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Let’s break the bubble of political perception, join-up policy making and see ideas like Universal Basic Income for what they really are

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

As a culture, we are obsessed with the value we apportion to everything big. Big gestures, big careers, big houses, big bank balances and of course big impact.

Perception is everything – even when it is often wrong, and the absence of objective reality – the ‘real’ truth, rather than just our own, is the ultimate power behind every form of decision making that effects each and every one of us in our daily lives.

img_3014The rich irony is that it is the small things – the details, ingredients or constituent parts of everything, that inevitably become the building blocks of anything we perceive to be big.

In an instant, we see or imagine big end results, seldom giving any real thought to the creative process which will get us there. We overlook the need for a precise mix of elements to be ready and in place. We then forget that the absence of just one domino could abruptly break up a falling chain and render a shot at glory useless before we have even journeyed part of the distance there.

Against this backdrop, it is too easy to perceive others with ‘big’ roles as having the ability to see the world differently. To think that they have a different, more objective view. To conclude that they must possess knowledge that will enable only they themselves to make decisions at a level that will affect us all.

What we most often miss however, is that those making big decisions are usually very much like us. We perceive them to be different, but they are human all the same.

Many years of a self-serving political climate have created an inter-generational range of active politicians making and influencing decisions on the basis of a very limited scope of perception which barely reaches beyond that of their own.

As we watch, read and listen to the mainstream media, we can quickly attune ourselves to a snapshot of current political thinking. Yet that gap we can detect and feel between how we ourselves perceive things and where they appear to be is not present because we are in some way wrong. It is there because our decision makers and influencers are dangerously overconfident in their own perceptions of the world and everything around them. They have literally bought in to their own beliefs, whilst losing touch with both the perceptions and the realities of the very people whom they have been entrusted to represent.

If the perception of a politician such as the Prime Minister mattered only in so much as how it would affect their own future, the decisions which are now being made would impact upon nobody but themselves.

Regrettably, this is far from the case and decision after decision has been made by those in power over a series of generations and under the auspices of governments of all kinds that are made in the absence of any consideration for the reach, width and breadth of consequence or what can simply be summarised as the law of cause and effect.

All of us normally operate within perceptory bubbles where reality stretches only as far as the people and experiences which present themselves within. Everything else presents itself like a giant video where images can be observed and sounds can be heard, not unlike like going to see a film at the cinema, with the same absence of touch, taste, smell and everything else in anyway sensual, leaving any emotional response to run riot within.

With the evolution of e-living, this developing concept of life will only continue to grow, leaving the dehumanisation of relationships and communication to become all the more pronounced, as we lose more and more touch with the reality of the world outside and around.

Decision making at the highest level being conducted without the emotional intelligence and behavioural understanding necessary, and without the genuine motivation to deliver balanced policy provision for all.

It is little wonder then, that we have a conservative government which equates poverty with unemployment. A labour opposition set on a Marxist agenda which overlooks the natural capitalist which resides within us all. And a looming exit from the European Union which was delivered as the result of many millions of personal responses to life experience which extends way beyond our Nation’s membership of just one thing.

The obsession with big ‘wins’ leaves real suffering running rife within society. It’s overlooked for what it really is because the understanding of what life is really like and what it will really take to resolve our problems is absent from the minds of those whom have been trusted to protect us.

For example, on one side, Food Banks are viewed as little more than an unnecessary indulgence. Whist the other makes no mention of how so many more would be needed if they were in power, using them as an excuse to face down the Government in an attempt to win votes that would inadvertently increase this travesty whilst they do little more than pour scorn and deride.

images (7)Policy made in isolation and without regard to the effects of its implementation is now commonplace. This is sticking plaster politics where layer upon layer of quick fixes have become necessary. Each one laid upon the other to tackle the fallout from the last myopic policy, itself only created for expedience without due regard for what might lie beyond.

We are in a mess. A profound one at that. And we have at no time needed politicians to up their game and focus on what is important for everyone more than we do right now.

