Saturday, 5 January 2008

Coming's the Barack and David (and Kevin and John) Show.

On New Year's Day 2011, it's not inconceivable that Barack Obama will be President of the United States, David Cameron will be British Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd will be Australian Prime Minister and John Key will be New Zealand Prime Minister.

They have a lot in common. They are all within ten years of each other (Rudd was born in 1957, Obama and Key within five days of each other in August 1961, which puts them close to William Hague as well while Cameron was born in October 1966). They are photogenic family men and all will follow long-serving leaders (George W.Bush, the Blair/Brown Government, John Howard and Helen Clark respectively).

What then can we expect from this "new generation" of leaders of the leading WASP countries and why have they all come to the fore ?

In politics, there is frequently a dynamic for "change" in the electorate. This is as much to do with unrealised expectation, unrealistic expectation and a confusion or fear about society's problems. All the "new" leaders will or have come to power on a wave of popular acclaim and all promise "change".

But what kind of "change" do these leaders offer ? It's actually very vague and steers well clear of the deeply contentious issues such as immigration and social dysfunction. These men are more about a "change of management" (style, tone, emphasis) than about radical political and social change.

In a globalised liberal capitalist world, the room for change is incredibly limited. The Daily Mail continually bleats on about "the decline of Britain" and rails against the "liberal establishment" but each of the new leaders are products of that establishment. They would (and doubtless will) work well together but will any of us really notice the difference ?

If we read the conservative press, society and communities are on the verge of collapse with the State more interested in snooping on us and taxing us than protecting us and providing good services. Needless to say, examples of "waste" and the vitriol of columnists play this perception to the hilt.

The truth of course is far more complex - societies are changing, my part of East London is changing and those who want their communities to remain like flies in amber are going to be out of luck. The future is not about trying to turn back the clock - it will be about managing change and dealing with new crises in global affairs.

The community terrorised by yobs won't get anything more than platitudes from Obama, Clinton, Rudd or Key. They know, as I do, that communities cannot rely on politicians or political change to lead change. Ultimately, communities have to be self-changing and self-reliant. However, those who try to lead at local level face the twin problems of an over-zealous State and the negativity of the media.

Local Councillors are frequently vilified as being "corrupt" based usually on low voter turnout but the negativity reinforces apathy. Only by giving back genuine authority and responsibility to local Councils and Councillors will communities once again feel empowered and individuals within communities will feel empowered enough to make a stand against those undermining social cohesion.

For Obama, Clinton, Rudd and Key, the world stage will be an appealing place. The fact is, however, that if these leaders are sincere about "change", they will need to do far more than work well with each other - they will need to work well with us.

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