After 12 years of Conservative government, the UK faces serious and rapidly growing problems on multiple fronts: 1) economically, 2) in terms of the financial, physical and mental health of the population and 3) in human rights and democratic safeguards.
Last week we showed how far the UK economy is falling behind other leading economies and how its population – especially the poorer segments of the population – are falling even behind economies which in living memory were well behind ours: the poorest 10% in the UK are now poorer then the poorest 10% in Slovenia.
Although more and more people are aware of these issues, the polls (at the time of writing) suggest that around 27% of the population still support the direction taken by the current government. Since the number of people benefiting from its policies is far smaller than that, we can assume that a significant proportion of that 27% are unwittingly preparing to vote against their own interests. And there is probably a still larger group of progressively minded people who are not proposing to vote Conservative next time but are nevertheless not fully aware of the threats the UK faces.
Given the preponderance of UK media in the hands of extreme right-wing, tax-avoiding billionaires, this is perhaps not surprising. But it makes us ask more urgently: how can we get the message across?
While we do not all own a major newspaper, we can all contribute to sending a clear message:
- To family, friends and colleagues to ensure that they are aware of the threat to the future position of the UK as a prosperous, democratic country;
- To MPs in opposition parties, making it clear that the UK’s performance is not acceptable in a developed country and that they should say so far more clearly; and
- To Conservative MPs making clear that support for further mass impoverishment will cost them their seats.
Communicating with family, friends and colleagues
For the purposes of communicating our message, there are two kinds of people: the easy kind, and the difficult kind.
The easy kind are those who do understand that something is wrong, that people are finding it harder every year just to get by, but who may not be aware of how much of this is an issue which is post-2010-UK-specific: it is not happening to most people in other countries, and it was not happening to us before 2010. It is down to our government’s policies – and it is reversible if we get a change in policy.
The difficult kind are those who feel that there is nothing wrong with the UK that a little more effort on the part of working people wouldn’t put right, or that all our problems are because our public services are over-burdened by immigrants, or that every country is experiencing the same issues, so there is nothing we could be doing differently.
The easy kind can be reached by reason. So, helping to provide the facts and explaining the big picture can create a significant shift in attitudes – perhaps enough to make someone bother voting, if the next election is on a cold, wet, windy day.
In practice how can you do this? Some of the mainstream media are prepared to call out the government’s track record – the Financial Times has done some high-quality analysis, for example. There is an increasing landscape of alternative media such as Byline Times and its regional off-shoots (eg West Country Voices), Novara Media and The New European. There are campaigning groups like the Good Law Project, which brought the PPE scandal to public attention. There are charities like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust, which highlight the scale of the impoverishment of the UK population. There are media from other countries who report the situation in the UK far more bluntly than our own, such as Le Monde, NBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post. And there are books, like 99%, which pull the issues together to explain what is happening, why and how we can prevent further mass impoverishment. Sharing these with your friends can be a way of deepening their understanding of the problems.
The second kind of person is more difficult: there is substantial evidence that just providing the facts can be counterproductive. If you have exceptional personal skills like Daryl Davis, a black musician who successfully befriended senior members of the Ku Klux Klan and, through force of character rather than by logical argument, was able to free them from their prejudices, you may be able to persuade them. There are also new techniques like deep canvassing which are proven to be far more successful than logical argument – but these require significant training to be effective.
So for most of us, at least in the short-term, focussing on the easy people may be the way to go. As we approach Christmas, it may be worth thinking about whether there are ways you can share the true state of the UK with your family, friends and colleagues.
Communicating with MPs in opposition parties
By definition, these MPs oppose the government. But many seem stuck in the weeds: consumed by tactical day-to-day politics they appear to have lost sight of the big picture and are not projecting a clear message about the potential for positive change.
As we wrote last week, the UK should be having a national discussion about our vision for the future (and about where we are heading without change). Because we are not having that discussion – increasing numbers are losing all faith in politics.
It is difficult for the opposition parties who get little coverage for their views and for whom, as the right-wing media have successfully shifted the Overton window so far to the right, making what should be unarguable factual statements (like “the UK economy has underperformed since Brexit” or even “governments should not run like households”) would be seized on and attacked by the right-wing press and could become electoral suicide – but can it be sound strategy only to say things the Mail will agree with?
There are many progressive organisations who can (and do) say the things that need to be said: if the opposition parties themselves cannot take the risk of saying them, they could nevertheless encourage and work with others – like the 99% Organisation – to get the message out for them. If you have good contacts with local opposition politicians, you could give them a pre-Christmas nudge.
Communicating with Conservative MPs
Now is a very good time to write to your Conservative MP. This year, the public has forced out two Conservative Prime Ministers: Johnson and Truss. Their party got rid of them, not because of their ethical shortcomings or even their poor economic performance, but because it was clear that they had become an electoral liability. And that was clear because of two things: 1) the state of the polls; and 2) the volume of letters they received from constituents.
The polls are still dire for the Conservatives, which means that letters have an effect. And it is important for us to take advantage of that:
- Because there are critical pieces of legislation which will, if they pass without amendment, further damage the UK economy, the environment, the financial well-being of the population and our democracy itself;
- Because Sunak is himself vulnerable and as the cost-of-living crisis bites may become more vulnerable still.
Writing to MPs is something many people find dispiriting because the response is often unsatisfactory. But that is to miss the point: we write to our MPs to get a message across, and that message is “if you support this government, you will lose my vote.”
If you would like to write, these notes will make it quick and easy: all you need to know is your own address!
The truth about the difficulties the UK faces cannot be suppressed, even in a largely right-wing media landscape – the polls show that. And, as Leonard Cohen wrote, the light can still get in:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
We can all play a part in spotting the cracks and widening them. And when the light gets in, things can change radically – and quickly.
If you would like to know more, and to help, join the 99% Organisation.