The good news, is that if the law of cause and effect and the age of consequence were really to be considered and embraced, the possibility and potential reach of the subsequent change would soon become apparent. Things have the potential to change in ways which could have many positive consequences for everyone, as well as the decision making politicians themselves.

How we support our poorest and most deprived members of society would be the very best place to begin. It is therefore perhaps no accident that we hear much talk of big policies aimed at people like the ‘just about managings’ and any one of a number of media friendly terms besides.

Universal Basic Income would provide an ideal start. Not because it is the free giveaway which Conservatives fear and Labour and left-leaning political parties might unwittingly embrace as a quixotic dream without further thought. But because getting it right would uncover and require intelligent communication about so many different policy stones which need to be turned over and addressed, whilst also dealing with the need for updating and change which has become overdue and very necessary in terms of the Government’s policy on Welfare for all our citizens in the 21st Century and beyond.

To begin with, the fact that peripheral chat about a Universal Basic Income has progressed beyond discussion in peripheral forums to open consideration by The SNP and governments beyond our borders suggests that a problem exists which such a model could address. Easy to dismiss as a left-wing giveaway of the kind which could easily break our fragile economy – because it certainly could if delivered without real thought, full consideration of the need for such a measure is nonetheless warranted.

A Universal Basic Income could ensure that everyone has sufficient income to live a basic lifestyle, free of the worry of debt and able to survive in times of hardship without having to become dependent upon others or government agencies of any kind – should they choose to do so. Its success would however be much dependent upon the restrictions and controls over the pricing of goods and services which are essential to basic living, and this is where the escalation of impact and consequential policy making would become most defined.

Housing, utilities, basic food and drink, clothing and appropriate transport provide the key cost areas essential to living a basic lifestyle. The problem today is that in the case of most essential services which were once publicly owned, they have been privatised. The others have too many parties adding themselves to ever complicated supply chains, making profit or ‘rent’ from little more than placing themselves in a mix which really should be kept quite simple.

Ethics simply don’t exist here and the impact of free-market profiteering within these sectors is visiting the same level of chaos and breakdown at a personal level for many of the kind which was visited upon us all by the same kind of gaming that created the 2008 financial crisis, in a very relative way.

These few facts alone give measure to the complexity and reach of just one policy alone. They also illuminate the work and communication which would be required to create a change which would ultimately only be the enemy of self-interest, if created with the care and consideration that each and every government policy truly deserves.

That politicians, influencers and decision makers would be required to work intelligently and beyond the scope of their tried and tested political philosophies of today, would be no excuse for them not to do so. The potential and existence of good and bad policy is present across all the Seats represented at Westminster and none of those representatives of our political parties have any kind of exclusive right or indeed the evidence supporting them which would suggest that they alone can deliver anything that is fundamentally right.

The noise which is populism has been created by the evolution of an unbridled public disconnect. It is a case of simple cause and effect.

Cure the causes. Quiet the noises.

 

MPs who voted against triggering Article 50 contradicted the will of the relevant constituency

February 4, 2017 Leave a comment

brexit-voteWhilst the realities of our Legal system have allowed the wishes of a group of individuals to delay the implementation of the democratic choice of the British people, any individual seeking to bolster the strength of their own argument against Brexit on the basis of this ‘technical truth’ will certainly not be putting the interests of the wider community before their own. Regrettably, those MP’s who have sought to thwart or destroy the process of Brexit in all but name are effectively misusing their responsibilities to the point where they may well bring their own incumbency into question.

Remainers persist in arguing that leaving the EU can mean that we don’t actually leave, or suggest that the Electorate will change its mind simply because the Remain Campaign was the only one telling the truth.

They argue that these reasons justify their refusal to accept a democratic mandate, but they risk shattering what is left of the already fragile status quo in which the disenfranchised majority has made clear they do not wish things to simply continue as the are.

Democracy isn’t perfect because it inevitably leaves those who have not achieved the result they were supporting feeling let down and disappointed if they fail to get their way.

Were democracy to be perfect, it would render itself obsolete simply because everyone would agree upon everything already and therefore have no need to engage in any such process.

