Slide

1

The Progressive Future Party will constantly work for the health of every citizen whilst in government. In the previous two terms, the Traditional Values Party has increasingly lowered funding to national schemes of healthcare, and across all four planets, the statistics speak for themselves: the health of our civilisation has declined, particularly for the poor.

It is clear what needs to be done with respect to healthcare, but Traditional Values have not acted. Progressive Future will enact a wave of reforms for healthcare, ones that will modernise services and improve competition and choice.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We aim to improve patient choice via the right to choose a hospital, doctor and/or consultant;

– We aim to cut waiting times via the tightening and increasing of efficiency of procedures, and the cutting of bureaucracy that impedes the processes of hospitals.

– We aim to introduce an internal market to determine fair and accurate prices for treatments and procedures.

– We aim to create a modern and effective health service, through schemes and plans that will be measurable and targeted.

2

I’m fairly sure that, as the manifesto was released on the first day of the Progressive Future conference – the election being around a hundred days off – that I wasn’t the only one despairing of the language I saw. Talk of markets, competition, outsourcing, privatisation; the language, surely, of Traditional Values? Those of us who had been in Progressive Future for long enough had hoped that this new leader was one who was merely a strategist, who cloaked himself in the language of the other side of the aisle to convince all comers. Personally, I was sceptical.

Of course, the leader’s speech wouldn’t come until the end of the conference. By that time, votes would be cast; objections would be raised, and hopefully, I thought, the truth would out, and this new direction would at least be moderated, if not abandoned entirely. To do so in the midst of a campaign would look bad, but to me, it was far more important to lose with principle than to win elections superficially, conceding all things substantial to the opposition. To be the latter was to be a mere puppet; to be the former was to at least possess influence, and a counterpart voice.

What I thought was irrelevant, though. As an ordinary party member, I was one person amongst thousands; I had a vote, but to convince everyone else would have been an impossible mission. I could hear the comments as a moved through every crowd: “oh, I think the party’s really moving forward”, “it’s great to think that we’re electable again”, “this time we’ll really convince people”.

The problem, so far as I could see, was that the people readily bought the other side’s bullshit for two elections. Maybe I was elitist. Maybe I was just plain wrong, I thought. Maybe, even, I had simply drifted away from the Party; maybe I was now the extremist, or the traditionalist who didn’t understand. And I was ready to give this ‘new direction’ some chance.

The thing was, I just couldn’t shift the gut feeling I had that said otherwise.

3

Education across the Bhoot Republic has, in recent decades, seen a range of conflicting reforms. The overall effect, unfortunately, has not been clarity; it has been a muddled incoherence. If Progressive Future is to provide a strong education system, then one thing is clear; continuity, or at least a sense of it, is required. Reforms should be small-scale, thoroughly trialled before being fully rolled out, and be the product of policies based in evidence, not by the unyielding yardstick of ideology.

Education is not an area that any government can afford to get wrong; it is, after all, a policy that more affects our civilisation’s future than its present. During the previous two governments, Traditional Values have got that area wrong; their drive was not results, and excellence, but mere dogma. With Progressive Future, we promise that such an approach will not exist, and will not be allowed to exist.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We aim to continue with, but refine, the current trend towards marketisation of education.

– We will allow the privatisation of any individual school that provides a reasonable request to do so.

– We will aim to tailor funding to specific sets, streams or classes in order to increase focus and efficiency.

4

In the Bhoot language, I believe it’s called The Ruining Sense; that feeling that something is wrong, and that its errancy would cause problems, and most likely out-and-out damage, somewhere down the line.

The Ruining Sense almost certainly applied on the second day.

The headline speech was going to be the one from the Deputy Party Leader. I didn’t entirely know why they structured things that way – presumably it was to guarantee that the media would arrive on Planet Frontier, on the continent and in the city of Yalterr – that is, a busy part of a relatively quiet and out-of-the-way planet – for at least the second and fifth days. And if they were there for those, then there was no point in not covering the whole thing. Maybe that was a slightly cynical tactic, but it presumably worked; at the very least, they kept repeating it. Such a tactic wasn’t out of line with the Party’s ethos, either – the notion that the outsiders, the somewhat ignored, which Frontier folk were, should be a key part of the Party’s strategy.

