People Power: The lesson of 30 years? Be careful what you ask for!

people_powerI think it is fair to say we find ourselves in difficult economic times. But I also strongly believe we have more say in what happens next than we think.

My assertion is that we – the People – are the new Super power. We are controlling much of what is going on in the world; albeit I don’t think it has quite dawned on us yet that this is the case. We have been thrown into a state of confusion by the events of the last three decades.

The past 30 years has seen massive changes in the economic, technological and social structures we live in. The days of the go-getting, self-sufficient Brits of the 80’s under Margaret Thatcher with council house sales, the Big Bang and many privatisations seem long gone.

Dinner party conversation at this time had become house prices rather than power cuts, inflation and Red Robbo (with apologies to Arthur Scargill). By 1990 we had moved on, the Poll Tax was a step too far for us, and People Power urged many within the Conservative party to oust Mrs Thatcher in favour of the more acceptable face of John Major. A hiatus period then followed as we, the People, were all deciding what we wanted next, before the scandal surrounding the alleged taking of brown envelopes by MPs becoming a very unwanted metaphor for what People Power had brought us.

We didn’t like this, so following Mr Major’s very difficult tenure, the People then demanded change, leading to the near hysterical crowning of Mr Blair. We then embarked on a long period of becoming less self-sufficient and more state dependent – and why not, it was our right after all, wasn’t it?

This dependency arced steadily upwards under his direction, before catapaulting dramatically up under Mr Brown. It quickly became much more social engineering than economic necessity. It seems that those in New Labour had not told those in Old Labour that there were limits to how far the People could go with this!

Further technological advances and Global communications meant that People Power increased again, and was used most expediently by our wider European colleagues leading to a massive rise in the population of the UK from economic migrants. Nothing wrong with that we, the People said, as long as it doesn’t affect us too much!

We now have so much power that governments have no room for manoeuvre. In the potentially less democratic countries we have seen the Arab Spring – a marvellous example of People Power. In developed democracies such as our own, it is not a coincidence that we have now voted ourselves a coalition government. I believe the last 30 years came back to haunt us during the 2010 general election, we had become massively confused and didn’t know whether we wanted to support free market economies or social welfare. Unsurprisingly, we managed to get something in the middle, the coalition. But it is all a bit toothless.

It seems that everyone knows what needs to happen in this time of economic difficulty, but it is not politically expedient to either say it, or in fact do it.

And then, of course, there is the media – who controls them? The government might have thought they did. But is it not the readers, aka The People? Do the media not give The People what they want? They are businesses after all, run by profit hungry media moguls with enough Focus Groups to sink a battleship, never mind the Government.

I believe the News of the World had a readership of 7.5 million. It’s not very palatable for The People that the NOTW and others were using ever more underhand tactics to give us the inside stories that we were obviously so desperate to consume. Whichever way you look at it, 7.5 million readers is a lot of People – the paper must have been giving them what they wanted.

With apologies to the Sun it could be said:

‘It’s the People wot won it (and got what they wanted, but weren’t very happy with it when they did get it)’.

People Power has a lot going for it, but we should be prepared to take responsibility for the consequences and seek to use our great power in a way that helps us all!