Lessons from the General Election

I'm sure you're all pretty tired of politics at the moment, so you'll be pleased to hear that this post isn't about my views about policies or a critique of what's happening in Westminster. As this is The Simplicity System, I'm going to focus on the what we can learn from it to improve ourselves as individuals.

I think it's safe to say that equality and fairness were one of the main focal points of this election.

I'll start off by looking at what the parties stood for and then share some of my experiences at a local level. More importantly, I'll then go on to explain why the drive for a better society shouldn't end with the election. I'll also highlight the key lessons I think we can learn.

Let's start off by looking at the three main parties and their leaders.


The Conservatives

I'm always uncomfortable by the way we can be given a new Prime Minister without anyone outside the party voting for them. Given that so much of the campaign is focused on the individual we want to lead us, it simply seems wrong in my opinion. 

Whatever we feel about it, the election is essentially about who we want to represent us on a local level and then they decide who leads them.

I'd like to think that this is why Teresa May called the election, but it was more likely that it was intended to take advantage of a seemingly divided Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever the reasons, we were told that the aim was to strengthen her majority going into Brexit negotiations. 

She made it clear that she was the person who could lead us through this and all she had to do was go out and deliver an effective campaign. I personally think it's safe to say she didn't do this, and we may have to pay a heavy price for this later on.

Despite stacking the odds in her favour with the surprise election, I think she made two key mistakes. Firstly, she refused to take part in the leadership debates which seemed ridiculous to me given that the campaign was based on her ability and strong leadership. Secondly and more importantly, she clearly underestimated Jeremy Corbyn and the mood of the people.

Lesson: I think this is a great example of the importance of marketing and effectively delivering your message. It also shows us that we need to react to changes and make every effort to understand the environment we operate in. 

More importantly, we need to carefully assess the risks involved with key strategic decisions.

This last part is particularly important, as Theresa May didn't have to call this election. I can only image the reaction to a miscalculation like this in a large organisation, when a CEO had to explain an unnecessary, high-stakes gamble to their board. 


Labour

I think if we're really honest, very few people expected Jeremy Corbyn to go out and lead such an effective campaign. He also delivered a very clear and positive message.

Jeremy Corbyn really connected with people and he was almost our Prime Minister.

Going into the election, I didn't think he could effectively lead us or come up with any practical policies. While I respected his intentions, I just didn't think he would be supported by his party and if successful, he would probably face a leadership challenge when the first thing went wrong.

His party didn't really help him though, as terrible performances by Diane Abbott (reportedly due to ill health) and questionable historical statements regarding the IRA by John McDonnell made a lot of people question their suitability to lead. Mr Corbyn's own involvement in Norther Irish and Middle Eastern affairs also caused a lot of concern.

People were also worried about how he would pay for all the changes he proposed, but I remember similar concerns about Bill Clinton in 1992. In that case, he got it right and America enjoyed quite a period of prosperity.

The most important thing for me during this campaign was the sincere message that we need to work towards a fairer and more equal society. It was very tempting, but for some people, like me, it was a gamble.

Lesson: We should never underestimate the impact one person can make. We should also see the need for for building effective teams around us and delivering a confident and precise message that immediately gives people confidence.

More importantly, we need to see that people want change and are willing to do something about it.

In the end, Jeremy Corbyn came close but didn't win enough seats to form a government. Maybe people didn't think they could take that leap of faith or perhaps our society is simply divided. Regardless, it's now my mission to encourage people to fight for these values wherever they can. 


The Liberal Democrats

I know it's hard to consider them the the third part now but for the purposes of this article, I think it's safe to assume they were the third choice in most constituencies outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The big problem for me is that their whole campaign seemed to be based around complaining.

Policies aside, I was really disappointed with them on a national and local level and honestly considered a lot of their actions to be unprofessional. Even with the unpleasant realities of modern politics demonstrated by both Labour and the Conservatives, I lot of their campaigning seemed to be based on petty, personal attacks and innuendo.

I think it's safe to say that we heard a lot about what was wrong but very little in regards to how they'd fix it. Their suggestion that we should have another referendum after Brexit negotiations didn't seem to go down well with people either. 

Lesson: Anyone can complain, find fault and criticise people but it takes far more then this to be a leader. I honestly think you need to present ideas to get things done and show people how you're going to do it.

More importantly, I think their results reflect my Golden Rule that 'gossip will reflect you' as many of their childish digs at others clearly didn't reflect well on them.

Whether you agree with me or not about their campaign, I'm sure we can agree that they didn't do well. They've also come a long way from being coalition partners in 2010.


