This past week, the phrase, “In office but not in power”, has been uttered by many, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council, Cllr Shaz Nawaz.
Theresa May lost three crucial votes in one night. Emmanuel Macron was forced to relent on fuel tax rises. Even President Trump seems to be teetering, trapped by a stock market that doesn’t like his undisciplined utterances and the revelations arising from the Mueller Investigation.
We have a phenomenon of leaders who have all the trappings of state: the residences, the symbols, the press attention, the podiums, but they cannot make their policies stick. Beyond the glamour of gilt-edged reception rooms and the glare of flashbulbs, they have little power.
This phrase is just as applicable to local government. The Conservative administration is in office, but is it really in power? Even though they are the same political complexion as the national Government of the day, has this made any significant difference in terms of the cuts we are facing into? Has it made the national Government supply more police, or more resources for education, which is in dire straits? The answer appears to be no. They are merely there because they are there: they have proven better at sniping at the opposition than they are at effecting positive change for the rest of us. Unloved, they lumber on, trying to shield their misrule with bad comparisons.
There is hope: hollow power and its manifestations are often precursors to significant change. By the time the presses run with this column, it may very well be that Theresa May will have taken her last chauffeured car away from Downing Street. If not, it is entirely possible this will occur in the coming weeks: the fact that it cannot be easily dismissed from the realms of possibility should tell us much. The “yellow vests” movement in France may have crippled Macron to the extent he may not stand again. Trump could be facing impeachment proceedings in the New Year. Seismic change of this type has become so commonplace, that we read about it in the newspaper, shrug, turn the page and dismiss it after another sip of our morning coffee. Life will go on. But life can also be better.
Over many months, the Labour Group and I have been working to ensure that when in office, we will also be in power: that is, to have a series of policies which will bring about positive change. Key to these policies is an understanding that the balance between government and the individual needs to be altered. Rather than the individual merely working hard and paying taxes so that the government can do what it wills, rather, the government should be the servant of the people. We will not prioritise vanity projects over the real needs of the city. We will not passively accept the neglect passed on from central government. We will engage with our communities and work with them to improve our city.
We will end hollowness and restore hope.