Multiple scandals in recent years have led to a palpable anti-establishment feeling now amongst voters. Polling suggests this goes far beyond lack of belief in politicians, with major institutions such as the press and police also affected. There is also increasing awareness of the vastly disproportionate possession of wealth and power in the UK, with facts such as five families being richer than twelve million people resonating deeply.
So there is now the potential for a divide and rule culture in our society to also begin to breakdown too. But who is seen as being on the side of the majority?
Comedians, musicians and artists traditionally tend to be seen as outside the elite, even if privilege has resulted from their talents, if not led to them. Russell Brand, like Nigel Farage, is often discredited, but seemingly the inconsistencies, injustices and inadequacies of the status quo that he talks passionately about transcend his own circumstances. Personal experience of struggle in life does however seem to carry much weight, as evidenced by Brand’s battle with addiction and his openness about this.
Overcoming adversity is something that people can relate to and be inspired by, as shown by young cancer sufferer Stephen Sutton. His campaign raised awareness and £5 million, arguably achieving much more than anyone in a formal leadership role would have. The innovative CoppaFeel campaign (http://rethinkcancer.com/) similarly reaches others with a story of hope and positivity. Using social media to get messages out about change or making a difference creates a connection between people by being real, immediate and in bypassing bureaucracy.
Locally the recent pressure on Sheffield United Football Club to disassociate with a convicted rapist became impossible to ignore due to the level of public debate and the strength of feeling expressed by respected community figures Jessica Ennis-Hill and Paul Heaton.
So, how can politicians match this authenticity in the transfer of power to the people whilst being part of the system?
Newly appointed Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, age 44, is the example to watch according to many commentators. In this age of mistrust she is polling strongly on trust. Her lifelong involvement in the SNP and effective grass roots work give her high credibility. She has also just appointed a senior ministerial team equally of women and men. This profile is reinforced by the striking recent rally of 12,000 people at the Glasgow Hydro arena.
The phrase ‘pale, male and stale’ may itself now be old hat, but may also serve as a useful prompt to all parties that the world in and outside politics is undergoing a bit of a revolution and being representative of the voters as well as representing them is fundamental.