My Local Experience

Now we've looked at the nation level, I think it will be helpful to share some of my experiences on the local level. I got quite involved with my local candidates in the Poole constituency and I used the Simplicity Twitter account to interact with them so you could read my tweets if you were interested.

This isn't just about my experiences though, as I learned some valuable lessons we could all benefit from.


Debates with the Liberals

I first got involved when a search for my local Liberal Democrat candidate on their website brought up an extremely unprofessional message explaining that 'like Nigel Farrage's seat in parliament, it didn't exist' (this has subsequently been changed to another petty message about Theresa May). I thought this was pathetic and felt I needed to to take to Twitter to enquire if he took his position seriously. I wouldn't usually do this, but this really annoyed me.

I didn't get an answer and he actually closed his account down soon afterwards.

I then had to react to the local Liberal Democrats' claim that our Tory MP was responsible for local toilet closures. I thought this was ridiculous, given that it was a local council issue and we entered into a long exchange. In the end, we agreed that I would pursue the matter with the former MP, and Conservative candidate, directly and I thanked them for taking the time to engage with me.

I thought it was important to show respect, as so many political debates seem to become personal and a brutal exchange of ideas rather then a discussion.

People simply don't seem to want to even consider another point of view these days. They also appear to favour attacking people rather than engaging in a constructive debate.

Lesson: Don't try to copy Donald Trump, as personal attacks are unlikely to reflect well on you. You should also do your best to show people respect and set a good example for others.

More importantly, it doesn't hurt to listen to another point of view and actually consider it. You just need to put your ego aside and work out what makes sense.


The Conservative Response

I then questioned my Conservative candidate, Robert Syms about the issue, expecting him to easily explain himself as I had taken time to defend him. I even called his office to explain that I had asked this question on Twitter, as I noticed he had just been retweeting other people up to this point. I thought this was fair in case he didn't notice it and his opponents used this against him.

The response from them was complete indifference as I was just told that if I 'write to him on Twitter', he will respond.

I tried to explain how it all worked, as they didn't seem to understand, but they simply weren't interested. To date, my question has been ignored.

Lesson: If you're on Twitter, be on Twitter and take some time to understand it. People hate being ignored and it probably won't reflect well on you or any organisations you represent if you publicly ignore people.

More importantly, you need to make sure your team understand your strategy or know who to refer people to if they're not sure.


The Labour Message

After all of this, it became very hard to decide who to vote for. I had gone into the election firmly supporting Theresa May and my local Conservative candidate, as he had been representing the area for many years and I thought things were working well.

The problem was that both of these Conservatives seemed to feel they were above engaging with people and I was simply shocked at their apparent complacency.

Our local Labour candidate, Katie Taylor on the other hand impressed me. She conducted a very positive campaign and from what I saw, she seemed to refrain from the mud-slinging going on around her. She also did her best to provide answers, which really impressed me.

She was also quick to respond and engage on Twitter and also retweeted some of my messages.

I even ended up defending her when the Liberal Democrats were trying to suggest that a vote for her was a vote of the Conservatives and that they were the only alternative. This angered me but in the end, they looked very foolish when the results were announced as they were a very distant third. 

This left me in a difficult position, because she was someone I would choose to represent me but I just didn't have faith in her party's ability to deliver on their promises. 

Lesson: I think this shows anyone in business that if you take loyal customers for granted, they can easily be swayed if someone pays them attention and connects with them. It should not only warn us about complacency, as making very confident and very public statements, like the Liberals, could make us look foolish in the long run.

More importantly, I think it shows us that people do business with people so you really need to be careful about the message you send out.

I'm sure a lot of people faced a similar problem during the election. It can probably be summed up as a high risk-leap of faith in an untested leader or a safe choice to achieve stability.

To help me decide, it was clear that I had to speak with Katie and give her the chance to address the concerns I had with the Labour Party.


How Labour Let Me Down

On the Saturday before the election, Katie announced on social media that she would be holding an event with her supporters in Poole High Street from mid-day to 4pm. This was my chance to meet her, explain my concerns and give her the opportunity to convince me she was the right choice. I headed out around 3pm and felt not only optimistic but a little strange, as I never thought I would ever be a Labour supporter. 

The problem is, they had gone when I got there.

I was actually pretty annoyed and took to Twitter to find out what was happening. As usual, she quickly responded and advised that they had decided to leave at 2.30 as they had ran out of leaflets. 

I was really disappointed, as it would have been so easy to announce this on Twitter. I honestly thought this was extremely unprofessional and rightly or wrongly, I lost confidence in her.