The downside of democracy not being a perfect system is that those who disagree with a result will always look for leverage to dispute a result, just because they may have perceived that in some way they have been robbed.

To be fair, close results in elections – where perhaps just a handful of votes stand between one candidate and another – have been turned on their head just on the basis of a recount alone. But these instances are rare, and when they occur, are more likely to do so where a result has been drawn within an electorate of a very low number.

The smallest constituencies are the most likely to experience such events with the likelihood reducing as elections range from the wards of a parish councils, through those of a district level authority to the divisions of a county council and then the parliamentary constituencies themselves. Even then however, one seat ultimately being decided upon the flip of a coin is unlikely to effect the fortune or result from similar elections held on the same day within 649 others.

What all these constituencies have in common, is that no matter how small or how big, they all represent the majority view of the people who live within a specific geographical area. The result or election of an individual or individuals to represent that particular area are based on the votes of the people in that specific area alone.

Because of the current nature of British politics, it is easy to forget that even in a General Election, we all vote for an individual to represent us locally, rather than the political party they belong to.

Voters can hardly be blamed for this when the party which gains the most seats forms the government, and the leader of that group then becomes Prime Minister.

We might not even notice when our chosen candidate is not elected, simply because it can still be the case that our choice of Party for Government does. However, only one person can ever fill one seat and this means that at least one and possibly many more will not.

The practical realities of administering government require that district level authorities are responsible for the mechanics of elections. It doesn’t matter what the election and what the boundary of its constituency may be, the chances are that you will always go to the same place to vote. Other than being given one or a number of voting slips which have to then go in different ballot boxes when different elections coincide, very few of us have to think about much more besides, as the local monitoring officer manages the process which leads to the conclusion of each and every local electoral result that our individual vote contributes towards, to decide.

However, in the case of European Elections, which are decided on a Regional basis and require many different district level authorities to feed in their own locally harvested results which contribute to a much larger area, a strong result for one or more parties in that area may not be reflected in the Regional result itself, because the majority of people in other areas have within their own constituencies voted for another party or parties.

A National referendum is similarly no different, taking the process one step further to a point where every single vote counts directly towards the national result, with the relevant constituency being the entire UK.

The familiarity of the Electoral System lends itself to significant misunderstanding, particularly as many people are simply unaware of the different tiers of government which operate and certainly have no greater awareness of the geographical differences or enclosures which exist between any number of the different authorities or individual politicians who are elected by them in the same way.

This administrative anomaly works well in terms of operating a practical and effective non-digitised election management system. But it also allows data collected for specific areas such as that of a Parliamentary Constituency to be interpreted in terms of relevance just to the area in which those votes were counted alone, rather than against the backdrop of the wider, or indeed narrower area. However, in elections where a candidate or multiple of candidates is selected for a particular ‘seat’, a conflicting result for a parish ward would not allow or facilitate the election of a ‘part-candidate’ when the results of all others would provide a majority for a county council candidate and thereby ensure that individuals election.

Whilst many of the 114 MP’s have used the excuse that their own constituency voted to Remain as the logical reason for voting against triggering Article 50 in Parliament this last week, the fact that the European Referendum was itself never about the individual result or interpretation of votes from any specific Parliamentary Constituency, but rather the combined will of the nation itself, arguably renders this interpretation completely void.

The same can be said of the Scottish Constituencies too. What is more, whilst the SNP can argue that they have a distinguishable mandate, the result of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum has made the position of the Scottish region clear in terms of its relationship within and as part of the rest of the UK and would as such be no different than any other single parliamentary constituency seeking to Remain in Europe, when the Referendum was only ever about the relationship between Europe and the UK entire.

It would be ridiculous to completely overlook the alternative reasoning of these MP’s as from a certain point of view, it is arguably true. However, it is based on a subjective and arguably self-serving view, rather than the more objective one which has been adopted by many more on all sides of the political divide. One which respects the nature of the Referendum Vote and the specific constituency within which it was held.

