On the doorstep I repeatedly hear support for more pay for doctors, nurses, teachers and public sector worker … for more investment in clean water, in our decaying roads, for social care and in new hospitals. This is almost always swiftly followed by an equally passionate demand for less tax, both local and national.
They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Is the answer to the balance between taxation and spending one of strong leadership, backing one particular approach to avoid the compromises that create camels?
It is a sad truth that economic theories are only ever right in retrospect and even then only in their explanation of errors and omissions. It feels a bit like football referees and VAR – and how unpopular is the killjoy that disallows the goal at the height of its passionate acclaim. How often would we prefer the exciting dream over the prosaic truth?
The trouble is, that is how charismatic scoundrels can rise to the top – ‘never mind the truth, never mind your best interests and follow me for the ride of a lifetime.’ The inevitable outcome? Disappointment, disillusion and a hefty hangover.
As we head into the election season that will be with us for the next 12 to 18 months, both here and across the Atlantic, we should look deeply into what is said and the people saying it. We need to think long and hard about our experience of the last 13 years.
It has been said of those who run large organisations that once at the top, they need to lose the mindset and behaviours that got them there. Looking around the world at dictators and monomaniacs, they all seem to build on the ruthlessness that elevated them, believing they can have their position in perpetuity and ride roughshod over humanity, decency, fairness and truth in the pursuit of their personal visions and vanities.
Fortunately, we do have checks and balances. For every power-mad political ref, we have VAR in the shape of a regulator or quality commission. The only “buts”, perhaps, are that sometimes it appears a regulator has too little power (I give you sewage spills, internet, energy bills) while others can seem to have too much, or use their powers in too simplistic a way.
Our ultimate recourse is to the independence of the judiciary and the humanity, knowledge and understanding of our elected policymakers, both local and national. However, if we give one faction too much credence for too long, then we start to undermine the inherent strengths of the system. They start believing they – and only they – are right.
What matters most, then, is the quality and capability of our chosen representatives.
Let’s pick the best.
Mike Chapman, North Dorset Liberal Democrats