British (3)

Friday, 05 October 2018 13:26

How can we build trust in politics?

Has our political system failed is probably the starting point to this article?  The answer is no, as the reality is we have had good and bad politicians for centuries, we have had a disconnect many times between political views and large areas of the population and economic challenges, wars and financial issues over the years.

So why does it feel so different?

The reason lies with the cultural and celebrity obsessions with mixed up reality television presenting normality as living in a gold fish bowl.  Politicians are embracing this phenomenon and are getting lost in the obsession.  Celebrities were a minority and exposure were such that everyone knew the few and politicians were Politicians NOT Celebrities.

Can you imagine Churchill on Strictly Come Dancing, or, Attlee starring in Celebrity Big Brother? No.

But did the press and media influence or support political parties in the past, Yes.  The communication through the media has always been an influencer in election campaigns but what is more significant now with the internet and social media is the communications can be more easily managed by the political office of a Politician.  So why do they get things so wrong? Quite simply they have become reactionary to political commentary and easily lose their focus on manifesto promises and the day to day delivery of their agenda.

If you are to argue that they are only human, then you have to consider that their advisors and civil servants should have a greater role to play. The issue is that the advisors and civil servantshave also become very self motivated and crave the 15 minutes of fame or being in the spotlight.

Electoral reform may also be a consideration but on this no system is perfect and there are many fundamental changes that are not based on a total reform which will reap benefits.

So back to the original question.

Politicians need to grow up, be honest and do what they are elected to do which is represent their constituencies, the UK public, and honour a democratic process that has put them into a privileged position that is more important than the number of likes and shares on social media. 

The Government must have a clear policy and manifesto in terms of what their government is doing, planning to do and achieving.  Failures and shortfalls should be explained, and resultant actions communicated.  The promises of the Government should be accountable.

Opposition parties must hold the Government to account and do it in such a way of demanding transparency and accountability.  It is also important that respect is always shown and the management of the soap opera in the commons is professional and diplomatic.  If the public see elected representatives behaving like spoilt brats, then expectations are such that respect is impossible.

The need also exsts that all parties need to be transparent and answer direct questions not a scripted alternative response.

Can things improve, yes but politicians need to take things seriously and also they want to make things better in terms of re-establishing trust. 

Politics is for grown-ups and not spoilt brats!

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 10:27

How do you cut through political spin?

With great difficulty is the easy answer!

Also has politics been dumbed down for the masses? This is another dilemma which with run up to the General Election in 2017 is obviously apparent.

The media is driving this and with social media fuelling these flames, where debate and canvassing become soundbites, slogans become hollow promises and politicians are more likely to do a U-turn than justify areas of their manifesto.

We recently wrote an article that asked about the state of UK politics over the last 40-years which focussed on the ground political parties looked to occupy.  Still worth a ride. When the UK was a manufacturing centre of excellence the class system would typically dictate your political allegiances.  Now with the call centre culture, financial sector dominance and the service orientated economy it will have a group of co-workers with all political parties supported by the small group.

So, if employment, heritage, history and loyalty of the voter has changed is it not the reason why the parties have changed? No.

The addition at the last hour before publication of a manifesto pledge will typically be the one that causes the party to come unstuck, equally, a significant deviation from the past should raise alarm bells of “are these just vote winning soundbites?”  Equally if a politician believes it is in the best interest of the country they should be able to justify and standby their political policies even when independntly scrutinised.

Consider also, televised debates are now as much forums for audience members to take the spotlight just as much as for the politicians to be held to account.  How many that come to take part are undecided voters that want to have questions answered to help in their deliberations? We would suggest very few!

Getting back to the spin element what we as citizens of this great country need to do is demand better from our politicians. Manifesto words are justified by advisers and their calculations should be in the public domain too and easily accessible.  Our democratic duty is to analyse thoroughly and make an informed choice.

We would recommend the following for the voter, media and the politician.