Had the democratic view been accepted by all in the first place, the will of the majority of the British people would have already been respected. No MP would have found themselves facing a dilemma of whether or not to support their own Party, or alternatively risk the potential of being black-balled, all because to a few, democracy can only work when they believe that they alone are winning.

 

image thanks to thesun.co.uk

 

 

The questions of Scottish Independence, English Devolution and voter disenfranchisement could be solved in a matter of months. But control freakery at the top will only pay lip service to genuine devolution and it would be far too simple for them to use a solution that already exists…

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Last Fridays meeting between David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon will surely prove to be yet another monumental milestone in the future of the Union.

Attempting to take the whole mile after they had been given Cameron’s proverbial inch may well have been Ms Sturgeons modus operandi all along, but the Prime Minister would do well to bear in mind that the momentum is all with the SNP at this moment in time, and especially so when it was the manipulated public awareness of that very fact that arguably put the Conservative Leader more comfortably back in No. 10.

The words of hollow statesmanship may be contrived to sound like the PM is being tough. But the word ‘no’ can all too quickly be overused and the only way that the Union may now be truly saved, will be for the Government to begin saying yes to the questions that the grassroots Scots have not even outwardly asked.

Devolving power only as far as the Scottish Parliament will do much to enhance and progress the march of the SNP towards the Independence which many of us no longer see as being any more than perhaps a few years away if things continue politically as they are. Scotland’s leaders will surely get closer and closer to attaining the level of power that they so badly crave but could never realise as long as they continue to be part of the UK.

But the people, the voters, the electors who have facilitated this Westminster-bound charge will see no real change in the lives that they live. Indeed, they may well find themselves much more poorly off and continuing to be just as disenfranchised, all because another set of politicians have sold them short as currency for their own personal and self-motivated gain.

The sweet irony of all this is that everyday people across the UK feel just the same and just as disenfranchised as the Scots, but do not experience the same kind of tribal feeling of belonging or commonality between people which has been supercharged in this instance by the promotion of Scotland’s national identity.

Nationalism in this sense truly has become far more of a danger to any semblance of a healthy basic standard of living or status quo than even austerity in time could prove to be, and the reality is that the Scottish Question could be solved in exactly the same act as any questions that have arisen about English, Welsh or even Cornish devolution.

So why exactly, are the politicians not pursuing what is arguably the most simple, straightforward and easy to implement solution. One which would connect people with decision making on their doorstep, whilst removing any need for side-stepping ruses like City Mayors. A change that could bring talk of independence to the immediate halt that anyone living in the real world knows is where it should actually be?

When you consider that this solution already exists right across the Country and would have the ability to administer the devolution of decisions that should be made locally, rather than by a Parliament that seems to many so very far away, any sensible person would be hard pressed not to ask the question.

So then; consider that below the tier of Westminster based government, there is not one; not two, but three tiers of localised government operating, with representatives in most cases already elected by the people, who could and no doubt happily would assume much more responsibility for the decisions which really matter to the localities in which they live, if the Government were to relinquish the appropriate powers and let them do so.

Parish and Town Councils are the most localised and arguably most accessible form of Government in the UK. Yet their responsibilities seldom extend beyond buying and locating dog bins or bus shelters and looking after community assets like small play areas, recreation fields and perhaps an historic Town Hall.

Next comes the District level authorities which harvest our council tax and assume responsibility for matters such as Planning, Licensing, Environmental Health and collecting our waste.

Then there are the County level authorities which look after the not-so-important roads, Education, Social Services and interact closely with services such as the Fire Brigades.

They all sound very administrative or bureaucratic and that’s because they are. People vote to elect the members or councillors that represent them on all of these authorities. But much of the responsibility many people understand them to have isn’t theirs at all. It actually reflects Laws and Policies which have been created by Westminster.

The wriggle room or space for decision making which is truly independent of the Westminster influence is scarce within local government. In reality, it is just sufficient enough that central Government can blame Councils or use them as a convenient scapegoat for political expediency. For instance, Westminster happily passes the buck over the true causes of cuts to local services whilst reducing the size of the bottom line they themselves have to account for in the drive for greater fiscal austerity.