Or at least, they should have been. My concerns on the first day only seemed to be confirmed on the second, as the Deputy Leader seemed to thunder all kinds of terms that seemed completely alien to me. Indeed, the same words came round, time and time again – “modernisation”, “efficiency”, “reform”, and so forth. None of these were exactly objectionable – that was probably half the point – but they seemed to be of an entirely different language. For all the difference it would have made, the man standing on that platform, gesticulating in vague, non-explanatory shapes, might as well have been a Qareen diplomat, speaking in his native tongue.

5

Over the course of the current government, our public roads, bridges and other vital pieces of infrastructure have started to crumble and decay – an apt metaphor for the running of the Bhoot nation under Traditional Values. Naturally, to turn around this travesty we will need to put in an incredible amount of effort, along with greatly increased funding. Luckily, Progressive Future has more of a plan than that – we aim to innovate and diversify our approaches, in order to guarantee maximum efficiency and ensure that government wastage – an admitted failing of governments in the past – is not repeated.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We aim to bring in private sector involvement, which will allow for multiple perspectives in problem-solving on larger contracts.

– We aim to increase road network building to levels seen before the current government’s reductions.

– We pledge to achieve a halving of traffic congestion within the next ten years.

6

The third day was the day when there was a notable pall in media attention. That, to be honest, was another bugbear of mine; plenty was being said at this conference, by people like me (well, people with my views, who a slither of power), and my opposites, the people who embraced the modernising, uber-efficient, marketised, privatised, somethingised “future” that sounded suspiciously like redressed Traditional Values policy. Votes were taken in the main hall on all manner of policies; the modernising types seemed to take most of them, but not necessarily by large margins. And there, arguably, was an aggravating factor – those of us in the minority seemed to always be in the minority.

“It makes you wonder,” one of the people who voted with me said to me, “how deep Traditional Values’ pockets are. It’s as if they’ve managed to hire just enough people, and a little more, and place them in this conference. Having handed out the manifesto first, of course.”

I asked if this wasn’t a little too cynical, even for joking about.

“I wouldn’t say so,” he replied, “I always suspected it from a few years back. The new guy, the new leader? He replaced the Shadow Cabinet pretty fast. Even the media questioned that-”

“I always thought that was because the old lot were so inept, and he didn’t want to be tainted with that.”

He paused. “Well, maybe. But the old regime took our old strategy of recruiting from all sides of the party to the extreme. Nobody could agree on anything. The last PF government, and what’ll at this rate be the last true PF government, it self-immolated under its own conflicting tendencies. These guys are the complete opposite – they’ve thrown away that rulebook and recruited a bunch so close to TV that – well, apart from a few cosmetic differences to appease the likes of us, I can’t see the difference.”

“So you’re saying there’s some sort of coup afoot.”

He looked impassively towards the stage. “Yes. And the worst thing? They know there are only two major parties. It’s us or them. And now there’s maybe no us.”

7

A modern society requires a modern political system. Traditional values, and indeed Traditional Values, are not the way to achieve such modernity. Our constitution is unsuited to dealing with the issues of our age, and as such, we advocate reforms that will bring in a new system for a new age. Effective decision making, accountability and the correct balance of power are the crucial aspects which make up our platform in this area. When these aims are achieved, only then will trust in government be restored across the whole of Bhoot. After all, the greatest power that any government has is the ability to rightfully acquire trust from the people it governs – legitimacy is paramount.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We will reform the Upper and Middle Houses of Central Government so as to progressively remove appointed positions and ensure that they are wholly elected.

– We will transfer powers of the Lower House in order to bolster separation of powers, and as a consequence, provide greater accountability to the system.

– We will examine the voting system, looking at whether a more proportionate system can deliver both an accurate reflection of the will of the people, and an effective government.

– We will aim to achieve greater levels of bipartisanship and outreach towards minor parties and independent candidates, in order to acquire a caucus of greater mandate.

