is ever present in the UK. But the more I hear politicians speak the more I feel that the thinking behind the politics is being spread ever thinner. Too often political thinking appears to have been shrunk from the tomes of Mark to the 140 characters of a tweet, or worse still, a soundbite contrived by a spin-doctor.
So I have tried to think about what are the building blocks of political thinking? I have come up with the following list:
Note, I have not put policies, for in my opinion political policy is the fruit of political thought. However, political thinking can be blurred by beliefs, allegiances and emotion. It is also dangerous to identify political ideas too closely with people, for example , it would be inappropriate to identify vegetarianism with Hitler even though he was a vegetarian.
There are two key enemies to rational political thought: passion and habit.
Habit is a huge enemy of political thought as it often creates a culture of procrastination, or leaving difficult items to "later" which favours the status quo. Habit also dictates support or opposition to a policy, especially along party political lines that can be established decades in the past. This means that a policy is granted or rejected by habit rather than merit. Habit also sees laws build up over time according to the whims of the day. Political thinking needs to see beyond emotional attachments and political habits as we have seen with Brexit where too many sought to resolve all the disagreements before moving forward.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the modern political thinker is equality. In looking at equality we possibly have a see-saw of competing equalities with equality of outcome on one side against equality of opportunity on the other. Looking at equality in this way is difficult especially as we are not in an equal world with equal abilities. This means that such equality is unattainable. Rather I prefer the pursuit of fairness.
Fairness sees a range of essential equalities such as; equality before the law; equality of value - lives are of equal value; and equality of treatment. Fairness is possible. I feel if the political thinker starts with a principle of fairness and seeks to understand that we should see an improvement in politics.