Last week’s local elections were a clear rejection of the government’s doom and gloom policies, but only 32% of the electorate felt compelled to vote; such is the level of disenchantment. A new politics needs to emerge, a message of trust and optimism that will inspire us out of debt and despair into heartfelt hope.
Austerity Britain is not a hope-full environment; millionaires get tax cuts whilst the rest pay more; students are heaped with a greater burden of university debt and charities could lose out on the generosity of the wealthiest philanthropists.
Every day brings news of another bullet point on the list of ordinary household concerns. For the first time since the birth of the welfare state, this generation of parents has no guarantee that their children will have greater opportunities than they did.
If the country is to get moving again, if employers are to start hiring more workers, if the elderly are to feel that they are not discarded with indignity, if young people are to remain determined to realize their dreams, we need a message of hope.
A government of millionaires that have not seen real hardship cannot be the answer to the electorate’s questions on how best to cope with their situation and move forward; in the words of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, they “don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunch boxes”. Ignorance can be perceived as arrogance which so often leads to indifference; to know hope one has to have known what it is to be in despair.
Britain, including the political class, has lost some sense of the true value and nature of politics. Politics should not be a career path, or about losing faith and vision so as to appeal to global media. Politics was, and can be again, contextual and relevant.
Politics is above all the forming of a relationship between the people and their elected officials. For this relationship to be healthy again we must have the hope to be able to find a new way of doing things; to make politics a way of life, a culture, a people-inspired movement, through dialogue, participation and inspiration. The electorate need to know that they are heard and that their contribution is valued; that they can impact upon both the corridors of power and the community to which they belong. To make a difference is the noblest pursuit of democracy.
The transformation of society is achieved through a hope-full message, because it is not enough to say what we want from our political class, we have to mean it as well. If we become enthused and inspired in a national cause, then what choice will politicians have but to reach deep into their souls and reclaim their forgotten idealism?
Hope inspires confidence, confidence creates success, and the forward march of a hope-filled people can truly change things for the better.