A twenty first century enlightenment election?


So it’s started. I will be doing some election commentary but in a personal capacity and trying always, given my background, to be as objective as possible.

Although I turn down more than I accept, I do try to make sure there is some reason, apart from the fun of it, for doing punditry. Maybe it’s a rationalisation (I’m sure I can rely on readers to tell me if so) but my grounds are:

I try to give a realistic picture of how politics works, avoiding if I can the cynical, world-weary tone of so many other commentators. Politics is important and it can be exciting and nerve wracking to be at the heart of a campaign. This is something I try to communicate

Occasionally in a campaign an event happens which is genuinely significant. If it’s a cock up (like some of the posters we’ve already seen) there’s not much I can add, but if there is a real policy difference, or one of the leaders’ tries to frame an issue or engage the public in a novel and creative way, it’s something I hope I can spot and draw out for viewers or listeners.

As promised I am spending much time reading and thinking about 21st century enlightenment (with West Brom as good as promoted I have fewer things now to distract me). So what might a champion of 21CE look for in the election campaign?

First, because the 21CE is about new forms of engagement between decision makers and citizens, we would want to hear leaders talk not just about what they are going to do for us but what they expect from us. Election campaigns tend to see politicians reverting to the idea that a mere change of leadership in Westminster can change the world. I will be looking out for any leader who is clear that what they can achieve depends on their capacity to engage and mobilise the public. There was a bit of this in Cameron’s Big Society initiative but it need a lot more emphasis if the message is to get through to ordinary voters.  

Second, because the 21CE is about faith in progress, but in a progress based on human fulfilment and social development not simply the fetishising of conventional economic aims, I will be on the look out for leaders willing to talk imaginatively and boldly about the kind of future we want, not just pandering to our desires for lower taxes, better services etc, but helping us see the choices we face about the kind of society in which we want to live.

Third, because the 21CE, like the original, encourages open rational debate I will be on the look out for politicians who choose to be honest when it might be easier to score points. Labour politicians who recognise the things they have got wrong in office. Tories and Lib Dems willing to recognise the many ways Britain has got better in the last thirteen years. Any politician willing to recognise that their policies are not certain to work (in our post ideological age, if there were any policies that were certain to work they would have been implemented a long time ago) or that the other side’s – even though they disagree with them - may have some merits.

Mind you, on this last point it’s not so much the lack of courage of politicians as the unforgiving nature of the media that makes it unlikely there will be much to praise.         

If any readers spot anything worthy of mention in the wider media, please do tell me

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • Local skills frameworks, levelling up and the future of work

    Fabian Wallace-Stephens (Foresight Lead)

    What mix of soft, technical, and digital skills will be needed in different sectors or local economies in the future?

  • Levelling up and participatory democracy

    Riley Thorold

    Riley Thorold explains how recent RSA work on public participation can inform this broader shift towards a more active and empowering democracy when levelling up.

  • Building a healthy economy

    Andy Haldane

    Complex interactions between health, economic and social outcomes are at the centre of health outcome inequalities. RSA Chief Executive Andy Haldane examines the interventions that could break this adverse health/economic cycle.