How do you Measure Trust?
The word “Trust” has proved to be the ‘Elephant in the Room’ in the General Election. The British people do not have the same trust in bankers that they were wont to have before the Credit Crunch; they do not trust journalism as they used to do before phone-hacking (a hidden reason, often lost among the more complacent internet/social media excuses given by news insiders for the collapsing circulations of Fleet Street newspapers), and the British people quite understandably do not trust politicians: and they have few grounds to trust them, given our common experience through the last ten years of what turned out to be standard issue, hapless British boom-bust, but this time delivered with extra-special deadly effect in 2007-8; and then followed by endless righteous austerity, to cut a debt mountain that nevertheless always rises, and will still continue rising now – no matter what the election outcome.
The more hysterical the rhetoric emanating from Westminster now becomes, and each day it becomes more apocalyptic; the clearer it also becomes that the conventional methods of British parliamentary politics have so distorted, polluted and confounded the well of understanding and loyalty to the established political process, traditionally embraced by the British public, that the Westminster Cartel has virtually lost the most basic trust of ordinary people: trust that British politicians of the more distant past could safely take for granted.
Scaremongering is all that is now left for a whole political vested interest at Westminster that has, as a caste, essentially and finally been ‘found-out’ by the people. The Westminster caste now do virtually nothing (and certainly nothing uplifting, hopeful or inspiring), except solely to exploit fear in the electorate of an unknown, unavoidable future; and thus in turn politicians live in a permanently sour fear of this same electorate. Everything they do is hence stage-managed to be completely detached from contact with ordinary people, especially if ordinary voters are assembled in unselected numbers; what used to be called the ‘hustings’ no longer exists for Westminster. The media provide an illusion (or should that be collusion?) that politicians actually mix with the public in open political discourse. There is virtually none; and no contact between leaders and people that could remotely be regarded as spontaneous, which is simply too dangerous for Westminster to contemplate. The politicians can no longer trust what they have not already ‘fixed’ in advance.
The explanation for this public loss of trust is being written out most obviously and forcibly in Scotland, where the Labour Party and its unedifying, garralous, unconvincing but surprisingly inarticulate, leaden leadership appears to be paralysed by a mixture of psychological denial and thwarted entitlement: but the deepening loss of trust in the whole political process, felt quite profoundly by ordinary people (whether or not it is ably articulated – and who is there to articulate this alienation in Westminster?) has been there for all to see throughout Britain – for decades. A large and increasing number of British people do not expect British politics to serve them, their interests, or their values. It would be obtuse to believe so many people are all wrong; but that, effectively is what our Westminster political parties claim, in order to protect their narrow vested interests.
All we need do to demonstrate this truth, this political alienation, this loss of trust; is to chart, and reflect on, the declining willingness of the British people to turn out and vote in General Elections – since the end of the Second World War in 1945. See the Chart below this article.
The Chart contains the turnout results (%age) for the 18 General Elections over 1945-2010. Simple inspection of the graph shows a relentless and substantial decline in the willingness of the British people to vote at all. In order to provide some focus for this precipitous decline, which shadows the loss of public trust (and on which it probably depends), I have also provided a ‘trend-line’ in the Chart; a statistically derived, dispassionate presentation of the political domesday prospects for democratic politics we are faced with, if this trend continues much longer (the straight-line trend cutting through the dispersion pattern of the actual data); a prospect that our political masters appear determined to fulfil.
Perhaps you need some form of comparison or context to understand the data, or to find the trend convincing? Very well: there were eleven General Elections between 1900-1935, the last election before WWII. The highest turnout of the 20th century’s pre-1945 elections was in January, 1910; 86.8%, which was indeed the highest turnout of the whole 20th century. There were three elections with 80%+ turnouts in these eleven pre-1945 elections. With only one exception no General Election between 1900 and 1945 had a turnout below 71%. The exception? 1918, the election that immediately followed the cataclysm of World War One. The turnout then was 57.2%, but not only had Britain experienced a war that brought the country to its knees, with the electoral population disrupted and scattered, but the electorate had discovered to its dismay, and for the first time with a shock of revelation, the sobering truth about the way that Britain conducted government (through war and peace); ironically, through a political coalition of Conservatives and Liberals (and for which the Liberal majority paid the political price).