  1. Voters need to change how they plan to vote, anyone who turns up at the polling booth and votes without doing their research are accountable and actually promote second rate politicians who have little or no respect for their constituents once in power.  It is harder to remove someone than not to elect them in the first place. 
  2. Politicians must publish all supporting information to the public and these facts and figures should be independently audited and rated as “sound”, “concern”, or, “unjustified” when we are in a general election campaign.  The audited manifesto can be updated throughout as scrutiny identifies gaps or justifications.
  3. The media should report on campaign activity, challenge unjustified figures and drive for the politicians to substantiate their overall policies.  With published justifications it becomes easier and journalists should report and not create the news!
  4. Political impropriety addressed as a priority, so any politician under investigation externally should be suspended until the investigation concludes.  These elected representatives should be role models not objects of ridicule. A party losing one seat should not be put above the party delivering a sound, professional, honest and ethical campaign.

Will it happen is the big question? As politicians and media are more focused on their image and self than doing what we should demand from them.  It is our responsible to demand the change in our political system and those that are veted in!

What does the future hold?

Years ago, the demographics of the voters was clear, with traditional classes typically mirroring the political allegiances. The middle classes falling across the main parties and where the liberals would pick up a share of the votes.  The mirroring of classes therefore tended to be left wing, right wing or centre ground. Simple!

Somewhere in the late 90’s and early noughties things changed with a shift from the right to the centre and most significant was the shift from the left to centre ground.  The predictability then of polls becomes a lot less clear as the variations of swing within an election campaign is a lot less to determine the result.

In the 1970’s and early 1980’s the mantra was that what worked well was the 2 term Conservative to the 1 term Labour where the economy was the focus for eight years followed by 4 years of focus on the people.  Building the economy to a state that could then fund spending on conditions, the poor and the public services. Political views across terms remained the same and the people voted accordingly.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the paradigm shift happened where Labour struggled to offer a cohesive opposition as people were benefiting from the boom in the economy and a change in the GDP where the country moved away from traditional and historic manufacturing to service based industries.

The solution in the late 90’s was to move to “New Labour” which fundamentally was a shift to the centre ground a decade too late but the result was an effective opposition that was electable as the commercial and economic vision was what would have been expected of a historic Conservative government.

The economic boom and bust was a worldwide phenomenon and the political landscape changed more based on the ability to react than anything to do with policy or manifesto.  The shift was somehow inevitable and the change would have happened whoever was in power because it was not just big companies that got their fingers burned but the ripple went all the way down to the man in the street.

So, what now?  The 2017 General Election is being run on the ability to be in a strong negotiating position with the EU.  People want to be better off and have the ability to live a life with options and disposable income to make life choices.  So, what do the manifestos say for the ground each party is trying to gain?

Firstly, the Labour party is trying to step back to the left with a vision fundamentally based on improving public services through nationalising railways, water, utilities, etc.

Secondly the Conservatives have made a notional step across the central ground to the left with some policies intended to target the labour voters who are concerned about the direction of labour occupying their traditional left position.

Thirdly the Liberal Democrats are caught in the middle as usual but with a mixed bag of policies that are reactionary to the other two parties.  They are also under threat from the small “other” parties like the SNP, UKIP, Greens and Plaid Cymru who have picked up voters with demographic shifts of the two main parties.

Looking to the future what can we foresee?

The Liberal Democrats need to communicate their future vision if they are not going to be surpassed by the “others” and we will then have two party politics and protest vote parties.

The political map needs to be redrawn with the occupying of the centre ground by the main parties.  To report on demographics becomes blurred and very difficult to predict in a society that votes on the personalities often.

The “others” are not going away but will not pose effective opposition in coalition.  Politics needs both effective leaders and opposition, and politicians need to remember they are voted in and voted out and it is not ALL about them!

In conclusion, the 1970’s and 80’s where the analogy of 2 terms Conservative to the 1 of Labour is probably resigned to history but the politics should not be forgotten or ignored and the balance of economy versus public services should be forefront of every parties manifesto as they all occupy that centre ground which wins voters.

So is it Good or Bad?

Neither it is evolving and only time will tell but politicians will need to change on the new playing field.

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