Five reasons why the Scottish vote is bad news for Eurosceptics

September 19, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Adam Lent 

As one referendum sails into the sunset, another looms over the horizon. Should the Conservatives form the next Government there is a strong chance the whole of the UK will be voting on whether to leave the EU in 2017.

Eurosceptics have been urging the vote for many years but the result from Scotland today should give them pause for thought. Here’s five reasons why. Read more

If the referendum is to spark wider change, we need an alternative for the rest of the UK as powerful as Scottish independence.

September 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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What is driving the contagious passion behind the growing support for a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum? The ICM telephone poll published last week is clear. The three over-riding motivations are:

  • “feelings about Westminster and the type of politicians there” (51% of Yes Voters)
  • “your feelings about Scotland” (41%)
  • “your hopes of a more prosperous future for you and your family” (41%)

Concerns about the future of public services (24%), dislike of the City of London (18%), and remarkably, feelings about the UK as a whole (6%) trail very far behind.

So, as one might expect, Scottish identity is driving the Yes vote but equally, or even more important, it is a dislike of Westminster politics and the hope that an independent Scotland will lead to greater personal prosperity.

Should the vote go Yes on Thursday or should it just be close, these findings must stand as the loudest wake-up call to Westminster in decades. The Union will have been lost (or come close to being lost) not because of the “lies” of the Yes campaign or the ignorance of the risks of going independent but because half the Scottish electorate have lost faith in the way decisions are taken at the heart of government and believe they would be materially better off without Westminster politicians leading them. Read more

Whether it’s Yes or No, British politics must change.

September 7, 2014 by · 3 Comments
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There’s currently a lot of discussion about the constitutional or economic shock of a Yes vote. But if we wake up to an independent Scotland on 19th September the immediate impact will be psychological. And the trauma will take two forms.

The first will be the realisation that the combined effort of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition was not enough to save one of the central institutions of the British state for the last 300 years.  From that point on, the credibility of the most senior leadership of the British political establishment will be probably irrecoverable. The situation will be made worse by the inevitable blame game that will follow and the fact that practically zero preparation has been undertaken for the eventuality of an independent Scotland.

The second longer-term shock will therefore need to be addressed by a new generation of political leaders. Read more

In the 1970s, big government and big business was challenged for the first time in decades. Let’s rekindle that spirit today.

September 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The Crowd-funding pitch for my book, Small is Powerful, went live on Friday over at the Unbound site. To my amazement, people have already started handing over hard money - a big thanks to them.

You can pledge anything from one quid (you get your name in the book and access to posts just for supporters in the ‘author’s shed’) to one thousand (all manner of goodies come your way). There’s lots of levels in between which get you things like hardback first editions, invitations to the launch party, even lunch with me at a posh restaurant (or if you prefer: lunch without me at a posh restaurant).

Here’s the synopsis for the book that appears on the Unbound site:

How can we create a wealthier, fairer and more stable world? Politicians tell us that we must rely either on big business or big government or, more often than not, both. This is a terrible failure of imagination that ends up keeping the very people and organisations in charge that delivered the most serious economic crisis in eighty years.

Small is Powerful will reveal how our faith in big business, big government and big culture was manufactured in the 1800′s by a group of powerful business leaders, politicians and thinkers and how it had a forceful grip on our world throughout the twentieth century.

Even if our political leaders are still in thrall to the ‘big consensus’ of the last century, a small revolution is already underway. Millions are choosing to set up their own small business rather than work for a giant corporation. Political and social change is increasingly delivered by many small initiatives and campaigns rather than big parties. And, more than ever, people make their own decisions about how to live their lives rather than accepting the rulings of big religious and civil organisations.

Small is Powerful argues that the small revolution must be embraced. A world where power and resources are shared out much more widely will deliver the fairer, stabler, wealthier world we want.

But it is a revolution under threat. Business, politicians and those who think they know best how we should live are fighting back. Small is Powerful is an impassioned plea for ‘smallists’ everywhere to stand up and be counted.

I’ll be tweeting progress on the book here.

