The Independent Group isn’t the answer, and I’m not even sure they understand the question.
Over the past few weeks, the new Independent Group have been setting out their stall for what they can bring to British politics. The breakaway MPs have announced they are going to “pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century”, and solve Britain’s ‘broken politics’.
This appears to be a sensible and intelligent way of resolving our current issues. However, perhaps if they actually did this, they would come to very different conclusions about the solution than the ones they currently have.
The current polarisation of politics clearly demonstrates that our economic system isn’t working for a huge part of the population. We are currently enduring the longest period of peacetime wage stagnation since the Napoleonic Wars, household debt is rising dramatically as more and more people become reliant on credit just to survive, and Britain is currently forecast to have the lowest growth of any EU country when it leaves the EU.
These may sound like abstract statistics, but there is a human cost to these issues as well. A recent study found that 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty, with 4.5 million of these being children. This is not due to a shortage of work, as two thirds of working age adults and children currently in poverty live in working households. This clearly represents a crisis in our economic system, where jobs do not pay enough for many people to do much more than just survive.
All the evidence points to a broken economy that requires systemic change. No such change, however, is being offered by the Independent Group.
Their claim of having no “ideology” in economics is only true in that they have no ideology or motivation to change the status quo. Their desire to maintain the current economic system is clear to see, and the continuation of privatisation, spending cuts, and lowering taxes for the rich and corporations will surely be high on their agenda. This is a status quo which, as we have seen, just isn’t working.
Supporters of the group’s position on Brexit may at this point highlight that leaving the EU will only make these problems worse, and that avoiding that must be the priority. To this, I must stress that these are issues that go far beyond Brexit, and Britain’s economic policy after we leave will be far more significant than the act of leaving itself.
Sadly, it appears as though the Independent Group are determined to maintain the status quo of this country, a status quo which isn’t working. Their claims of pursuing “evidence-based” policies seem to be completely contradictory to the solutions they have proposed to Britain’s ‘broken politics’. Not only do they not have the answers to our current economic crisis, but I fear that they are also so out of touch that they don’t realise there are even such problems to begin with.
Image: Adrian Pingstone