Tina Stowell Associates

“You talking to me?”

October 5th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized

I watched the Prime Minister’s speech whilst I was in Canary Wharf earlier today. In that part of the world there is certainly some unease and anxiety following Brexit. And Robert de Niro’s “you talking to me?” came to mind as I looked around me when the Prime Minister referred to “the privileged few” again.

If anyone had asked me I would have said, “yes – she means you”. And, as a baroness who had lunch in Boisdales today, she means me too.

But c’mon. What have we got to complain about, really? So it feels a bit blunt and when has anyone ever been in favour of serving just the privileged few? But to convince all the people who are “not the privileged few” that things really are going to change she’s got to reflect back that she understands. And they feel like no-one has taken much notice of how unfair things have been for too long.

The reason why in my previous blogpost I emphasised the risks for critics of Brexit is that – what that result exposed goes beyond Party Politics. Our society is seriously divided and we have got to do something about it. I think Theresa May’s plan as outlined this week is the right one and I support it.

Now, as far as debating what created this social divide, Labour and the Libdems can criticise the Tories, the Tories can criticise Labour, or we can have a never-ending argument between Leavers and Remainers about whose “facts” were worse than the other. But if that’s all that happens, the people who have every right to feel left behind and have been angry for a long time will stop voting for any mainstream party. This division has been created over decades and we are all to blame.

The person I had lunch with today is a CEO of a successful business he created himself and is a decent, good person who has worked hard all his life to get where he is. As we talked I wondered whether he might feel a bit hurt and worried to be lumped in with ‘elites’ as if they are all bad for being successful. I hope not, because we need good people like him to keep on doing what they do.

He mentioned that the recent G20 Summit ‘family photo’, where Theresa May was shunted to the back row and the side, was a telling illustration of how the UK is now marginalised and the impact of that on the economy.

I understand that. But I don’t think they’ll keep her back-and-side forever.

My point to him was that, the key word in the Prime Minister’s speech today and over the last few weeks has been “everyone”. Yes she is emphasising that those who have been marginalised for too long are going to get the change they wanted. And yes that might have to be at some cost to others who have had more than their fair share in recent times.

But if she is able to achieve what she has described today, and tip the scales so they are more balanced (without going too far the other way so people stop trying to be successful), the UK will soon be front-and-centre again. Because all those political leaders in the G20 face the same challenges as we do here in the UK. If we all help the Prime Minister succeed, they’ll want a “bit of what she’s having” and the UK will return to its rightful place.

Theresa May has a mountain in front of her and she is determined to climb it. There may be some miss-steps along the way, it won’t be easy, and she should face challenge and scrutiny. But like it or not, that challenge and scrutiny has got to be constructive and in the interests of addressing the social divide if it is not to be counter-productive.

What all good, decent people need to do – whether they are rich, highly educated, middle-income, just managing, or poor – is respect the contribution everyone is going to have to make to help her get there.