The Problem With Being Popular

Or rather, with trying to be, is it becomes a numbers game. When you bring this game into politics however, it is people’s lives that you are playing with.

The global surge in populism can be observed all too clearly in Trump’s America, and in Great Britain’s act of self harm in deciding to leave the European Union. In both these cases, political leaders appealed to base emotions of the electorate, and in so doing negated the requirement for reason or rationalism. Emotion is a powerful thing, and a personal thing. Those who attempted to stem the tide with arguments of causality and reason were dismissed; after all, who needs facts when you ‘feel’ something to be true.

The consequence of populism, however, is that there are inevitably people left behind. I don’t mean by this, those who voted Hillary, or those who voted to remain in the EU. Those are the disappointed, but not the disenfranchised. They still have a voice and can still push for change. The real victims are those on the sidelines – those who are unemployed, or are barely coping with the daily rigour of life itself. These are the people that need the state to protect them, but they are not “the many”.

By nature, populists calculate the way to achieve the most votes for the least effort, and this means economic or social policy that resonates most with your engaged working class and middle class voters. Generally, this involves tax breaks for the mass population, funded in part from high earners or high net worth individuals, but also in a more sinister way, by reducing social programmes that are there to help the disengaged and the people on the fringes of society. This can be seen in the rapid and numerous budget cuts Donald Trump has made in his first months in office, in a bid to show his mass electorate that he can manage the budget and keep their taxes low, all the while hoping that not enough of them notice the human cost. Similarly, here in the UK, the vote to leave the EU has polarised the electorate – not just into Remain and Leave, but to the left and right also. Corbyn, desperate for survival in, what was predicted to be, a General Election that would be the demise of Labour promised one of the most radical social agenda that the UK has seen in recent times. May, on the other hand, scented victory and proposed a manifesto of such arrogance and a radical shrinking of the state, that ultimately it was her undoing.

There is another way. The much scorned centre ground looks to leave no-one behind, and also champions enterprise and economic liberation – to strike a balance. It was the demise of centre ground politics in 2015 that was the spark that persuaded me I had to get actively involved in politics for the sake of our society. The Liberal Democrats were punished harshly by an electorate that felt betrayed; the Conservatives moved to the right to defend the UKIP movement; and Labour, in leadership crisis, found itself moving firmly to the left.

It is for this reason that I joined the Liberal Democrats, and chose to actively campaign for the politics of reason. I believe that policies should be enacted on evidence, with rational thought, and with the objective to ensure that no-one is left behind. I hope to bring a few of you on the journey with me.

Category: Populism | Tags: , , ,
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