Politics will always involve power, but at Happy City we believe good politics isn’t about power. It’s the same argument we make about the economy, which must of course involve money, but isn’t about money. The more emphasis politicians place on ‘Power’, the less engaging they become. Between 1992 and 2001, voter numbers dwindled as politics got nastier, with a more personal, vindictive and derisive tone. In a nutshell, what politicians have been saying to the electorate for decades is; ‘you can’t trust them’, whilst pointing at each other. They’ve done well – achieving the own goal of reducing trust in all politicians significantly.
This pattern is disastrous for democracy.
That is why we find reason for delight in last week’s election where voter numbers were at their highest level in 25 years. It was especially cheering to see young, first time voters taking up their democratic rights and engaging with passion. As Mike Williams, CEO of music magazine NME, which led a campaign to get out the youth vote, said “A lot of talk during this election has been about whether young people would bother to get out and vote. They did, in huge numbers, and on a scale not seen in the UK in recent years.” The lesson in these results for the two main parties looks pretty clear.
The party which emphasised ‘Power’ crashed, and the party which emphasised ‘Policies’ gained.
When you focus on the issues, you have to debate how to solve them – so a policies based approach lends itself to constructive learning and problem solving. If you focus on the power and who is in control, your main interest becomes beating the other side. The massive problem with beating the ‘other’ is that your focus is on skewering the opposition, not on the practical, helpful, constructive stuff which actually improves the lives of the electorate. Oh, and even if you do happen to win, you’re still in the same boat as a bunch of bruised, resentful people who don’t want to help you succeed. It’s a crippling price to pay for a hollow victory – deeply disrespectful to the political profession, the electorate and to democracy. So politicians take heed.
The way to win hearts and minds and to actually get on with solving problems is not to attack each other.
We can do much better than that. We can now see that the politicians who focus on policies, determined not to trade blows for power are taking us to better places. By investing in an positive, collaborative political discourse we’d be sure to see consistently high engagement in politics as well as increasing national happiness returns.
Mike Zeidler – Happy City Director