Something just seems wrong in the world these days and in 2016 we have seen political upheaval of hurricane proportions. There will be reams of analysis in the coming days and countless people will be claiming that the Trump victory proves their warnings and policies and world-view was the right one.
The only thing I can say with certainty this morning is that right across the West a great number of people don’t just want to kick the ‘establishment’, they want to destroy it.
It is true that our ruling classes have failed to deliver for a growing number of people. In both Britain and America wage inequality has been compounded by a growing percentage of middle-class incomes coming from property ownership. So if you have assets, or are born into a family with assets, you will succeed in life. However if you are talent rich but asset poor you will by all likelihood fail to exploit your potential. Not just economically, but in education, in health, and in relationships too. This is a corruption of British values and has sewn the seeds of resentment for which we are paying a heavy price.
In our own city of Brighton and Hove there is a ten year life expectancy gap between areas of affluence and deprivation. These are the feeding grounds of Brexit and Trump and if we are not careful it will not end there.
We should act though not because of what is happening in politics, we should act because it is the right thing to do.
What must not happen is for mainstream parties to join the anti-establishment bandwagon, even though the Tories have already started down that path to a degree.
The problem is not that we have an establishment, it is that the wrong people make it into our ruling class. For example, the majority of senior judges, senior police officers, civil service permanent secretaries, cabinet ministers, newspaper editors, and 52% of Tory MPs were all privately educated yet that group makes up only 7% of the population.
The establishment needs fixing so that people with expertise and experience from ALL backgrounds can create a country that serves everyone, not just the people who look and sounds like themselves and share their worldview as has increasingly become the case.
The challenge that politicians like me have is to present this as the radical solution that it is. We have to present solutions that will deliver the change that is needed not stand on a platform that is simply destructive, and to do so in a way that is passionate, sometimes raw, and that doesn’t steal the language of those struggling to get by in order to exploit them, but genuinely listen and care and connect. I am the first to admit, with shame, that that connection has come perilously close to being lost by all mainstream parties including my own.
The lesson for us from Trump isn’t that we could end up with a PM from the fringes of mainstream parties, it is that we could end up with Nigel Farage, or worse (yes, there is worse). I do not say this idly.
But today we are where we are. A lesson from Bill Clinton has been ringing in my mind all morning. I once heard him speak and he said one of the lessons he learned in office is that you always assume progress is a one-way street. Once you’ve achieved something you bank it and move on to the next challenge. Wrong. He listed all of the things George W. Bush had rolled back on, and it is that which is at the forefront of my mind today.
America has just elected a president who exhibited a degree of unvarnished women-hating that moved me to tears of anger. Add to this his views on race and gays, and its easy to see that anyone who takes pride in the huge advances in equality must defend these achievements will all our heart and might. Because believe me they will come under attack.
It is difficult to imagine a figure that reflects our community here in Brighton and Hove less than Donald Trump. America is our greatest ally and our countries will need to find ways to continue our relationship so it is bequeathed to future generations intact. But the lessons of Tony Blair’s uncritical relationship with George W. Bush must also be a lesson for us too. Our populations must remain close, but should government policies emerge that offend our own British values then we must not sit on our hands for fear of a slap on the wrist.
I’m sorry for another long post. These are my raw and unvarnished thoughts this morning. The challenge, as I see it, for me is to do even more than to help Labour develop policies that will solve the economic challenges we face and make sure our economy serves more people better than it has been. And to continue my driving mission in politics which is to get every public service getting it right for everyone first time around because every student, every passenger, every patient, should get the best.Every young person must have the skills and opportunity to fully exploit their potential.
If we are to smash the establishment we must do it with talent from every corner of society, not a fist that will leave nothing but chaos in its wake.
I’ve never been prouder to live in Hove. It feels like a sanctuary today. Yours, Peter.