From 1945, only the elections in 1950, and 1951 provided turnouts over 80%, and none at all in the 59 subsequent years to 2010. 1945-51 proved heady years; an impoverished post-war Britain, with a Debt and Deficit far, far above our current levels, yet still had enough hope, belief and trust that the country was not just going to be rebuilt as before – but for the first time – rebuilt as a land for ordinary people to thrive, to flourish, to be provided with an education, the prospect of a job, health care and some protection from adversity, or support in old-age; but at least no longer simply to be human commodities ripe for exploitation or rejection, the means for someone else’s economic ends.
Until the end of the 20th century the election turnout managed to remain consistently above 70%, albeit increasingly living off the goodwill of the post-war settlement, although the long-term slow decline in turnouts was gradually asserted. 1997 (71.4%) was perhaps the last flourish of lively faith in the political system (but perhaps not much of a last ‘hurrah’), before hope finally sank like a stone, weighed down by the long legacy of Blair and Thatcher; to be followed by the Credit Crunch and the dawning realisation that both major parties had been found wanting, had together led Britain towards economic disaster, and were bough and sold; little more than creatures of the City.
In the 21st century there have been three General Elections, in 2001, 2005 and 2010. Not a single election since the millennium has produced a turnout of 70%, or even close: 59.1%, 63.1% and 65.5% respectively. A new low has been reached.
This inexorable seventy-year turnout trend tells you all that you need to know about the merits of the Westminster Cartel. Over the long term (70 years seems fair) we may draw the quite reasonable conclusion that what this shows is that the British public’s trust in its Westminster politicians is the concomitant of the public’s general election turnout. Both turnout and trust have slowly ebbed away. The loss of trust is now hemorrhaging out of the Westminster system at an alarming rate; not just draining away the credibility of Westminster, but its authority. A point will soon enough be reached when alienation, already turning to scorn, becomes a settled public aversion. What then?
The proposition that anything said by David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg during the current stale, intellectually bankrupt election campaign being run by the large Westminster parties in 2015, has illuminated the British public with a better understanding of the economic realities facing Britain, or has done anything more than reinforce the ill-informed political prejudices of intransigent party ideologues, or more than serve the cynical vested interests of the City, is quite simply false.
It is worth remembering, as David Cameron rejects the prospect of the Scots influencing government, and effectively claims that an English majority of MPs is really the defining British majority; not a single British Government in the whole 20th century managed to break the magical 50% threshold and actually represented the majority of the British people: indeed, in recent decades British governments have struggled consistently to breach the 40% mark. Now they fail even to garner enough votes in a biased system, to rally one-third of the electorate behind them, or even to establish a single-party majority of MPs in a Parliamentary FPTP system that is effectively designed to allow unjustifiably small minorities (well below 50% of the popular vote) to control Parliament. There could be no better example of the collapse of the electors’ trust in Parliament and Politicians than this relentless decline; this tidal-wave of electoral failure; this spiral downwards that ends in just this shoddy 2015 Westminster campaign; the commonplace peddling of deceit and defeat as success and triumph.
Remember this: Unionists made much of having won the independence referendum for the Union. The Referendum turnout was a remarkable 84.6%, and the Union won. What does this mean? Against the grain of Westminster politics, in the Referendum the Scottish people rediscovered ‘Trust’ in politics, turned out in record numbers and voted for the Union. The Scottish people thus TRUSTED that they were an integral part of the Union; no exceptions, no special cases, no secret protocols. Thereafter, the MPs that the Scottish people would choose to elect at the General Election in 2015 and into the future; and whomsoever they might choose to represent them as individuals, groups or parties, had an equal right to power as any other Westminster MP: whatever the calculation of party, coalition or grouping that was formed in Westminster. The Scottish people took Westminster at its word. There is no tail, there is no dog: there is Britain, and no excuses.
There were no strings attached; and there can be no strings appended now; not in this Union.