She also lost the opportunity to convince me.

Lesson: A lot of people value punctuality and won't hesitate to judge you if you're late or fail to keep your commitments. Communication can help in this situation though, as a sincere message can really make a difference.

More importantly, you need to be mindful of how people interpret your actions, as something you may consider trivial may be a big deal to someone else.


My Decision

If I'm honest, I still hadn't completely decided as I was walking to the polling station. I took this decision very seriously and like I said, it was a gamble on values I believed in or the security and stability I felt we needed heading into Brexit negotiations.

After a lot of thought, I finally voted Conservative.

There were a number of factors involved with this decision but ultimately, Labour just hadn't quite done enough to convince me.  I was also worried about the Liberal Democrats benefiting from my vote and I still had the same convictions I had going into the election. This is also why I thought it would be helpful to write this piece.

Lesson: Despite having very strong views and opinions, I listened to other people and carefully considered what the other side had to offer. I did my best to be fair and respectful and challenged what I considered to be unacceptable.

More importantly, I didn't attack or belittle anyone who happened to have a different point of view from me.

The key thing I'll take away from this election is the benefits of being open-minded and seeking out what's right, rather than what I believe.


Why I Came to Regret My Vote

I was very concerned when I heard the result of the election, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. It was quite simply a disaster and I think it's hard to claim that anyone really won it.

To put it bluntly, Theresa May took a gamble she didn't have to take and it didn't pay off.

We're also weaker now and more divided. I've been extremely unimpressed with her decisions following the election and I really don't consider her to be an effective leader now.

I guess we just have wait and see where this all leads us.

It wasn't just national issues that made me regret my decision though, as my local MP decided to break his Twitter silence soon after he was elected. After he appeared to ignore his constituents on Twitter during the campaign, he decided to reply to a comment from a Labour supporter. 

That's right, he addressed his concerns about the deal with the DUP by stating that ' It's not a coalition you d**k.

Regardless of whether you personally feel this is an acceptable way to address people, this is a professional account and he's representing people. I also think it's fair to say that he would  probably face disciplinary action if he had written this on a company account.

The bottom line is that I don't want this to represent me and what I stand for and I think it makes his silence and apparent indifference on Twitter during the campaign very hard to accept.

Lesson: You need to remember that social media is a very public activity and what you say will be recorded. You should also think carefully about what you're saying and make sure your message is appropriate. 

More importantly, if you're representing people you need to set an example and always be professional.


The Most Important Lesson

I think the key thing that came out of this election is the desire of so many people to see a fairer and more equal society. I also think it's time to move beyond the traditional view of socialism and the politics associated with it, as the world around us has changed in the 21st century.

Jeremy Corbyn

I personally think that Jeremy Corbyn's message was about creating opportunities rather than restricting advancement.

More importantly, a lot of people got on board and it would be a shame if this all ended with the election. Althought I couldn't support Jeremy Corbyn, mainly due to the people behind him, I do like what he stands for and I think a lot of people feel the same way. 

All I can say is, don't let it end in Westminster. Go out and make a difference in your little part of the world if you want things to be better.

There's a lot more to it than casting a vote, as a change of approach is likely to start changing our society. Anyone can complain, anyone can bluff and bully their way to success but who can genuinely make a difference?

Our system is broken, but I honestly think we have to change our approach before we can fix anything.

Simply forcing people to pay higher taxes and introducing legislation that many will see as restricting growth won't be successful in the long run in my opinion. The ultra-rich and large companies in are likely to either circumvent it or leave, and that won't help anyone.

The people these policies are there to help are also likely to exploit them in cases, or adopt the same attitudes as the wealthy if they have the opportunity to succeed.

I honestly believe that people's attitudes need to be changed before we can start making things better. It's also likely to take a delicate balance of social and legal pressure to get these ideas though.

It's gives me hope though when I look at how institutionalised racism was tackled in America during the 1960s, as this also required legal and social pressure. Many would argue that it still hasn't been completely successful though, so we need to be aware that real changes won't just happen the day after an election.

Lesson: We shouldn't just expect someone else to fix things for us. We all have the ability to make changes, so it's up to us to work out what we can do.

More importantly, we need to take a mindful approach to it and not give up when we don't instantly see the results we expect.

In closing, I hope this has all inspired you to consider that fairness and equality isn't just contained within the manifesto of one party or even restricted to politics. It's up to us all to go out and make a difference and do what we can to make things better.

We also need to keep learning from mistakes and do the best we can to make things work.

Image: Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party by Sophie J. Brown licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0