Elections and reflections

First posted 9th November 2016; the day after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President

A day - a year - for extraordinary outcomes and last week, speaking with fellow housing professionals across Europe, I know that people don't expect the trend to end. We can see that people in the UK and the USA and I am convinced elsewhere in the near future are rejecting the conventional. The status quo is not wanted. People are asking for change even if they are not by any means sure how or even whether the democratic decisions they make will deliver it.

I hope that commentators and analysts, politicians and professionals don't waste too much energy and time on rather self indulgent processes of examination of why the arguments they thought should resonate have not or, worse still, why pundits get it wrong. This is about real people, real challenges, real lives. Not whether a TV show or a newspaper or an 'expert' is vindicated or left exposed.

As we progress with Brexit (yes it's going to happen, let's please just get properly used to that idea) and as America and the world gets it head around a future with Donald Trump in the White House we need to take a really careful look at why the old order is being rejected. The answer is not to be found in generalisations about bigotry, sexism, ignorance, intimidation or racism. Although we need to stand firm against all those things I am actually pretty sure the overwhelming majority of 'Leave' and 'Let's give Donald a crack at it' voters hate those things too.

I think that if we listen carefully enough we can hear the real reasons why the revolution gathers pace. And it really is that; a revolution. In another age perhaps heads would actually have rolled.

What I think we can hear is a cry from the overwhelming majority in our society who are finding their real incomes reducing and can feel that, as the figures from our own Office of National Statistics show, the gap between the wealthy and the 'normal' let alone the poorest in society is getting wider. A greater and greater proportion of wealth globally as well as domestically is concentrated in the hands of a reducing number of 'very comfortable', rich or even super-rich people.

There is of course no magic answer to that and the simple mathematics of it can mislead. It's important to think about the contributions of philanthropists as well as the excesses of the privileged in contemplating how wealth is created and distributed in society.

And that leads me to reflect on other paradoxes about how we are, how we vote and how we behave. Very soon, the U.K. will be invited to give generously to the wonderful 'Children in Need' TV appeal, run and hosted by the BBC but supported by competing channels and achieving incredible results year after year. Even in times of great financial stress people up and down the land give incredible amounts for vital work and of course have a great time into the bargain.

Surprise surprise. Thousands and thousands of those generous people will of course be 'leave' voters; my totally unscientific point being that a rejection of the status quo does not, of course, mean that someone does not treasure and demonstrate in their actions the most fundamental and beautiful human values of selflessness, compassion and community spirit.

With very few exceptions (and there are always some pretty unattractive characters among any electorate) all those who vote for what many of us might think of as worrying and unwelcome change do so with hope for a better future. And it insults the intelligence of the voting public to think that they do not have an equal hope that those in whom they place their trust will honour values of decency, compassion and fairness in the actions they take. This has to be a rallying call therefore for oppositions to provide effective, well reasoned challenge. Even to offer the guidance that Donald Trump called for in his acceptance address.

To be clear I voted remain and if I had been an American citizen I would have backed Hilary Clinton. But the results of these election cause me to reflect on what has been rejected, the extent to which I am part of it and what I can do to help honourable and worthwhile hopes be realised.