“Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can”
I’m very engaged politically – I believe that politics affects almost every aspect of our lives. At the same time I’m somewhat agnostic when it comes to political parties as I see the pros and cons of most of them and none really lead me to a sense of allegiance. This has been especially true with this election period. At the same as I listened to the political shows and debates and reflected on the past few years I recognised that difficult as is was to choose – I had to vote.
Reflecting on the two main parties, I very much agreed with a lot of the ideologies of the conservatives (Tories) such as the objectives of getting people into work and reducing reliance on benefits. I believe most people do actually want to work. I do, however, believe that there is often harshness in approach and implementation with the Conservatives, which is often unsupportive and does not take account of the humanity of the people that they are dealing with. I think policies such as the ‘bedroom tax’ would have been all right if the people being ‘taxed’ had alternatively accommodation to move to. I could also see that whilst there was talk of economic recovery, it did not appear to have filtered down to the lives of everyday people and I constantly spoke to people and learnt about the direct affect that cuts and the financial squeeze was having on their lives. I also heard of what I would describe as social engineering with people being priced out of areas such as London due to the increasing rental costs, child poverty and reliance on Food banks. I’ll stop and say, yes, the Conservatives have done well to bring about an economic recovery, but not only did it seem that not everyone was benefiting, it actually appears that a lot of people were suffering. I saw no indication that things were going to get better for them either.
As for Labour… they clearly demonstrated a concern and interest in addressing the social problems and supporting everyday people. I heard little that convince me of their ability or even interest in supporting professionals (not so negatively impacted), small businesses or anyone else. Whilst I believe things are too complex to say that they were responsible for the recession, full stop, I didn’t hear much that said that they had taken responsibility for possible errors of the past. They didn’t come across to me as very progressive either. Ultimately, I don’t believe that they presented the most credible of messages.
Taking account of the polls, if it was practical to do so, I would have voted for a party such as the Liberal Democrats with the hope that they would have moderated the approach of the Conservatives if they were elected or sharpened the approach of Labour if it turned out that they were elected. At a practical level it would have been a waste of my vote, for me to vote anything but the Conservatives or Labour in my Constituency as no one else had the remotest chance of winning. As far as ‘m concerned, LibDem hardly even campaigned. I therefore went for Labour. In my book, “Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective” I talk about minding the gap (between people doing well in different areas and everyone else). I therefore concluded that I’d prefer a slower recovery that carries everyone along, than a rapid recovery that crushes people in the process.
Regardless of the decision that I’d come to, I very much enjoyed the diverse pre-election commentary of my various contacts both via social media and face-to-face conversations. I was, however, disappointed – very disappointed in the ultimate election results. I was disappointed in how a fair amount of the online discourse became almost warlike. I was disappointed that so many people had voted for an option that I believe is and has been destructive to the lives of so many other people. I look forward to discussions over time with such people that I knew, as I would very much like to understand their thinking.
For now though, here are a few of my more immediate thoughts:
I’m concerned about the pre-election polls. They continually and consistency presented a force picture of the likely election results that were so far from the truth. This increasingly fed into the pre-election discourse and debate with a strong focus on coalition options for the two major parties – especially Labour. I find this concerning as I can’t help but wonder how many people would have voted differently if the pre-election polls had presented a different picture.
SNP & the Conservations
I’ve heard it said that with an overall majority, the Conservatives could do whatever they want and that regardless of the fact that the SNP have 56 seats, they have very little if any authority. I see things a bit different. To believe that the Conservatives can do whatever they want with their narrow majority assumes that they are a homogenous group who think exactly the same, will always agree with each and follow the party line. I think this means that that there may occasions in which the Conservatives have to rely on votes from other parties – even possibly the Conservatives regardless of their differences in ideology. I also believe that the Scots have made their position of being anti-austerity measures very clear by overwhelming supporting for the SNP. In fact whilst the Conservatives gained 36.9% of the overall UK vote and the SNP only gained 4.7% of the UK vote, they did gain 50% of the votes in Scotland (where they fielded candidates). I think it would be unwise for David Cameron to ignore this or take it lightly. I will eat my hat if there are not historical consequences if he does so!
Well what can I say! Not too much actually. Shortly after the results were announced, a Labour candidate stated “Labour needs to reconnect with voters” I don’t believe this is the real issue. I think the key is for Labour to establish its credibility before the electorate. I’ve also heard some Labour supports blame their demise on the SNP. The truth though, is that even with all the seats won by the SNP, Labour still wouldn’t have gained a majority. More importantly, if the Scottish people were convinced by Labour they would not have turned to the SNP.
So UKIP retained one of it’s two seats and Nigel Farage did not gain a seat in South Thanet. As such, some have rushed to celebrate and declare this to be the end of UKIP. You only need to look beyond the top-level figures of her won or not to recognise that there is no real reason to rejoice in relation to UKIP. UKIP won 14.1% of the UK vote. Nigel Farage won a close 32.4% of the vote for South Thanet, compared to the Conservative candidate’s winning 38.1%. If we were to change to proportionate representation that many people are clambering for.
There are a UKIP Supporters everywhere. For my local constituency of Milton Keynes South, the UKIP Candidate won 7803 votes. That’s close to 8,000 people that agree with their ideologies or at least saw them as the best possible option. For the local elections in Milton Keynes even fielded a black candidate of Nigerian origin.
All in all, I don’t believe that UKIP is done by a long shot. Even if UKIP was to disappear, the sentiments, the feelings, the beliefs that they represent would still exist and another political force would surface and such people would behind it – even if it’s even more radical than UKIP. I say in “Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain” we must really start to understand and address the concerns of such people in an honest, realistic and open manner.
So What Next
I find the post election surges in membership for losing parties such as Labour and the LibDems fascinating. I do hope that the new members actually voted for the parties in question. Most important, I hope that they help to shape a future for the parties that help to present them as viable options. That will really make British politics exciting. Imagining a scenario whereby we have a series of great options and we have to work out the best of them, rather than what is currently perceived as the best of a number of poor options.
I hope against hope that in a second term and with an overall majority; having hopefully heard the concerns of the people through the campaigning period, that the Conservatives will temper their actions and approach with sensitivity and mercy.
Facing the reality of what is, I hope that I personal as other likeminded people will be able to gain all that we can for personal benefit and to most critically to enable us to be in the position to best support others in need.
Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, an HR firm focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation for Innovative, High Potential organisations.. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.
Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.