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Opinion: Is Britain “really broken” and can we afford to fix it?

sue pascoe 1

Sue Pascoe

Sue Pascoe stood for the Conservative Party in the European elections in 2019 for Yorkshire and the Humber and now sits on their Approved Parliamentary Candidates list.

“Britain really is broken and we can’t afford to fix it. Nothing works, everything is expensive and we’re all too busy arguing to figure out any solutions” wrote Ben Wright in his column in the Daily Telegraph on 11 August 2022.

I’m not a doomster and I’m proud of my country and despite us going through tough times, it is important to remember that more things are going right than wrong. Ben does have a point however, about being too busy arguing to figure out solutions.

Politicians talk about being “ready to take on the ‘woke brigade’ that dominate our national conversation” or “take on this lefty ‘woke culture’ that seems to want to cancel our history, our values – and our women!” They seem to have stepped away from the real world where people are terrified about how they are going to pay their bills and put food on the table.

I’m from Yorkshire so let me call a spade a spade. The people I meet on the doorstep don’t give a ‘flying fig’ about ‘woke’ and probably don’t even know what the word means.

The words ‘our women’ hark back to the Middle Ages, when women were vassals of men.

What does ‘woke brigade’ and ‘woke culture’ mean? I suspect that the politicians were wielding lazy sneers equivalent to ‘political correctness gone mad’ or ‘loony left’ or frankly whatever derogatory message against the left on that day they might have had in mind. I don’t think anyone has ever won a political argument by sneering. It simply creates division and encourages sneering back, an unhealthy political climate and a ‘no win’ scenario for anyone, society and politicians alike.

Also, the problem with using ‘woke’ as a sneer is it is intellectually unsound as the word ‘woke’ has been around for some time and has a clear dictionary definition.

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘woke’ is to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” I would expect many politicians to fall into this category as well as many members of society as civic and religious organisation. I know as a caring Christian Conservative I certainly put myself firmly into the middle of that definition as I care about my fellow citizens, my friends and family.

So exactly who are the politicians sneering at?

I wish everyone to be treated with respect and dignity no matter who they are, their background and for everyone to be treated with compassion, tolerance and fair play.

If that is no longer the right thing to do in the Conservative Party, I think something is seriously amiss.

My Party is rightly proud of its record of being the Party of law and order so I would expect it to recognise two things. Firstly, when others are complying with the law, like our hard working civil servants. Secondly, that Ministers of the Crown and Police and Crime Commissioners have personal legal obligations together with a large swathe of organisations from hospitals to local authorities and government departments to the Law Society and the professional accounting bodies are required to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) of the Equality Act.

The PSED requires public bodies to have ‘due regard’ to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when conducting their activities.

Sneering ‘woke’ at people doesn’t seem to me to be having ‘due regard’ for good relations and runs the risk of accusations of one rule for them and one for us, a situation I thought we were supposed to be leaving behind.

So let me be so bold as to give some advice to our incoming Party leader. Please leave the culture wars alone. They are unwinnable by sneering at people and a total distraction from the job at hand. The electorate will punish us severely at the next election if we do not do what Ben Wright has highlighted and fix Britain, and we only have less than two years to do it in.

We cannot fix everything all at once. All my leadership knowledge says you succeed by ruthlessly focusing on three, max six, things and demonstrating clear results in short timescale based on measurable success against the people’s priorities. Cost of Living, Health backlogs and the Ukraine war typically being in most people’s top three.

My final bit of advice is focus on real delivery: under promise and over deliver.

My old partnership used to have a slogan that seems most apt “exceed client expectations every day.”

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