Re-establishing political credibility with the electorate
We live in a crazy world. In the UK we are seeing ministerial resignations for allegations of improper sexual conduct on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis, and in the US we have a proven sexual predator that boasted about his sexual misconduct on tape, leading the free world on Twitter.
The younger generations sign up for no-frills sex on Tinder with a swipe to the right on their mobile phones and the older generation now seem to be demanding a letter of consent before touching another human being.
I am using extreme examples and have no intention of tackling a subject of such sensitivity other than to say that the world seems devoid of common sense and balance. Gender equality is being confused with unfair pay and unwanted sexual advances being mixed in with rape.
The one thing of which I am 100 percent certain of is that witch hunts deprive society of talented political leadership from both sexes and that the few brave enough to enter public service are set up to fail by a flawed infrastructure regardless of their gender, party or politics. The cost to society is not the loss of the named politicians who may deservedly fall from grace, but the opportunity cost of those with immense talent turning their backs on a political career that we will never get to know.
The most significant problem currently facing the world is not the standard of public health services, the grotesque inequality that exists in society, or even the somewhat terrifying geopolitical risks. It is the quality of the politicians that we entrust to run our countries and address these issues.
The logic is simple, without world class talent running any country how on earth can we attempt to fix the immensely complex problems listed above? For example, did you know that there are currently over a million job vacancies worldwide in cybersecurity and no one to fill the vacancies?
That is because so much policymaking is retrospective as opposed to pre-emptive. This is also reflected by an obsession with taxation as the only mechanism for revenue generation. We rarely ever hear good ideas associated with how we might generate revenue.
The meteoric rise of Donald Trump in the US, Emmanuel Macron in France, or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK have two simple causes:
Firstly, the deflationary impact of technology on earnings has meant that real incomes for the vast majority of the voting public have been falling for over a decade. In practical terms, this means that people have been working harder for less and whoever was in power at this time suffered a popularity backlash.
Secondly, every surprise election result across the West is a result of a disenfranchised electorate becoming so disillusioned with all politicians of all parties that they now feel driven to upset the status quo no matter how great the pain.
If one thinks of our countries as socially conscious businesses looking to maximise the tax take to help society’s most disadvantaged, and our politicians as untrained CEO’s placed at the helm of their state or constituency, then it’s easy to see the absurdity of the situation.
It is almost inconceivable that we require continuous and stringent training of our doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers and even football coaches, but expect our politicians to be fit for the complexities of running the country with “on the job training”.
Perhaps if the UK had trained MPs properly in risk management and compliance, then two thirds of Ministers might not have transcended the parliamentary rules in the Commons expense scandal several years ago?
As I write this article, I hear a section of the audience correctly pointing out that our politicians are surrounded by well trained civil servants and advisors who are experts in their field, but I would argue that this creates a credibility gap.
Due to their poor fundamental grasp of so many complex situations our politicians have become too heavily dependent on unelected advisors and lack real authenticity as a result. That’s why they can so often sound scripted rather than knowledgeable,
I would argue strongly that recent political results suggest voters treasure authenticity almost as highly as their own political beliefs. This goes some of the way to explaining the Trump effect. You may violently disagree with his politics and his behaviour, but somehow people became enchanted by his authenticity, not his politics.
It has been evident for years that the modern media has become so incredibly intrusive that our most talented members of society shy away from politics for good reason. This is what terrifies me about witch hunts for any cause, no matter how morally correct, it shrinks the available talent pool and strips away the desire for talent to enter politics.
It is time that we came up with some really big ideas to help lift the quality and the training of the people in power for, without inspirational leadership, almost any cause is lost; here are just a couple of my own.
Let’s create political academies, whose sole purpose is to train politicians at an apprenticeship level and throughout their careers. Let’s use public money to recruit, train and educate people from all backgrounds and political beliefs so that they are better equipped with the skills necessary to do the job. Let them be exposed to some of the science and economic case studies underpinning their beliefs so that they might more closely scrutinise the foundations upon which their emotional responses are based.
The institution should be a cross-party training facility teaching a new generation of politicians about automation, gene sequencing, the environment, foreign affairs, economics, disruption and a host of different subjects. Students could graduate and specialise with recognised qualifications and, most importantly, reinforce their knowledge with regular and relevant maintenance courses over their careers. If you study medicine, you very often go on to specialise.
It is unusual to see a brain surgeon being given the job as Head of Oncology and yet with politics that is exactly what happens. Under the current system, the Finance Minister of any country could be innumerate and then moved on to run Foreign Affairs. Once shifted from job to job politicians become heavily reliant on advisors and the electorate want politicians to be fluent in their understanding of situations and have conviction in their beliefs. Currently, they sound like broken records, reading a script which becomes a breeding ground for electoral disaffection.
Put simply; our politicians are not immune to the same laws that govern every single student, teacher, lawyer, nurse and business.
Finally, let’s de-weaponise healthcare, so that politicians cannot use people’s health as a weapon in campaigns. If central banks can be given their independence to stop interest rates becoming used for political purposes during an electoral cycle, then why can’t we do something similar with healthcare?
A cross-party body should run Healthcare policy with experts in genomics, liquid biopsy, gene editing, AI, telemedicine, finance as well as a representative body of healthcare employees. Budgets would be set at a percentage of GDP and the institution given autonomy in the same way as central banks. This would achieve two potentially important things; firstly, it would stop politics descending into the abyss during campaigns, which protects both the elected and the electorate and, secondly, it would be fit for purpose in the rapidly evolving world of healthcare.
Unlike many, I believe that our current crop of politicians is made up of exceptionally well-intentioned people, who wish to make a difference. I also believe that they are set up to fail due to a lack of structure in recruitment and training.
What better use of public or privately donated funds than to grow and train the leadership talent pool by investing in the people who run the country and ensuring they are trained continually throughout their working lives.