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- Peace, Security & Defence
Like many millions, I was besotted by the coverage of the US election.
It was riveting with moments of despair and joy. Despair at the narrative that appears to have sunk deep into over 70 million Americans that President Trump’s worldview can rekindle America. Joy at the reassurance of a different narrative that is hopeful, restoring, unifying, healing and soulful.
It felt like the clouds were slowly lifting as President-elect Biden’s win was announced. Nina Simone’s “I’m feeling good’’ chimed in my head – especially the words that felt so true momentarily – “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life”. Her constant refrain, “you know how I feel” felt like a universal echo for many millions who have felt that sense of relief. It was a vindication, in simple terms, of good over badness.
Biden’s speeches and tone have all at once reminded us of what the office of President and public leadership should be about. This is not to be gushy over Biden. Rather, it’s a reflection of how bad things have gotten – the hate speech, the psychotic ‘me-ism’ and a devil-may-care attitude.
I recall thinking that the ‘the left’ and the ‘centre’ of politics deserve this moment
When Trump was elected, and as Brexit was rearing its lie-driven momentum, I recall thinking that the ‘the left’ and the ‘centre’ of politics deserve this moment. It felt like, for too long, a sense of complacency, laziness and self-indulgent certainty had become the norm.
Left-leaning governments were being run with scant attention to how the social fabric was being torn apart and how inequalities were being sown even deeper after the financial crises.
Indeed, the lack of transparency or good open governance, as well as opaque decisions about contracts and distribution of resources, came to a head. Citizens were sick of being taken for granted.
And suddenly everything changed.
Women have surfaced as the voice of reason, speaking truth to power
Since then, we’ve been on a rollercoaster of politics. It was as if the genie of audacity, of truth paraded as lies, and of swagger politics was unleashed. As ever, and thankfully, adversity allowed alternatives to emerge. Women have surfaced as the voice of reason, speaking truth to power.
In the past five years alone, we have witnessed women doing the right thing and winning elections using the exact opposite rhetoric of ‘strongmen politics’ in all spheres of life. They have triumphed as leaders of countries, movements, and municipalities across the world.
They are forging a different kind of politics – community as nation, diversity as strength, inequality and corruption as calls to action, all woven together with a sense of public purpose, accountability, integrity and an ability to connect with citizens. Their power is to use this intuition to lead, act and make decisions which have seen great success.
Will the political left and centre learn its lesson? In Europe, at the onset of the pandemic, horse-trading amongst member states left one feeling distraught that political leaders simply don’t get it. Recent events, especially the EU recovery fund and the MFF, signal change, but only if the Union agrees to behave differently and better.
The political left and centre need to enter stage now, and craft a narrative inspired by the successful women noted above. A good starting point would be to confront what is happening to communities across Europe.
Leaders need to dig deep and reimagine the role of the state
It’s time to tackle deepening inequalities and the widening social mobility gap head on. We must address the harsh impact of the economic shock on the people who have suddenly become vulnerable. We cannot afford to be caught unprepared again.
To build shock absorbers into our public systems, to craft a new model of welfarism, to rethink how to incentivise a more social private sector – that is what we’re looking for.
Ultimately, leaders need to dig deep and reimagine the role of the state in the 21 century, knowing what’s wrong with the current infatuation with big or small, market-based or managed, or the traditional trappings of what it means to be left, centre or even right of the political spectrum.
There’s an opportunity for politicians here: cut out the ‘spin’ of focus group mentality, and be bold in tearing up old systems of thinking and governance. Escape the outdated notion of what public institutions are for and instead, acknowledge what they could do if they were powered by a sense of community.
As Nina sang, ‘’And this old world is a new world, and a bold world for me.
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