One week tomorrow The United Kingdom goes to the polls. I can not recall an election so lacking in public energy in my lifetime. And I don’t believe that this is because I am a Grumpy Senior muttering to  that “it wasn’t like this when I was ….”.

Cartoon Illustration of Grumpy Old Man Senior

Cartoon Illustration of Grumpy Old Man Senior

There are several reasons why this could be the case, chief among which:

  • the country exhausted itself with last year’s referendum
  • the election was called for purely party political reasons
  • the opposition is in an extreme state of disarray

To which can be added, The Conservative’s chief clarion call, (having abandoned their only policy plank of any note – namely, on social care for the elderly), is that the other parties can not be trusted with the government in general and the Brexit negotiations in particular. But I’m sure that I am not telling you anything that you don’t know already.

I can’t see any outcome to this General Election that is going to resolve any of these issues. In fact, I suspect that most of us will wake up next Friday with a feeling of: “Thank goodness that’s all over”. However I still do believe that, even though this General Election will solve nothing, a General Reaction to it will occur; one that holds some basis for realistic hope.

There is something fundamentally different about this election – there never has been such a broadly-based disconnect between the electorate and its elected representatives. Putting it plainly, most of us hold little hope for positive change and even less hope that any of the political parties has the capacity to deliver any. I’d suggest that there are 3 main reasons for this state of affairs:

  1. The failure of the Labour Party to recognise that it can not forge a political party that spans centrist and extreme left opinions. History has shown that the only time Labour could achieve government in recent history was when the centre of the party effectively shut out its left wing. And it’s this basic mistrust, that each wing of the Labour Party for each other, which should speak loud and clear to its members that it isn’t a sustainable whole and that it needs to split.
  2. The non-engagement of most of the young, (under 40s), from national party politics. That is not to say that they are not politically interested, rather that their concerns are global and that they do not see any of major UK parties as effective vehicles for resolving such issues as climate change and solving the world’s refugee crises. Any current lingering broad engagement with national politics was effectively snuffed out for them by last year’s referendum, where the will of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation effectively squashed theirs.
  3. The UK is a country in political and economic decline, not only in terms of global ranking but also personal national income. Yet despite this truth our politicians continue to intone words and policies that we all know are overblown in terms of our capacities and arguably jingoistic in their tone. I am minded of one of my favourite Leonard Cohen’s songs, Everybody Knows, as I write this:

Avishai-Cohen-Montreal-1189

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows

I don’t believe that the UK ship will sink, but I do think our wellbeing both as a country, and in terms of individual well-being, largely depends on how we react to this General Election. As such I am looking for near-future change in some, if not all, of the above three areas:

  • the evolution of a true centrist party, (as opposed to phoney ‘One Nation Conservatism’). This may result from a Labour Party split but possibly by the independent creation of a Macron-type new party that captures the public imagination
  • the growth of hope at the younger end of the electorate, accompanied by a realisation that engagement with national politics is the practical first step on the global political gangplank.
  • policies that are proportional to the UK’s real position in the world. In the end economic truths will out. We are no longer an economic powerhouse; rather a trading country, with a reasonably proud history, within Europe. Add to this adjustments, such as that our independent nuclear capacity is unaffordable (if not, inappropriate), the sooner the better.

In conclusion then, I do have expectations from this General Election – not from the results, but from our response to its inevitable mind-numbing, change-nothing, outcomes. We have a choice then to continue to sleep-walk to an uncertain future or to make adjustments that reflect our willingness as citizens to actively engage with change. We would do well, then, to reflect on the words of JFK, intoned in early 60s when my generation had hope that we could affect positive change:

Kennedy

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