Hello from Manchester – in the last two weeks I have been at party conferences where the winning Conservatives think they lost, and the losing Labour party thinks it won. Most striking of all is Jeremy Corbyn’s assertion that his plans for a return of large parts of the economy to state ownership is the mainstream of British politics.
Things ARE changing. June’s General Election saw the biggest age gap Ipsos MORI ever measured in voting intention – with the under 44s voting Labour overall, and older voters massing for the Conservatives. The over 55s say Brexit and immigration are key concerns, for the under 45s its housing, and poverty. The NHS unites the generations as an issue, but little else does.
However, British values move much less quickly than political sound bites. What is unchanging in Britain is that all generations agree that the next generation should be better off than the one before it. Everyone – whatever their tenure – wants to own their own home. While not shifting ideologically – people have always loved the NHS – our data shows no change in 20 years. People opposed water privatisation in the 1980s and tended to oppose each subsequent privatisation – unless it worked.
But now a large section of the public do not believe they are going to benefit from the current economic model. The young fear they won’t get a secure home, job, or pension. The traditional political verities – the you win by dominating the centre ground, that 1983 showed how badly a left-wing labour party would lose - are changing. The under 35s don’t see 1983 as disaster for Labour – they weren’t born.
Make no mistake – British values haven’t shifted leftwards overnight, but for millions the system isn’t working. Big “system” changes of the kind our big political parties like to make announcements about take time and often fail. The challenge for local government is to demonstrate how local change can offer solutions that whoever runs Whitehall cannot.
Local experiment offers a way out – and in the current uncertain environment is more needed than ever.
This article was originally published at theMJ.co.uk