by Alan Dean on 15 November, 2020
Donald Trump’s loss of the US presidency – despite his reluctance to concede – might be seen as a first step away from populist political leadership on the international stage. There is a long way to go to achieve a more normal politics. It will be well into 2021, or beyond, before the end of US populism may be in sight.
For me, normal politics is when you know where politicians stand because they have standards of belief in what they are committed to deliver to improve the lives of the people and for society as a whole. Most importantly, their promises are realistic.
We have moved a long way from that position since the 1980s. In Britain, we have a prime minister who appears to have few fixed beliefs beyond his personal aspiration to achieve the office he holds. Yet it is increasingly questioned whether he can accomplish much beyond his ability to express winning slogans in election campaigns. Now that his Svengali-like advisor, Dominic Cummings, has gone, what chance competence and honesty? Will the saner members of the Conservative Party be given more than the occasional audience? Or will other ideological Brexiteers remain pulling Johnson’s strings? UK populism has some way to go.
And so it is with local populism here in Uttlesford district. The district council is firmly in the grip of populists wearing several labels. In planning for the future, they know what they don’t like, but daren’t say what they do like. On finance, they are already making public commitments to council tax cuts, having lumbered the Council with enormous debt that could see Uttlesford in the same “debtors’ gaol” to which Croydon Council is heading, having borrowed proportionately less than Uttlesford.
Then there is the far from small issue of the Council’s auditors refusing to sign off last year’s accounts because the Council’s statement of good governance can’t be trusted. This is an embarrassingly bad situation, but no one in the Residents for Uttlesford Administration (R4U) will speak out and admit what’s wrong. The cabinet member responsible for finance says the figures are alright, and makes out he doesn’t know what’s wrong. When asked at a recent Council Meeting, the R4U leader said the pounds and pennies were fine, but then sidestepped admitting why the auditors don’t trust Uttlesford District Council.
So, is this the end of populism? It doesn’t yet look like it in Uttlesford District. It certainly seems it’s not popular to be truthful!