Recently we had a ‘snap’ election in the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a mandate for a ‘hard’ exit from the European Union. She was left with egg on her face, and no mandate.
But what does ‘having a mandate’ mean?
If you ask someone a question to which they can only reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (like the Brexit referendum), or if you offer them a choice between two people, neither of whom they feel represent them, you don’t know how to interpret the answer .
I’ve just been watching the news, and my main comment was that the interviewer’s hair looked false, but it was so bad that it was probably real, because he must earn enough to get a better hair job. A Labour politician came on, and I commented that he was impossible to listen to because he didn’t sound as if he was talking to anyone. He was just complacently saying how wonderful his party was and how bad the others were. A Conservative politician came on, and I had some interesting comments to make about her hair too.
So my vote might be about hair, or whether you sound sincere. (Few politicians do, even fewer are). How do a lot of votes turn into a mandate?
What if you ask a whole load of people, millions of them in fact, to choose between various parties who have a bunch of policies each, but put more emphasis on a few of them? Policies which they may or may not put into practice when and if they get into power. Some people agree with some of Party X’s policies and disagree with other policies. However, they are sure that all Party Y’s policies are worse, so that decides them to vote for X. Other people have no idea what the policies are, except perhaps the one or two mentioned in the media. They may have views on what they’ve been told. Including the lies. Or they may have strong views on hair.
Some people vote the way their family has always voted, because to betray your family’s values would undermine the whole meaning of life. Some people, like a taxi driver I met the other day, just see how they are feeling at the time and vote at random. And a lot of very intelligent people don’t vote because they have given up all hope of party politics ever making their lives any better.
When the count was done, we saw that the country is split. It’s meaningful to say that Theresa May does not have a mandate, if that means national agreement with the policy she forefronted. But it is not meaningful to pretend to know what ‘the public’ wants.
We are divided. And we don’t even know in what ways.
We can be pretty sure that those who voted, and those who abstained, and those who spoilt their ballot papers, don’t want catastrophic climate change.
We can assume that, barring compulsive suicidal or murderous thoughts, because no human being wants her or his environment so compromised that it threatens all human and much animal and plant life. And with Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, the risk of catastrophic climate change just increased. We didn’t get a chance to vote on that. Climate change was in there for some parties – for all except UKIP and the Conservatives, actually – but not forefronted. In each party the people in charge of writing the manifesto probably believed that climate change is a turn-off. Too scary to win votes. So even though the Labour Party’s manifesto, for instance, had some really good and detailed energy and environmental policy, it was not a central plank of the campaign. Even the Green Party’s ‘Green Guarantee’ had a mealy-mouthed ‘we mustn’t alarm the public’ approach. It failed to explain how serious, how dangerous, the situation is.
IF NO ONE EVER MAKES A CLAIM FOR LEADERSHIP ON STOPPING GLOBAL WARMING, IT WILL NEVER BE PUT CENTRAL ON THE POLITICAL AGENDA. IT WILL CONTINUE TO BE TREATED AS SOMETHING WE GESTURE TOWARDS BUT DON’T REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT , AND NO ONE WILL EVER SEEK OR GAIN A ‘MANDATE’ TO TAKE EFFECTIVE ACTION. EVEN THOUGH, LOGICALLY SPEAKING, EVERYONE WANTS IT. (The link is to George Marshall’s blog about climate denial.)
We all want a future for our children. This includes the people who manage corporations, those who own corporations. Whether or not you have your own biological children, you want a future for children.
Nationally and globally, the poor and powerless cannot do much about it. Or feel they can’t, even though they are in the direct line of fire as the environmental crisis gets worse. And the rich and powerful have to numb themselves off to do the dirty deeds you have to do to become and to stay rich and powerful. And they’ll be the last to feel the effects, or they can buy their way out of them.
They must be getting warm, though. This is the hottest day for many years in the UK.
Let’s go for a popular mandate to prevent global warming getting worse.