The irony should not be lost on any of us that like most areas of government, local councils are being forced to change the way they work to save money, but the powers to instigate the changes that they really need are held back by a distant political elite which is obsessed with monetary cost rather than the real-life impact from a lack of meaningful reform.

As power is increasingly centralised towards London through the sharing of services and amalgamation of local authorities, power is being taken further away from people at every turn and it is this very act which is continually fanning the flames of discontent within an electorate that quietly knows its influence over even the most practical parts of their lives is becoming ever more remote.

The reality however, for those who have worked closely alongside all the lower tiers of government, is that when those rare moments arise when people sense there is a real chance to influence change, the presence of that opportunity can literally electrify interest in local administration and reconnect the electorate in a way that even the phoney wars which serve as our elections cannot do.

For those who have experienced this connection first hand, there can be little doubt that bringing real power back to street, neighbourhood, village and suburban level would quickly re-engage the electorate and have the potential to bring in a whole new generation of politicians from the grassroots level who didn’t simply join a political party one day because they thought they would be a pretty good prime minister.

The question is of course, why is Westminster not using the existing machinery of government to solve the bubbling crisis created by the SNP leaders and the mishandling of the issue of devolved power, when every thread of common sense and voter-centric thinking says that is exactly what they should do.

Indeed, we might also ask why the promise of City Mayors and the creation of yet more tiers of government and the political stooges that will inhabit these roles is necessary, when many councillors are already in place across the UK, who have distinct connections to our localities that focussing power on just one person at a greater distance could never achieve?

For those who have swam around the political goldfish bowl with their eyes open the answer is regrettably simple.

Its all about control, and despite the political system being infested with the self-serving at every turn, you could quite easily say that there are no greater control freaks at work right now than the occupant of no. 10 and the leader of the SNP.

Both stand to gain personally by concentrating as much power as they can within the realms and reach of their particular roles.

To one, devolving real power to potentially thousands of others who they cannot control politically makes absolutely no sense at all. To the other, giving credence to the idea that power should be focused as near to people as it is possible to do so would instantly destroy the dream of becoming the player on the international stage that British politics is otherwise currently only able to allow of the leader of one of the two main Political Parties.

Some would quickly argue that the lower tiers of government are not equipped to deal with real decisions; but that is exactly what they have been elected to do.

Others would say that responsibility needs to be taken by the people who are most capable of using it with the hint of blind acceptance that MP’s should automatically be assumed to be ‘the right people’ to govern our lives. But we might rather ask, who is better qualified to choose those representatives than the people themselves, when Westminster is now constructed of people who did no more than tick all the right boxes for their political parties and thereafter, did not do a great deal more than sign a series of forms. Can we really say that career politicians with no experience of the world outside are really the people we should entrust with the decisions that affect us all in every way?

The danger of Cameron playing power games with another political leader who is arguably far more awake and attuned to the realities of playing the public song than he could ever do so, is potentially very severe indeed.

Empowering existing councils and creating new ones where they don’t exist could potentially remove the need for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in one swift stroke. It would undoubtedly answer the question of voter disenfranchisement across England too. But it would also require true statesmanship of a kind that many of us have simply never seen.

The very regrettable and destructive alternative is the continuing empowerment of a different kind. That of Scottish, then Welsh and then potentially even English Regional or County Independence with a widow’s web of bureaucracy and additional cost that simply doesn’t bear thinking about. A concept which may play very well into the federalist plans of a politically united Europe, but would ultimately leave the real power for issues that matter to real people in their everyday lives, lying in the hands of a majority of non-elected bureaucrats and foreign politicians who were neither born here, nor have nor ever will live anywhere within our great and currently unified land.

 Top image thanks to http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk 

A Blue Flush, political business as usual and UKIP may be about to miss its greatest hour as it behaves exactly like the rest…

Frankenstein-001The morning after the Scottish Independence Referendum last September was significant in more ways than most people realised at the time, and with ramifications that few of us could have really banked on being the case at the time.

