So Donald Trump is the new US president.
I wouldn't say that the news was a massive surprise. I had hoped that Clinton would win but, after Brexit, feared that Trump would. And unfortunately Trump won for many of the same reasons as "Leave". While many saw the US election as a choice between Republican and Democrat I think it's pretty clear that this election was seen by a new class of US voters as a choice between the Disenfranchised and the Establishment. Possibly buoyed by the success of Brexiters, many disenfranchised Americans voted for Trump (often for the first time or the first time in a long time) because they saw voting for him as a way to lash out at the Establishment. See any similarities with Brexit?
Why are people so angry and disenfranchised? Well, it's quite simple really. Traditional politics has not been working for them. I can't speak for the US, but in the UK David Cameron and George Osbourne pointed at the stable (occasionally falling) deficit and robust economic growth as evidence that they were doing a good job and that austerity was working. They were happy to ignore the increasing need for food banks and other such social indicators.
But I would say that economic growth has never been a worse indicator of the country than now, because a large percentage of people are really struggling. So, it's great that the economy is doing well but if you drive further below the surface what is driving the economy is the construction industry in the South East, the Financial Services industry (again very South East oriented) and not a lot else.
The rest of the UK (apart from certain pockets) is just not doing very well. And therein lies the problem. There is a reason why the England-centric political parties are losing ground to the local parties (SNP, Plaid Cymru, etc) and why some of the younger parties like UKIP have taken a large percentage of the vote, and successive Westminster Conservative governments (and indeed politicians of all persuasions) seem to have their heads in the ground.
To some extent we are dealing with the same problems as the US. Primary industries (mining, oil, steel, etc) are waning because we are just not competitive with the rest of the world and we have also lost a large proportion of our manufacturing industries. I was having dinner with a foreign friend recently who mourned the loss of innovation in Britain's manufacturing industry and compared British manufacturing unfavourably with Germany. We used to be innovative, but where has that skill gone? I think the answer is that a lot of Britain's most innovative individuals have gone to Financial Services, because that's where the money is. But Financial Services is not so labour-intensive. There is also a lot of innovation in Britain's nascent Technology industry but that is also not labour-intensive. And, to add insult to injury, both of these industries are based in the South East. Which industries are supporting the rest of the country?
Cards on the table - I live in London, so I also live in a little bubble where things seem to be better than they are elsewhere. But I read a lot and look at the comments on social media and understand that things are not great outside the UK's largest city. Many politicians seem to struggle with that fact. Maybe they need to get closer to it.
I understand that the Houses of Parliament need to be refurbished over the next couple of years. Maybe it's time for politicians to take a leaf out of the England football team's book and go on a tour of the country. Rather than basing themselves at the Department of Health as I think has been mooted, if Parliament met for, say, 3 months in Manchester, 3 months in Hull, etc it would give politicians a much better idea of what is going on outside London than they get on their sanitised two hour campaign trips.
Because I think that if they don't get out of the little bubble that is London then we could be looking at more surprises in our next General Election. You have to understand what's broken before you can try to fix it after all. And if you like a little bit of political spice, we still have the German, Dutch and French elections to look forward to next year!
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