I also wrote a chapter of the book for the pitch. It’s about how the ‘big consensus’ of the twentieth century began to break down in the 1970s. I hope the book will make a small contribution to rekindling the spirit of the campaigners, entrepreneurs and thinkers I cover here. I’ve copied it below but please do go over to the Unbound site to find out more about the book and please pledge to help make it happen. Read more

Politics is led by an uncreative class. We need to unite those who deliver change with imagination.

September 2, 2014 by · 2 Comments
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One of the imperatives of living in creative times is the need to always ask ourselves whether what we are doing will release or stifle the creativity of as many people as possible. It’s a question the most successful organisations in private, public and voluntary sectors now ask themselves as a matter of course. It is not one asked regularly or even at all by our political leaders. Read more

You can distribute power & wealth or you can concentrate it but you can’t do both. Politicians pretend otherwise.

August 31, 2014 by · 2 Comments
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As I do the research for my book Small is Powerful, I’m sharing some of my early thoughts through my blog. Here’s the latest.

It is 225 years since the United States Constitution was adopted. One might have thought in that time that our understanding of democracy would have become more sophisticated. But one of the most central insights into the nature of government and society that was commonplace amongst the Founding Fathers has now been largely forgotten. Read more

All hell is breaking loose as mass creativity becomes the defining feature of this Century.

July 27, 2014 by · 6 Comments
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Economically, nothing much happened for 130 millennia of human history. Then 250 years ago all hell broke loose. So wrote the economist Eric Beinhocker and he was not wrong.

There were brief explosions of inventiveness, such as during the Roman Empire, but these would come to an end with the fall of the political system that sustained them. Average incomes improved at glacial rates: in the first century AD, most people could expect an income of around $1.20 a day; by the 18th, it had risen to $1.70.

This all changed in the late 1700s. Britain became the birthplace of an extraordinary revolution that would come to transform the world. Modern capitalism was being built on the back of an enormous flowering of commercial innovation: new machines, new products, new production systems, new business structures and new markets came to life. Read more

Let citizens spend tax revenues rather than the technocrats at the top

July 20, 2014 by · 3 Comments
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This post is jointly written by Director of the RSA Action and Research Centre, Adam Lent, and the Director of Institutional Reform at the RSA, Anthony Painter.

In the last century, the idea took hold that the state should expand to provide the public services and social security that the free market was unable to deliver on its own. The corollary was the need to fund this expansion through higher levels of taxation. But this conception of tax-funded services provided directly by the state is proving deeply problematic in an era increasingly defined by creativity and self-determination.

The problem emerges because the current model of the state was developed in the first half of the twentieth century when technocratic elitism was in its prime. The faith placed in the power of a small, educated set of technical specialists to deliver beneficial outcomes for any and all areas of life was enormous. Read more

We need to revive the constitutional reform agenda but on a completely new basis

July 13, 2014 by · 2 Comments
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In 1988, 348 assorted celebrities, intellectuals and political activists wrote to The New Statesman to announce the launch of a new charter for constitutional reform. The public response was strong and within a year or so a formal pressure group was formed. Charter 88, as it was called, was soon having a major influence, playing a particularly big role in shaping the manifesto commitments of the Labour Party which was to be elected with a thumping majority in 1997.  This was a heady period when it seemed that a young, forward-looking government might finally bring about a major reshaping of the constitutional settlement in the UK. The reality was somewhat less inspiring. Read more

Technology makes politicians and parties redundant but they won’t go without a big push into the dustbin

July 2, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Adam Lent 

A quick post to highlight a good piece today by Daniel Finkelstein. Behind The Times paywall unfortunately but his core argument is that the rationale for politicians and parties is losing its resonance. The opinion aggregation that is their main raison d’etre no longer makes much sense in a world where new technologies are far better at fulfilling this task.  He also predicts the decline of political parties for, as he says, “if it is possible to contact voters without a party machine, the power of the machine will decline”.

This all chimes closely with identical themes I have explored on this blog. In fact, Finkelstein goes even further than me arguing that many of the governing and decision-making functions assigned to our leaders will soon be done better by artificial intelligence.  Read more

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