Within just a matter of hours, David Cameron weaponised the SNP by making a series of commitments on devolution which were almost certainly impossible to deliver without the help of a meaningful majority, and then switched on the voltage to electrify this electoral monster by moving straight to the flawed agenda of English votes for English laws.

Love them or hate them, the political shrewdness of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon should not be underestimated. Nor should their savvy approach of hiding their intentions in plain sight, as Mr Salmond clearly did so when he would not talk down the possibility of a return to Westminster almost in the same breath he had used to tell us that he was standing down as SNP Leader.

Looking at all this and the chain of events which has unfolded over these past 8 months, we can argue that many of the omens or signs of what was to come were present early on. David Cameron and today’s Conservative Party have benefitted much more from that clearly ill-considered and badly thought out approach, just as the SNP have capitalised and effectively won an election by skilfully exploiting it at every move.

Blue FlushHowever, the blue flush phenomenon last Thursday doesn’t actually give Cameron the sweat-free incumbency that he would have us all believe. Indeed, we might all do well to remember that we have had months of being force-fed the realities of a guaranteed hung-parliament, which make this wafer-thin government majority look unfathomably spectacular just at this moment in time.

It is perhaps the fragility of the situation that has encouraged both the direct and indirect flurry of messages and policy announcements which have began to emanate from Downing Street at what seems like a hell’s pace.

Indeed, this Conservative Government looks set to push through as many big policy moves as it can within the shortest time possible, all before the illusion subsides and the true vulnerability of its situation is fully exposed by perhaps a few of the new Conservative MP’s finding their own voices, or a few more of those historical ‘bastards’ coming back into the open after biding their time during this illusory feel-good moment.

Rushed as they may seem, it’s not the obvious sound bites that come from the new ministerial post holders that should be causing us the most concern – even though some of those could have profound enough implications on their own.

No, it is the latest soundings by the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, indicating that a referendum on Europe should be held as early as possible, that give the greatest signal yet that just this one monumental process will be pushed through by the Government, before any real traction can be gained by a cross-party No Campaign.

On the face of it, Cameron cannot lose. Whilst the Conservatives will be able to paint themselves as decisive and promote what will be sold as a very big win, The other main Parties are successfully on target to be caught napping during their drawn out and self-focused leadership campaigns.

Indeed, Labour and the Lib Dems are in as much danger of allowing incompetently created constitutional policy to slip under the radar without any form of genuine opposition scrutiny, as UKIP is of missing its real hour of glory whilst it busily engages itself in a form of open warfare which is in danger of doing little more than showing how accurately similar the Party is to everyone else on the political block.

Europe, just like Scotland and the whole issue of devolved government, is far too big a question for all of us across the UK – with implications that are far-too-reaching, to be left to the machinations of political opportunism which has ironically been gifted to the Conservative Government by little more than a series of blunders.

Getting the relationship that we have with Europe right is essential. On one side, we must reclaim the levels of political and legislatory influence which our sovereign state should always have maintained and that we should experience as we ask the question about who is really in control.

But on the other, we also need to maintain a healthy relationship with a range of trading partners who probably have more to lose if we don’t get our relationship right than we do – a point that weak leadership will always willingly miss.

The UK may well be in a much better position for negotiation than politicians and the media would have us believe, but we will not achieve anything near what is the best arrangement for this Country if our direction of travel is left to the momentum of a political philosophy that even grassroots members of its own party cannot recognise, and which has to rely on the power of fear to manipulate the election results that have supported it.

On the 7th of May, none of the political parties lost anything in comparison to what the British public will lose if the critical moments which are going to come over the next few months are left to chance and go unchecked.

Whether its Liz, Andy, Mary, Yvette, Tim, Norman, Patrick or Suzanne who are considering their moment of glory, the big thing to do would be to focus on the challenges which the Country is facing, rather than continue to indulge and propagate everything that is wrong with our political system.

Image top; thanks to http://www.theguardian.com, below: unknown

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