With an British mother and an American father, comparing the US and Great Britain is simply a way a life in my family . . . plus it gives me a bit of street-cred in this department. In this story, in my opinion, the Brits clearly win!
Sunday mornings with Fareed Zakaria on CNN are sacred in my house. Which basically means that my kids and husband abandon me for that hour. More often than not, I’m highly tempted to blog about one or two of the topics Fareed covers. I typically resist, because I rarely disagree with Fareed and over time I’m afraid I might come across as a “Fareed Groupie”, which could tarnish my image of a self-thinking, intelligent, strategic, modern woman. That said, this week, I am giving into temptation. I simply must blog about this new British government and the 39-year old George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer – Secretary of the Treasury to Americans) whom I found to be slightly pompous (expected), highly intelligent (expected), but unexpectedly refreshing and on-point in his ideas around what people really want from their governments. I personally, think the US Republican party could take a lot of cues from the new conservative sheriffs at Downing Street. As an Independent, I actually prefer it when both the Democrats and Republicans are acting wisely as it makes for better candidate options and more solution oriented action.
If you missed the show, it’s easy to watch or listen on demand. Just click here.
Just to add my own touch to the conversation, and keep up my image, here are the four primary reasons why I like what I heard from Osborne and feel strongly that this is the direction that successful politicians will have to take (regardless of party) to be successful in the future.
Not Afraid to Act
Osborne has pledged to the British people that he will not hide hard choices from them and he will make them. He has clearly lived up to this campaign promise with his austere budget that is getting a lot of press. He feels strongly that the public wants a government who can admit when there is a real problem, and work quickly to get it fixed.
The kicker here is their assumption that the public can and should act as an intelligent deputy to a sheriff who is willing to make and stand behind decisions regardless of which direction the political winds are blowing. This new conservative party clearly recognizes that the British public clearly understands there is a debt problem, and that the country has been living beyond its means for some time, and so they are willing to take it on as their first priority. They also realize that not only Great Britain, but Europe, requires proper leadership to bolster their image and regain the world’s confidence in their ability to pay their own way.
Collaboration is Not a Death Sentence
Osborne speaks of forming a proper coalition government where the other party holds seats in the cabinet and how the real benefits of diversity in Parliament are less about looking different and more about being different and thinking different. One of the best statements Osborne makes in Fareed’s interview is, “We can’t abandon whole areas of policy to the Left in British politics. There is no reason why the Conservative Party should not have a progressive policy on climate change or be interested in issues of poverty and equity in our society and have answers to those issues.”
Open, Open, Open
They are open to new ideas, new views and anyone who can come up with a better way to reach a common goal. Osborne indicated that he constantly seeks out second opinions and alternative views. He encourages large numbers of people to come into meetings and say what they want to say, and understands that listening is a large part of the job. His office recently asked the broader group of public servants for their ideas on how to reduce budgets in a way that doesn’t damage the frontline services people receive. They received over 65,000 responses in a couple of weeks, and had some of them around to Number 11 Downing Street for a chat recently. Interactive governement . . . what a concept!
I’ve been saying for years (just ask my friends) that the politicians in the US are simply making things worse and what most people really want is an entirely new breed of politician that is much more suited for the 21st century. We need politicians who care less about party line and more about solving problems. We need politicians who can explain both sides of an issue, without bias, and why they believe their decision is the best option. We need politicians who can work with other politicians to get the job done and stop wasting the public’s time and money on petty politics.
As much as I love they way in which this new and refreshing British government is behaving, I would certainly caution them that the best solution in today’s environment is likely a combination of austerity in some areas and stimulus in others. Because western politicians failed to play the austerity card when times were good, we are all now stuck in a precarious position. The equation is really quite simple and it works for government, companies, and at home. When times are good you pay off your debts, make smart investments, and put a little under the mattress for a rainy day. When times are hard you dig out your mattress money and stretch on credit a little if necessary. If used responsibly, credit can be a very stabilizing element in an economy. When abused, as we all now know, credit can backfire as surely as a 1970’s MG.
One of the things I love the most about this new government is the fact that they aren’t letting fear run the show. They are taking a stance, creating a strategy, and they are willing to listen to other ideas. The longer we let fear run our households, our businesses, and our politics, the longer this era of uncertainty will linger. It really is that simple.