I thought long and hard as to whether to publish this piece about the recent general election in Britain. The purpose? Potentially for something for me to read back on to understand my frame of mind this week, but also to set a benchmark for what is likely to become a tumultuous few years for those living in the British Isles.
It’s been frustrating to be waking up on the day after an election and feeling upset at the result. That’s the way I’ve felt for the past few elections. This time was different. I hadn’t cast my vote for the winner, but I finally felt as though the opposition in the UK had finally found a voice against an ever right-leaning Conservative agenda. The irony is not lost on the fact that in order to hold onto her fragile leadership, Theresa May is now looking to form a coalition with a DUP that many would consider more extreme than UKIP. UKIP were the bumbling fools, with a single policy that is now irrelevant. The DUP are no bumbling fools.
Let’s go back to before the election. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t been a strong opposition before he began this election campaign. His party has been fracturing, and he is not a ‘statesman’ – or wasn’t seen as one before this campaign. A campaign fought not on demonising a person (which he could easily have done), but on criticising the implications of past policy decisions is exactly the type of politics that I want to support. Let’s stop attacking people on who their appearance, and instead focus on the content of their endeavours.
I admire his comments Nuclear disarmament; what’s the point in agreeing to fire second; at this point the game is up and we’ve already failed.
What JC has done for me is to put the people first in politics. Since graduating from University, I’ve had to fight my way through an economy restricted by austerity. Austerity put in place due to the fact that much of my generation’s tax receipts appear to have already been spent. I don’t want to be sat here in 18 years time explaining to my children why we’re still stuck in austerity. An economic policy for the term of a parliament doesn’t make sense; Osborne failed spectacularly at keeping his short-term promises. I can’t go back and suggest that not having austerity would have been any way a better path – but for where we find ourselves today, we seriously need to consider a different approach.
This different approach shouldn’t be built on doing the opposite of austerity – but setting a very clear long-term vision for the country. Can we put down a marker to say – “This is what we expect our society to look like in 2050” and making decisions to make progress towards that vision. We also need to draw a line between macro and micro economics. I’m not well read enough (yet!) on this subject (please suggest books for me to read in the comments) – but I’m anecdotally aware of the impact of viewing micro-economic policies through a macroeconomic lens – and this doesn’t work well.
I also think we need to review our ethical framework for progress. Theresa May has been working to abolish the Human Rights Act – I think it needs extending. We have already built technology that is ethically questionable, without any controls or even awareness of the full implications. The standard technologist experimentation cycle of “build, measure, adapt” is no longer ethically sound when the subject of the experiment is the global population. It always astounded me, having studied Psychology at University, that the experts’ hands are tied when it comes to experimentation, but an enthusiastic amateur could be more than capable of running far more dangerous experiments with no trained expertise.
At WebSummit last year I attended a panel on the ethics of humanoid robots, and the challenges they face due to the ‘humanoid’ element. When you look at the mechanism through which you’ve communicated with your loved ones over the past few weeks, what % of that communication has been “humanoid = eg, face to face” versus “digital” – and when you consider your digital interfaces, how simply could the response have been a computer?
For all of this technological advancement, we need a long-term lens through which to review it, so we can make sure that we are continuing to build a society, and not take society for granted. We’ve lived through a period of immense relative stability, and we’re now starting to see the cracks appearing. People often used the phrase “Standing on the shoulder of giants,” for the great advancements in this world. What I feel at the moment is that we’re climbing up the giant’s back with pickaxes, damaging the fabric of the thing we’re supposed to be building upon, and breaking the backs of the giants beneath us.
The result of this election has left our government in the balance. We don’t have a vision for our country, so we don’t know what Brexit looks like. I’d ask all politicians to get ready to set out that long term vision before the next election is likely to be called so that we can all vote on the type of society we wish to live in. I hope it’s a society that provides care for others, by investing in the NHS to allow it to continue to develop; a society that looks out for those who cannot helps themselves, and rewards those for helping others. A society that can attract the very best, but also continues to give back to where the very best have come from. Where we can develop new ideas, technologies and medicines, but for the benefit of those both within and without our borders; and where national pride isn’t limited to the pride that we feel for ourselves, but the respect and envy we receive from others.