This has been a grumpy election campaign with a lot of arguing but precious little happening in the polls.
There have been the odd flashes of passion, the first leaders debate, the folly of #villagate and Boris and Ed scrapping yesterday on Andrew Marr’s sofa.
But in truth this has been an election where nothing much is happening, where promises are neither credible or believed and where people’s confidence seems considerably lower than the economic circumstances should make them.
The next Government is 1/10 on to be another coalition in which case we will get more of the same.
People do not feel comfortable about their financial circumstances despite cashflow never having been so good. In terms of cost of living (a subject that Labour has dropped) people are paying less on mortgages, are generally in work and debt is falling away.
But people do not seem to feel good about this. Perhaps they remember the amount of Government money that has had to be pumped into the economy via quantitative easing which has ballooned our national debt, perhaps they sense that though we are more at work, we are not so productively at work.
There appears a lack of confidence in our economic recovery.People do not believe in it. This is in stark contrast to the United States and other economies and makes me wonder whether we are suffering from a lack of leadership
Yesterday I wrote about us voting for management not ideology, I could have replaced the word ideology with leadership. Watching Boris and Ed on the couch was like an upper class version of the Jeremy Kyle show.
No political campaign has caught the popular imagination since New Labour since we have had no political leadership with the charisma that came from Blair and Brown. Perhaps Clegg , Farage, Sturgeon and even Johnson have given us glimpses of what that leadership could be, but it is the dead hand of the current conservative leadership that has created the conservation of the 2010 status quo.
We have handed the keys to no 10 to management consultants not visionaries, we have got some kind of recovery but it is not a feel good recovery , it is founded in mediocrity.
Productivity (lack of)
If there is measure that marks our torpid state it’s our failure to be productive. We simply don’t seem to be doing enough as a nation, in terms of league tables we rank only 6th among major economies, we are less productive than France.
If lack of productivity is the symptom, lack of confidence is the cause.When I look at my own business, Pension PlayPen and consider the headwinds we face in increasing the productivity of auto-enrolment advice, I sense this lack of confidence. Indeed it is to combat the torpor that we have made our streamline “restoring confidence in pensions”.
The dynamic enthusiasm to make auto-enrolment work, pension freedoms work, to improve financial literacy and increase self-suffeciency is missing. There is instead a focus on how difficult these things are and how the current toolkit we use to get advice to individuals is inadequate.
Improving Productivity = better employment
When people find themselves having to do things badly, they feel unproductive. There is too much of this in my area – financial services. Too many people are frightened of innovation because they know it will mean them having to change or leave the workforce.
This conservatism is why companies are happier to invest in jobs than in productive jobs and why so many people I talk to are frightened of the implications of the technology we embrace.
Unsurprisingly, Pension PlayPen does not employ people, but it makes a lot of people’s work more productive. Like any business to business service, it aims to make people do better at work.
Improved leadership at Work and in Westminster
There is no problem with “more of the same”, either in politics or in business, so long as the consistency is focussed on consistent improvement not on maintaining the status quo from yesteryear.
I have no problems with another five years of coalition if it were to bring about the dynamic leadership we have experienced in pensions. But I want more leadership from the Cabinet and especially from whoever is our next prime minister and deputy.
I have no problems with a continuation of the strategy we are employing both in pensions and in the wider economy so long as it brings people with it.
It is the terrible failure of this coalition that they have failed to make us feel good about ourselves, our recovery and our nation that is so bothersome.
I feel too an absence of leadership from business. We have suppressed the banks, we have failed to ignite industry and we are failing to capture the technology dividend as we should. We have put our priority in the jobless totals – even so far as linking fiscal policy with the jobless. We have prioritised the creation of wealth from our housing stock over the creation of wealth from entrepreneurial activity and sound financial management.
As we tip-toe into the final two weeks of the election, I hear no words of inspiration, simply homilies based on trepidation from all the political leaders.
The Obama moment
Maybe a country gets the leadership it deserves but I am not sure. America has been led by Obama for nearly ten years, he has not got universal support but he has at least kept the fires in the belly.
We need some inspiration now, to lift this grumpy campaign up a notch. We need to get people interested in what can be, not in preserving what is. We need an Obama moment.
When we’ve got it in our heads that we can do better, work better, be better, then we can get our national mojo up a little. For right now, this election looks like giving us a grumpy nod for more of the same.