Caroline Spelman a metaphor for tumbling Coalition

 First published on 18 Feb 2011 -

I wonder if the people of our country know what a seminal week this has been?

The Government have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown (sic) from the sale of forests and woodland.

The Right Honourable Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told the House of Commons: “I am sorry. We got this one wrong, but we have listened to people’s concerns.”

Now they might have listened to people’s concerns. But why didn’t they ask first?

Regular readers of this post will be all-too-familiar with my thesis that a better use of the professional marketing and communications skills on the tabs across the Brand Republic Home Page would make for better Government of our country.

I have railed against the haste and confusion of NHS reforms:

Last week I showed how David Cameron would have benefitted from professional market research before rushing out with his multiculturalism speech in Munich:

And now, in ‘the mother of all Parliaments’ of which we are so proud (even though, historically, Iceland beat us to it), we have a Conservative Cabinet Minister – a Cabinet Minister – standing at the despatch box in our House of Commons and apologising for rushing into a policy without ‘listening to the people’.

No quantitative research. No qualitative research. No engagement with community experts or opinion formers. No thought. No strategic thinking. No judgement.

All of us – yes, all of us – should all be ashamed of the state we are in.

What is the reason for all these rushed-through policies and bad government?

Ah well, let’s calm down for a moment.

The answer to this question also emerged this week – and it is much more quietly tucked away than in our disgraced corridors of power than the humble Ms Spelman.

The House of Lords ‘caved in’ on voting reform:

Why has this caused all these rushed-through policies and bad government?

Well, I can tell you.

The Conservatives know that a no vote to AV will be the end of the Coalition.

This is because the anti-Coalition (or, more accurately, anti-Tory) Liberal Democrats will feel their one main sticking point has not been achieved. Nick Clegg will find it impossible to hold his party together and there is likely to be a General Election.

Labour have been most desperate of all to postpone this referendum, requiring tired old peers to camp down for all-night sittings in Westminster. They know that, under Ed Miliband, they are nowhere near ready for another General Election.

If there is a yes vote in the referendum, a General Election is even more likely. Disaffected Liberal Democrat MPs will withdraw from the Coalition and go to the country in the hope that, under the new voting system, they are likely to win significantly more seats.

The Conservatives are unlikely to enjoy an overall majority ever again.

Ditto Labour.

The Liberals will have achieved a massive breakthrough.

Even though the Alternative Vote (AV) is not their preferred system, it will be a step up the ladder to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for which the Liberal-inspired Electoral Reform Society have been campaigning since 1884:

As I know from personal experience, politicians never know what is going to happen in an election – the latest being a case in point where the exit polls were not believed early in the evening but, by morning, were found to be almost spot on.

So now, with this AV referendum looming, our politicians are all engaged this party political game playing, scheming and wheeling and dealing and what do they care about the rest of us?

What about the people who need the NHS – both as patients and employees, hundreds of whom are losing their jobs as I write this post?

What about the Muslims who feel estranged and unwelcome – and who have to listen to ignorant and uncaring claptrap from our allegedly intelligent Prime Minister?

Or people who love their trees and their forests – and anywhere else they can find to escape from all this nonsense?

Well, these politicians don’t care.

None of them will stand up to their party machines. If this were likely, they would not have been selected by Head Office to stand for Parliament in the first place. To do this you have to show ‘commitment to the cause’ i.e. do what you are told. Churchill would have had no chance.

As we all know, most of the people holding senior posts in any of the main three parties are career politicians. They have gone from Oxbridge into the party machine. They haven’t lived in the real world. They haven’t a clue what is going on out there. Their careers are at stake.

So they are all trying to make a mark, rushing through as much legislation as they can in the hope that something worthwhile ‘sticks’ and their skins will be saved.

And the result is a chronically split society where the politicians who have failed us so badly get on with their yah-boo game playing and their own petty agendas.

There are those of us who get on with our lives and our professional careers in the commercial world, carrying with us the skills, expertise, creativity and energy that the politicians ignore.

And we have the rest – the poor, the sick, the elderly, the needy. People who cannot afford their TV licence fee let alone a computer and who wouldn’t know about ‘social networking’ if it hit them in the face.

What about them?

Who cares?

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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