Nick Duffell describes how our votes could form a new and better kind of politics
THANK goodness that voting seems to be coming back into fashion. Even if election results defy prediction, nothing could be worse than political apathy, which has lately been the norm — especially among the young — given the historic struggle for universal suffrage.
This apathy is understandable since Britain’s mainstream parties, whose hegemony our first-past-the-post system maintains, have been barely distinguishable over the past two decades.
Much as we would like it to be the fault of personalities or parties, the underlying cause is that global markets exercise such dominant control of national economies that — despite their rhetoric — every party ends up as the “business-as-usual party.”
This is not to say that those who understand the socially vulnerable (we can discount the Tories, ruled as ever by the ethos of “wounded leaders,” as described in my psycho-history of the same name) can’t make some difference. Of course they can. But only a bit, because so many of our problems are profoundly systemic.
The Grenfell tragedy highlights Britain’s failure to invest in social housing since the ’80s and our total unwillingness to regulate the rental sector and property speculation.
Getting these things right will require more than simply voting Labour, however well intentioned Jeremy Corbyn is, and however well he sidesteps the public-school bully style of politics that dominates Westminster.
I want us to change such things, but even more importantly we need to tackle the many global problems that confront us. Yet political parties are not addressing this level.
Nowhere do I see politicians able to take on world issues such as climate change, tax havens and migration, to name but a few that have us by the throats.
Motivated by the recent spate of protest voting that delivered both Brexit and Donald Trump, they prefer to close borders and retreat to isolationism. I don’t see them calling for the only thing that will keep the migrants at home: massive investment in developing countries. Nor do I hear them admit that the Paris agreements are near-worthless because the key provisions are not binding.
Behind our systemic problems there is a reality staring us in the face that we hardly dare admit — it is that the world has become truly and irreversibly global.
Communications and financial transactions happen in the blink of an eye; cheap labour is constantly on the move and corporations have as much power as nations.
National governments have become increasingly impotent in their desperation to remain internationally competitive; in consequence they feel constrained to competitively down-level business taxes, decimate spending on social programmes, and liberalise labour markets. It’s a universal problem. Little wonder the ex-economic hit-man John Perkins describes it as the rule of “the corporatocracy.”
Our denial of globalisation is nowhere more apparent than in Brexit, where those who seemed to be losing out under globalisation expressed their protest by voting to leave the EU.
In his blog, Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings describes how the least popular slogan proposal tested by focus groups was “Go global.” Armed with this knowledge in the latter stages of the campaign, Cummings employed a bevvy of techies to use global messaging technology to spread fear over immigration.
We are loath to admit that our nations have become less and less sovereign and there is nowhere to run and hide. We really need a new politics, and there are some great ideas around: regulating rent-owners, establishing a charter of the commons and basic income programmes and redistributing wealth to emigration-prone countries. But there are few suggestions about how such solutions might be implemented.
So far, I have come across only one viable method of harnessing voting-power to drive governments to cooperate and implement legally binding, enforceable policies on issues like climate change, standardisation of corporate taxation, financial-market re-regulation, the implementation of social justice. This is entrepreneur and activist John Bunzl’s “simultaneous policy” — or Simpol.
Bunzl argues that all governments have their hands tied because they fear incurring a “first-mover competitive disadvantage” — unilaterally implementing regulatory policies would render their national economies immediately uncompetitive.
Corporations, banks and the rich would flee to safer havens, as is ever threatened. Competitiveness, says Bunzl, has reached its useful limit and turned into “destructive global competition.”
We now have to adjust to globalisation by moving forward and taming it, designing implementation tools to achieve regulation globally and on a win-win basis.
Already operating in several countries, Simpol is one ingenious example of such a tool. Simpol is a range of global problem-solving policies to be implemented by all or sufficient nations simultaneously. Because only in that way can destructive global competition be overcome. If nations move together, everyone wins.
Citizens are central to Simpol. Supporters who join the campaign discover how to drive their MPs and election candidates towards co-operating globally, telling them they’ll be giving strong voting preference to politicians or parties who sign the “Simpol pledge” to the exclusion of those who don’t.
In the recent election, 650 candidates and 64 MPs across the party spectrum signed Simpol’s pledge. With elections often hanging on very few votes, the number of supporters needed to force co-operation could be surprisingly small. Such an innovative political idea, using existing structures, could help citizens realise the disproportionate power they already possess to ensure governments cooperate on implementing a global-justice agenda.
This is why I joined Bunzl in co-writing The Simpol Solution: Solving Global Problems Could be Nearer Than We Think. And because we can’t do effective politics anymore without taking the underlying psychology into account, my role was to show how we inevitably resist moving away from our familiar nation-centric identity towards the world-centric thinking needed to come in line with our world’s new reality.
We introduce a process for emotionally letting go of our familiar mindset and suggest how this can lead us to a real empowerment. Then we show how to drive politicians to act co-operatively on the people’s behalf — through their votes and before it is too late.
Nick Duffell is a psychotherapy trainer, psycho-historian and author.