One year into the Tipping Points project and things are starting to really get going. One paper in submission and another excepted into a conference that will most likely be worked up into a full journal paper. About to submit a conference abstract to the European Conference on Complexity, and the possibility to present some work to the University of Kyoto (fingers crosses!).
We also presenting some work on the developmental ecology of the UK banking section at a workshop in York. This went down so well that we have been invited to a workshop in Liverpool to present things in more detail! All good stuff.
I’m one of those people who’s mind drifts off to thinking about things almost on its own (Maybe all people are like this, I have only been inside my own head after all). I’m either thinking about the task in hand or my thoughts drift off to analyse something else. Perhaps the people or situation around me, some event in the recent past, a new idea (new ideas come when washing up). As I write this I am on a train heading between Durham and York. My mind started mulling over how adaptable humans are to new and different situations. Its true that many people do not like change, but it is also true that many people are able to adapt to huge changes in their lives both very successfully and relatively quickly. I see this in myself and many of the people that are around me.
Recently something happened in my life that while it was happening it occupied most of my mental capacity. Almost my every waking thought and some of my dreams were focused on one particular event. Unpicking it, analysing it and the part that I may or may not have played. At the time it was difficult to see how this could ever be different. We have all been there. Not much time needs to pass however and things change. I still think about it a lot but by no means all the time. It might be triggered back into my conscious thought by something specific, but sometimes it just pops back up without a trigger that I am aware of. This is what happened on this train journey, and the trigger is an association of a place that I will pass by. A place I once loved to visit but now I doubt I will ever go back. The closest I will get is skimming its event horizon on my way up and down the East Coast main line.
Frequently politicians are criticised for being so preoccupied with trying to get re-election that they aren’t really doing their jobs any more. They constantly have one eye on the next election. Obsessed with opinion polls. Reacting and responding to every hyped media driven controversy, crisis, craze or fad (Pasty anyone?). Actually trying to solve the problems of the nation to the benefit of all seems to come in a poor second place. “How can we do anything if they only get one parliament?”, I hear them cry. Well its irrelevant because they don’t ever get round to do anything anyway. Too busy chasing that second parliament, then the third…
Perhaps I am being unfair, after all they do get something done. However, George Osborne’s (current UK chancellor) comments today make me think that I’m not being totally unfair. When talking about the recent budget he said, “When you get close to an election you’re going to be very focused on what tomorrow’s headlines are and what the opinion polls are saying,”. The context was essentially that the next budget was going to be a dull one. You don’t want to do anything to upset any of the electorate, no matter what the country actually needs.
The thing that annoys me is that this statement perhaps revels more about Mr Osborne’s thinking than it at first appears. He is clearly saying that the next budget will be mostly about getting re-election. Either by being boring, so it doesn’t damage the chances of the Conservative party, or perhaps they might have enough money to cut that top rate of tax again…? The other thing that can be assumed is that having the future need for re-election in the back of his mind is shaping his current thinking. In order to have a boring budget next time, what must be done this time? How often then do our elected politicians sit round the cabinet table and rule out a course of action that is possibly the correct one because it would upset their core vote.
Is it too much to ask to have a chancellor that gets up every day and thinks, “What do a need to do today to ensure the prosperity of as many people as possible?”. Oh, and his next thought shouldn’t be, “I need to ensure my re-election of course!”. I know, dream on. What kind of insane utopianist am I? Where would the democratic societies of today be if the people that we entrusted the stewardship of our nations worked only to serve the interests of the majority (who elected them), without a thought to re-election. If they didn’t, and they did a good job, then they might well get re-election anyway.