– We will, if necessary, provide referenda on particularly major reforms in this area.

8

There were aspects of the whole rally which offered, not exactly dreamlike moments, but thoughts of “am I going mad? Were things always like this?” that in turn created constant unease. They were probably the worst parts – they made my certainty about everything else seem naive, or stupid, or simple.

The one biggest aspect was the negative campaigning. At first, I thought it was new, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether or not that was actually true. The speeches today seemed to especially ramp up the rhetoric, accusing the incumbent government of being grossly incompetent – which I couldn’t argue with – but also of some kind of moral corruption that was never particularly spelt out. It wasn’t spelt, I reckoned, because there wasn’t any legal basis for the accusations-that-weren’t.

I asked around, naturally. People weren’t entirely sure about the issue, but many of them pointed out that the current government were so, so awful that they probably deserved it. Pressing further, many of those with such an attitude were the modernisers.

The man who talked to me yesterday sounded increasingly wise in my mind; at the very minimum, he went from conspiracy theorist to legitimate commentator. I felt like I wasn’t in the same party as these people; was this, I wondered, even just a party conference, or was it some sort of bizarre bipartisan meeting between the two major parties, and I was mistaking the opposition for my own fellow members?

So I decided: tomorrow, with the Party Leader’s speech, would be the last chance I was giving Progressive Future.

9

Naturally, our only political alliance is with the civilisation referring to itself as the Qareen Confederation. We know this group to be a much more powerful group, both in terms of their political strength amongst other civilisations, and with their technology. There is much to be learnt from the Qareen – but the current government have curiously chosen not to learn it. A Progressive Future government, however, will be unafraid to reach out and claim this potential knowledge, and spread our values and our sense of society and culture.

Furthermore, over the last two terms of government, there have been no government funding expeditions outside of our own cosmic territory, beyond those funded by the prior Progressive Future government. It is thus clear – part of what Progressive Future means, is a future in which progressive exploration of our galaxy and our place in the universe is made. We aim to be forever striving for the methods that will place a Bhoot ship well inside Qareen space, and eventually, hopefully, beyond it. This is our vision – and it is indeed a vision that, both literally and metaphorically, sees light-years beyond that of Traditional Values’.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We will engage both in distance and direct diplomacy with the Qareen Confederation.

– We will consider requesting a coalition of Qareen and Bhoot scientists in order to mutually advance our technologies.

– We will engage in government funding for expeditions in Qareen space, and

– We will consider the possibility of unmanned expeditions further afield, that will gather vital information on other star systems.

10

I found the Leader’s speech to be… well, less than inspiring. In fact, I remember leaving the hall halfway through the barrage of platitudes, clichés, and filler phrases; every policy was “truly progressive”, or else it was (or even, it also was) “looking forward to the long-term future”.

Leaving the hall, I made my way through the corridors which seemed to weave and wind onwards forever. Past a tide of cameramen, journalists, random reporters, and navigating various signs that were only mildly enlightening, I finally found the exit, which conjured itself up out of a right turn.

Outside, the rain pounded the pavements, and churned up the mud either side of them. That the rivulets flowed in all manner of convoluted, twisting patterns around and into the overflowing potholes told me how much the Party I was a member of needed to be itself.

“Another one, working on his quitting letter?”

I turn around. In the mist of the rain, I could see the man I saw two days ago.

“I don’t blame you. I handed in my notice yesterday. It just seems like there isn’t a place for us anymore.”

“So what will you do?”

“I don’t know. If PF really are sincere about those missions to Qareen space, I might join ’em and hop off when I get the chance.”

He laughed cynically, but even as he did so, I could hear something mournful about it.

11

In the past ten years, crime has risen by fifty per cent overall, and has, in some of our major cities, doubled. An anomie is sweeping across the four Bhoot planets. Traditional Values have revealed themselves to be a government that cannot cope with this rising tide, and as a consequence, it is here where change is definitely needed; it is here where the Bhoot government needs to send out the message, loudly and clearly, that crime will not go unpunished, and that criminality will not be allowed to persist. As it is, recividivism is at a record high, and it is clear that the approach of the current government with respect to punishment is not working. This is a policy area that calls for tough decisions. Progressive Future is not afraid to make them.

