In recent years, America has been blighted by the rise of an extreme and uncompromising strain of political conservatism. ‘Tea Party’ groups attack moderates within the Republican party, forcing primary challenges on incumbent senators and congressmen who either have liberal leanings, or who are otherwise willing to co-operate with Democrats in Congress and the White House. The result has been a legislative impasse, with the Republicans disengaging from the process of government by consensus. Earlier this year they almost broke the US economy (and by extension, the world economy) due to bloody minded intransigence.
Thank goodness we do not have that sort of nonsense happening over here, eh?
I worry that the deselection of Tim Yeo MP from his seat in South Suffolk might signal the beginnings of the ‘teapartification’ of British politics, too. Yeo is a senior and respected Conservative MP, chair of the Energy and Climate Committee. And yety his local Conservative Association has deselected him as their candidate for the next General Election. Speaking to BBC Radio yesterday evening, Yeo pointed out that he was a strong believer in climate change and voted for the Same Sex Marriage laws, socially liberal positions that angered the few hundred members of the South Suffolk Conservative Association. These opinions appear to have cost him his seat.
To be clear, there is ‘no foul’ here so far as democracy is concerned. The activists in South Suffolk have exercised their democratic rights in choosing to select someone else.
Instead, perhaps what we observe here might be called a ‘democratic deficit’ - If the only participants in local party politics are the passionate yet uncomprimising hard-liners, then at general election time the voters will be presented with a choice of extremist candiates. Those who recognise that most politics comes down to questions of subtlety, nuance and context will be shut out. Governing will become harder for whoever is in power, and we will all lose.