I sat in a public meeting, in Andover, listening to various UKIP speakers make the case for leaving the European Union; much of what they said seemed familiar and more importantly to me, factual. However, one somewhat, casual comment was new and surprising. The speaker, Donna Edmunds (editor-in-chief of UKIPDAILY.COM), talked about the British officials based at the European Commission to represent our interests; it was from her personal experience of working in Brussels for Roger Helmer as a Tory. These officials were observed to have low aspirations for our country; they were instead committed to manage national decline. It was not a viewpoint Donna had come across in the UK, and it took her time to simply understand what they were saying when she got to Brussels! Manage the decline? What decline? And why did British officials want to manage it?!
Decline is self-fulfilling whether national or personal; if you start with low aspirations, you tend to achieve mediocre or low results, reinforcing the perceptions and so it becomes a downward spiral. This is hardly an inspiring start from those who are supposed to be standing up for us in the ‘European corridors of power’. Yet can this language for decline be widespread amongst our existing political establishment, and can it be corrected?
Many commentators, members of the establishment and main stream politicians continue to claim that we would be materially better off remaining within the European Union. Typical of the statements repeatedly made are that millions of jobs in this country depend on membership, that we get lots of funding from the EU, that we need standardisation with Europe and that some issues can only be tackled by larger economic blocks or countries; also that much investment by larger businesses would leave if we left the EU or would never be made. There are also claims that we ‘could not stand tall in the world’ or that we could not export enough without the EU. Are these actually examples of managed decline and low aspirations?
In each case, the ‘cause of our success,’ whatever the definition of success applicable, has migrated to somewhere else. This looks very much like creating a dependency culture of managed decline, transferred responsibility and little or no recognition of our contribution and efforts. Also, blame for failure can in due course be placed elsewhere than where the true causes are, and any remedies could be claimed to lie somewhere else, for example, through more EU direction or spending. Ultimately, this is likely to lead to lower morale and aspirations amongst many people and under-performance of their potential.
These days political language is very vague and non-aspirational; sometimes to the extent of becoming meaningless. For example, ‘Securing Britain’s Future’ or ‘For a Fairer Britain’ etc., present no specific goals against which government efforts can be directed and actual performance can be measured. Again the outcome is likely to be vagueness and under-performance cascading down through the command chain of government from the highest to the most junior.
A national mojo or ‘can-do’ attitude cannot work magic by itself. However, it is obviously essential to self-esteem and achievement, and is undermined when officialdom has low aspirations for us and manages national decline. Taiichi Ohno, who was the major innovator behind the Toyota Production System when Toyota was insignificant and very inefficient, wrote that
Manpower is something that is beyond measurement. Capabilities can be extended indefinitely when everyone begins to think.
Photo by brizzle born and bred