If the recent General Election taught us anything, it is that old-style politics is long past its viability limit.
Yes, an old-fashioned victory was won by the Conservatives but the previous administration was a coalition and the polls seemed to indicate that this present government would be one too.
The imbalance of votes cast against seats won in our first-past-the-post system was a striking feature of this election. This distorts the true picture of support for parties and gives us a skewed government throghout the British Isles.
The system must be changed for sure but the solution to our hackneyed political structure requires a much deeper remedy than changing constituency boundaries or adopting PR into our electoral cycles.
The real solution is a change of mindset which will transform the way we look at politics and thus, ultimately, politics itself. In short, I am speaking about a change of culture.
Our politics is, like our commerce and economics, largely adversarial in its ethos. It demands winners and losers and is predicated upon a necessary hostility. We have ruling parties and “opposition” parties. The implication is that there must always be opposition to the incumbent government. Nobody ever questions why this must be the case.
As I wrote in a recent article:-
Our political system is tired, drained and strained. It is in major need of radical overhaul. The answer is not to jettison the Union. The Union transcends politics. A major problem with the debate over the Union is the fallacious idea that politics can provide the solution.
The answer is to change society by bringing cultural transformation. This includes transitioning from our hackneyed system of hostility politics to a new, harmonious process. It is seeking transformation rather than confrontation.
A great example is our continued use of the word ‘Opposition’ to label parties who are not in power. Imagine if we changed this to ‘Support’ or ‘Partner’ parties.
It is all about perspective.
Changing our perspective is the key to the new paradigm we must enter in this century.
Our present political system literally freezes many capable people out of effective power and ability to change things for the better because they are on the losing side in an election. Think, for example, of the years of experience some politicians rack up as Cabinet Ministers which is then thrown away because their party loses an election. You don’t think the new guys couldn’t use their expertise, experience and contacts?
The swing from Tory to Labour and back again, which is the story of British politics now for well over a century, sees us embarking on projects for several years only to abandon these projects for new ones. It is like an unfinished manuscript which gets ripped up every so often for a whole new rewrite.
The point being, it doesn’t work and serves nobody. Except the politicians.
And I am not just talking politics.
Look at business, for example.
Commerce is also a hostile battle ground with winners and losers. Companies bid for business and the winners get all the spoils while the losers might have to downsize and hand out redundancies. “That’s life,” some might say. But the question is: Does it always have to be?
What if, instead of competitors, businesses viewed each other as partners, sharers and allies? What if we swapped our independence for interdependence?
Let’s get really radical. What if we changed our perspective so much that we viewed our biggest rivals as allies and friends?
Too “out there”? Too New Agey? Or is it just that we are afraid to be the ones to break the mold and enter the next paradigm?
When I was younger I was the most confrontational guy in terms of my worldview. The world was a black and white place and you didn’t give an inch to your enemies.
There is still a time and place to confront and stand up against stuff.
But the world has moved on and still is moving on. Nowadays I take a much more transformational approach than a confrontational one. Partly this is a pragmatic thing. The credibility of the guy holding the placard is decreasing at a rapid rate. Entrenchment might bolster your need to self-justify but it just keeps you and your opponents poles apart.
Co-operation is the way forward and I am not talking about compromise or consensus here.
A commitment to co-operation does not equate to caving in. It is a decision to seek one’s goals and objectives by co-operating rather than competing.
In politics, co-operation might mean that capable men and women are picked from losing parties to fill important posts. This is actually an old tradition in the Houses of Parliament.
In business, it might mean that losing bidders for contracts may get vital sub-contract work from the winners of those contract bids. Imagine how some sectors could be transformed if businesses signed up to a coalition approach, parcelling out work so everyone “wets their beak” to use the old Sicilian term.
These ideas are not new, just under-used.
It is all about how we see others, individually and corporately. Are we living in a hostile universe or a nurturing one? Is my enemy just someone I haven’t shared a meal with yet? Are my competitors really friends in disguise?
It would be naive to assume that life doesn’t throw up real enemies who go out of their way to damage you in some way.
But refusing to hate them is often the key to disarming them.
It really is all about perspective.
As Sun Tzu said, For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Sometimes the best way to subdue an enemy is to make him/her your friend.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. PROVERBS 25:21
The new paradigm is to be transformational, not confrontational; to co-operate rather than compete.
Entering into this paradigm is for the brave pioneer, not the timid conformist.