People v Politicians: When an Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Object

People v Politicians: When an Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Object

One of life's big philosophical questions is what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. In UK politics over the coming weeks we are about to find out.

Since the fall of Lehman Brothers one of the overriding social and business narratives has been the rise of consumer power. New technologies and a new-born cynicism are enabling consumers to get closer to the providers of their goods and services. The "Uber-isation" of industry is cutting out the middle man and allowing consumers to exercise more control.

The implications for business and other institutions are that they need to shape up, cut out the nonsense and provide more honest services. And demonstrably so. In this respect, the "age of austerity" has developed hand in hand with the "trust agenda".

This irresistible rise of consumerism has been characterised by the emergence of "BS-proof" Millennials. These are a new generation of savvy consumers with the right technology at their fingertips to get quickly past the brand bluster to discover the truth behind any service or product claims.

There's a whole discussion to be had whether that is solely a characteristic of the millennials, or whether they are simply the most obvious beneficiaries of changing technology and attitudes, but that's for another time.

On the other hand, barely weeks into the UK's longest running election campaign, it is already clear that the obfuscation and opaqueness of political posturing is not going away. It seems an immovable object.

By dint of attitude and numbers the irresistible force of "BS-proof Millennials" are increasingly able to hold businesses to account. But we are seeing little evidence that anyone can rein in the excesses of political spin.

Both main parties continue to claim they are gunning for outright victory that none of the conflicting pollsters, pundits or bookies seem able to endorse. Meanwhile, we are bombarded daily with political discourse not much more sophisticated than the childish playground games of "he said, she said".

For example, the Tories accused Labour of using the nuclear deterrent as a "bargaining chip" with the SNP, which would vote to scrap it. Ed Miliband's response that "national security is too important to play politics with" sounds like the right soundbite for the time. But how do we know whether it was just the right thing to say at the time, or a genuinely held belief that won't be quickly forgotten?

Brands and businesses are learning the hard way that they have to treat their customers with respect. If they don't, they find out about it very quickly. It is hard to see how the trust agenda has penetrated politics in any meaningful way.

Who are the Mad Men now?


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