Progressive Future pledges the following policies:

– We will introduce harsher sentencing for moderate and severe crimes.

– We will bring in a classification system to determine the severity of crimes.

– We will increase funding for rehabilitation services.

– We will emphasise the importance of good citizenship by enhancing the number of community service sentences for misdemeanours.

– We will boost funding for local citizen crime reporting.

– We will endeavour to lower crime by a third over the next ten years.

12

Dear Soyan Fahmeppa,

I am writing to state that, with immediate effect, I am leaving the Progressive Future Party and I hereby also relinquish all responsibilities associated with my membership and position in the Sempen Yay division of the Party. Before I go into detail, I would like to state clearly that this is not a decision that has been reached due to the actions of the Sempen Yay division; I know that you and all others there have been loyal not only to Progressive Future as an entity, but also to its values.

The key point, however, is that I personally feel that those two loyalties are now ones that, to any sane individual, are in intrinsic conflict. Whether the two can be reconciled is now a question that I don’t wish to resolve, as I am sure the answer is ‘no’. I noticed this trend some years back, with the ascension of the new Party Leader, but it seems that the cycle has completed; Progressive Future is no longer the Party and no longer has the politics I thought it had, and it is certainly no longer an entity that resembles anything I had originally signed up to. Locally, I can support you and your people, but nationally, across Planet Centris or the Bhoot Republic, I simply can’t.

Maybe one day the tide will turn. I hope that people like you, with a sense of principle, can turn that tide, but I no longer have the faith necessary to do so.

Many thanks,

Gehan Taih.

13

Perhaps we, over the course of laying out this manifesto, have been unfair on Traditional Values. Perhaps, on a wider scale, all of these political sins – of underfunding, of irresponsibility, of squandering the collective promise of the Bhoot people – perhaps all of it is somehow forgivable. What aren’t, are the immense issues caused by an economy that, even four years after its previous contraction, shows signs of sluggishness. With this, large swathes of major cities remain in a state of poverty, millions of lives remained wasted by unemployment, and industrial output remains below that which it could potentially attain.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. There can be better prospects, for all of us. There can be a better economy, if we want it. If the Bhoot people want it. And here at Progressive Future, there is no doubt that they do, and they want to play their part in achieving it.

Progressive Future pledge the following policies:

– We will aim to create a flexible, open and vibrant economy through a business-friendly environment.

– We will provide a regulatory framework that encourages growth.

– We will create a flexible job market that provides that maximum possible benefit to both employers and employees.

– We will work to create a response to future economic difficulties through our fiscal policy, as well as work to avoid such difficulties in the first place.

– We will not only be enterprise-friendly, but work towards the long term in our investment in public services.

14

I watched the news all night, and long into the following morning. Election night was often a night of celebration for most people; it was akin to some sort of festival of rebirth, which under sufficiently transformative governments could prove true. But so, so many people out there, dancing in the streets, avidly watching the screens, celebrating or booing the results, didn’t seem to be aware of how little it surely mattered. They were about to vote a Traditional Values government out, and a Traditional Values government with a different logo in.

The results scrolled across the screen as midnight flipped one day into another: Progressive Future 303, Traditional Values 171, Other 19, Undeclared 257. Victory was at hand; there was little chance, at that stage, that the Progressive Future majority could be overturned, and sure enough, it wasn’t; if anything, it increased – a landslide victory ensued. “My” party had won, but it all felt so hollow; nothing but negative campaigning and branding had pulled this off.

As the sun rose, the Party passed the 376 representatives they needed to confirm a win; after a small portion of the morning, it crossed 400 – a guaranteed large majority. At that point, the Leader came out, and delivered his victory speech. At that point, I turned the TV off. One day, I thought, there’ll be something better than this. Public disaffection will set in. The politicians, I thought, would not be able to ignore it. Democracy would have to triumph once again over this ream of falseness; amongst the scrawls of lies, it would be the printed page of truth.

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