Complacency is a cancer that scuppers a large number of change initiatives and strategies (as discussed at length in the book). Could complacency bring the British Conservative Party undone for the second time in less than a year?
27 May 2017.
When Prime Minister Theresa May called for a surprise election a few weeks ago, it was hailed by many, me included, as a master stroke of political opportunism. The opposition Labour Party was in disarray and the Tories enjoyed a seemingly unassailable 21 point lead in the polls. If this translated into votes, the Conservative Party would secure a triple-digit majority and enjoy five full years of power before having to face the electorate again. Enough time to negotiate departure from the EU and dig Britain out of the Brexit-induced hole that awaits it. This masterstroke would virtually guarantee a Tory government for the next decade.
But then, yet again, the pesky electorate doesn’t seem to have read the script.
The Conservative Party’s campaign strategy has been to stay aloof, engage with the public as infrequently as possible and when cornered, simply repeat “strong and stable” over and over again whilst pointing to a photo of Jeremy Corbyn surrounded by his shadow cabinet of muppets. The Tories have approached this election campaign as if it was an unfortunate formality and with what appears to be more than a little disdain for the voting public.
Have they learnt nothing from Brexit? Have they learnt nothing from Trump?!
Hillary didn’t lose the Presidential Election because of FBI Chief, Comey, as she now claims. She didn’t lose the election because of Russian-backed fake news, either. She lost it because she took the electorate for granted – publicly discounting half of Trump’s support base as a “basket of deplorables”. Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat who took Trump voters seriously. The US Democratic Party couldn’t understand what would possibly drive 63 million Americans to elect an unpredictable, misogynistic, tax-avoiding, hypocritical, xenophobic, self-absorbed “alternate reality” propagandist to be their President. Their complacency was palpable.
David Cameron approached his disastrous Remain campaign during last year’s EU referendum with the same degree of mind-boggling complacency. He also took the electorate for granted, believing that no-one in their right mind would vote to leave the EU and thought that once this inconvenient referendum was out of the way, he could silence the Euro-Sceptics in his party and get on with the business of governing. He and his lacklustre cohorts failed to understand that too many voters felt they had nothing to lose by voting to leave the EU. These voters had been left behind by globalisation and the free movement of people across the EU and had spent eight long years reaching into their own pockets to pay for the failure of the global banking system in 2008. Cameron and Co also failed to understand the strength of emotion surrounding the issues of immigration and the electorate’s desire to break free of the expensive and controlling yoke of Brussels. They didn’t once stop to understand the voting public. Their complacency, too, was palpable.
And eleven months later, the Tories seem to be doing it all over again! Their lead in the polls has reduced to single digits and one recent poll has Labour only 5 points behind. If true, this would reduce the Conservative majority to an almost unworkable two seats. Is this likely? Probably not. But it clearly demonstrates two things: first that if Labour had a grown-up leadership team, they would most likely be forming the next government. The second thing it shows is precisely how damaging complacency can be.
“How has this happened?” I can hear the cries form Tory HQ. “Can’t the electorate see that Corbyn is incompetent and that his shadow cabinet members are even worse? Do they really want Jeremy to be the man to represent Britain on the World stage? Can’t they see that their manifesto sums don’t add up? That electing Labour would destroy business confidence in Britain?”
Perhaps a better question for them to ask would be: Why has this happened? The answer to this question is easy:
You are taking the electorate for granted – again. You under-estimate the pain that Osborne’s austerity budgets has caused most of the country. You under-estimate the dismay at the under-funding of the NHS under Conservative rule. You under-estimate the disdain for tax-avoiding multinationals and the fact that the average CEO earns as much in a day that the average worker earns in a year. Increasing taxes for the top 5% of earners, large companies and multi-nationals and pouring those funds into the NHS, schools and police – has enormous appeal for large swathes of the population.
You under-estimate the public’s lack of trust in traditional politicians.
You also seem to have forgotten that emotion trumps logic every time. As I pointed out at my recent book launch (see video below), David Cameron forgot that, too. He gave us no positive emotional reason to Remain in the EU.
What is your positive reason for Britain to remain with the Conservatives? Answer this last question and Theresa may still be PM on June 9.
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