Democrats across the UK must work together to combat ‘the drift to the extremes’ in British politics, Labour MEP Catherine Stihler has said.
Speaking at the John P. Mackintosh memorial debate in the Scottish Parliament, she warned that our politics has become ‘horribly fractured’.
Amid the rise of the hard left in the Labour Party and the hard right in the Tory Party, Ms Stihler – an MEP for Scotland since 1999 – called for a cross-party defence of the ‘liberal centre’, insisting the foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas must be ‘resuscitated’.
• Intolerance is blighting British politics, with a growing lack of respect for opponents’ views.
• Social media has allowed extreme views to be normalised in an ‘environment of destructive exchanges’.
• The acceptance of basic facts has disappeared, with expert views dismissed and a culture of ‘anti-intellectualism’ from those on the extremes of politics.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of the leading academic, politician, writer and political thinker John P Mackintosh. The debate chaired by the Presiding Officer included contributions from former LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson; and former chair of Scotland Stronger in Europe, Professor Mona Siddiqui.
Catherine Stihler said:
“No longer do our differences seem to enthuse us, but they would appear to define us. Many no longer respect their opponents’ views, and an ‘I am right, you are wrong’ mentality has seeped through political life.
“Social media allows for connection, but then we have algorithms driving what you see and hear; extreme views can be normalised in an environment of destructive exchanges. There is no acceptance often of a contrary view and so tension builds.
“And then there is the anti-expert rhetoric from people who should know better. Anti-intellectualism is an eternal malady in politics, particularly on the Left.
“The basis of disagreement and tolerance is the acceptance of basic facts.”
Ms Stihler added:
“Many politicians have failed to defend the art of the possible, experts, parliaments, truth, and most of all, liberty, to the point that our politics is horribly fractured.
“The way forward is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas, to prevent the drift to the extremes.
“We need cross-party defence for a liberal centre, because it is our responsibility to stand up for democracy.”