A while back, I was fortunate to be part of a team that interviewed Andrea Leadsom, the conservative MP for the South-Northamptonshire area. It was a very informative interview, but the thing that really stuck with me was when she said “The opposition must oppose; it’s their job”. I fundamentally disagreed with this point so I decided to do some research into it. However, when I searched the issue on the internet, there seemed to be a lack of information on the topic. Therefore, this article will be looking into the benefits and drawbacks of the UK political opposition and what we can improve in the situation.
Benefits of Political Opposition
Applies some pressure to the government.
The opposition is important to make sure the government is actually doing things. Without this, the government would have an endless time frame to pass laws or to do reports. This is useless for an effective running of the country as the effort that is needed is not made. The opposition puts pressure on the government to get things done which otherwise wouldn’t be there.
Holds the government up to account
One major issue in dictatorships is that they can get away with anything and not be held accountable for it. As a result, some of the worst crimes against humanity have occurred such as the holocaust. By having an opposition which are legally allowed to voice their opinion, the government are being held to account for their decisions to make sure it is being carried out correctly.
Expresses another opinion
It is important in a political system that multiple perspectives are taken. Otherwise, the government is only able to benefit one group of people and not the whole country. By having multiple opinions in parliament, the government represents everyone and so decisions are better informed.
Drawbacks of Political Opposition
Opposition has to have a conscience
For opposition to work, they have to oppose at the right time in order to stand for their political ideas and the people they represent. However, this only happens if parties stand up for what and who they represent believe in. However, let’s face it, their is a large amount of greed to politics. The opposition want to get into power. Therefore, they aren’t always voting for what they believe in or what the party represents. They are voting from a strategic basis to increase the power they have. This causes multiple issues, which are examined below.
Opposition prevent an effective government
As we have touched on above, the government’s job is to get on with running the country and to get things done. However, if an opposition oversteps the mark and criticises every single action of the government merely to trip them up, then this stops this from occurring. Therefore, the chances of an effective government is reduced, not because they are incapable of running the country, but instead because the opposition is slowing them down. This increases the instability of the government.
You don’t always need to oppose
There are some laws that all parties should pass based on the party’s beliefs and the people they represent. However, if we take Leadsom’s comment above, then this results that, whatever the law being passed is, the opposition has to vote against it. This seems a ridiculous stance to take and seems that the opposition are merely trying to be difficult. If the parties’ principles align with the law, then it should be passed. If what Leadsom says is true, then this makes parties unable to follow their party policies and makes opposition damaging
Politics becomes about the ability to debate, not what is best for the country
This is one of the greatest issues I have with modern day politics. As we have established, the job of the opposition seems to be to undermine the government, not represent what they believe is best for the country. The best example of this was Brexit which was, in my opinion, the most shambolic vote this country could have ever produced. The worst crime, by far, was the 350 million pounds going towards the NHS, an issue that many people believe in. This was a downright lie and was disgraceful on the behalf of all politicians endorsing it. This is the clearest case that what matters more to politicians is winning a debate and getting into power than what is best for the country. Therefore, the country is damaged, and so is our politics.
Political Polarisation and Violence
This is the biggest issue I have with modern politics; it has become a war. The result of opposition has led to a massive divide between the left and right wing which has led to the split in the people. As a result of this war, people think its OK to insult each other on their political beliefs and be rude to those who have a different perspective. This is not OK under any circumstances. This country only remains politically stable if a wide range of people with different beliefs make compromises. Insults and violence does not do this. Therefore, we need to stop this polarisation, and stop politics about being a debate.
What can be done?
The Independent Board
It is important to have some debate in politics. However, we shouldn’t be made to make a decision based on the debating schools on both sides. Therefore, I believe there should be an some form of the non-biased board which is not linked to a political party and presents accurate facts and the benefits and drawbacks of laws being made by the government which is easily accessible to the public. This would prevent such a polarised view on politics, as members of the public could gain a more balanced opinion, stopping complete polarisation.
Holding MPs Responsible: Right To Prosecute
The separation between government and morality is no longer acceptable. We are paying too higher price for the lack of morality politicians have. Therefore, there needs to be a group (again, unlinked to a specific political party) which has the power to prosecute either individual politicians or parties which campaign on clearly false basis. There may be some instances difficult to prove, but for the cases that are clear (such as Brexit) we need to hold our politicians responsible. This would prevent the focus on being how to get into power and shifting it to the direction of the country and how to get out of the black hole the country is now in.