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The road to hell or hope?

Reflecting on the results of the 2024 General Election, CFG's Caron Bradshaw OBE, shares her thoughts on making change happen in the current political landscape.

Elizabeth Tower with Big Ben next to a sign saying time for change

The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. In the run up to this General Election, and indeed before Rishi Sunak said we were going to the polls, a lot of good intent was expressed by the now incoming government.

The Labour Party made many of the right noises and demonstrated engagement with the charity sector that was beginning to emerge in talk of a civil society strategy and a new social contract between state and sector.

What I am sure we all now want, whatever our political views, is to see that good intent deliver real change. A message has been given by the electorate that more of the same is not acceptable. And those in power must listen.

The time to be bold

Whilst Labour had a landslide in seats, their increase in the share of the vote was minimal in England and they lost volume in Wales (albeit they smashed it in Scotland).

Labour clearly have both a mandate and the seats to do things differently, but our new Prime Minister and his team will ignore the wider picture at their peril.

The increased number of independent MPs elected, the smaller parties gaining traction, the restoration of the Liberal Democrat presence and the emergence of Reform UK all tell us this.

Set against a background of squeezed resources and continuing global and domestic political, environmental and social volatility, expectations will be sky-high.

CFG has always remained politically neutral. It’s not our role, pre-election, to express opinions on the policies or seek to influence those casting their votes.

However, now the result is here I will share some personal observations.

In my view, the desire to hold power, to be in a position to make change, led Sir Keir Starmer to being cautious. He didn’t want to be too bold, to alienate the right-wing media or provide ammunition to opponents on issues, from immigration to Brexit.

To bring about change you have to hold power otherwise you are just saying radical things from the side lines!

Many will hope that the good intent will now produce more radical and bold change. I am sceptical that this will be delivered any time soon even if there is a heightened sense of urgency. After all, reform takes time. If the next few years are not managed well, a second term will elude Labour.

They won’t want to be a flash in the pan. The short-term thinking that has prevailed for decades – and led us to where we are now – won’t take us to a different destination.

Collaboration, inclusivity and hope

This election was conducted in a febrile and divisive environment. The othering of immigrants, the fear mongering about tax hikes, sacrifice and surrender... It hasn’t been pleasant.

People who feel they haven’t benefited from decades of improvements in living standards, who have seen their communities hollowed out and have witnessed diminishing opportunities must have their needs addressed. Big Society, Brexit, Levelling Up – these were all attempts, mainly in vain, to address that.

Some fear a lurch to the right. But I believe and hope that that conclusion is too lazy. Look at someone like Lee Anderson – first Labour, then Conservative and now Reform. He might be derided and mocked, but he represents and amplifies the voices of those who are disillusioned and disenfranchised. And they grow louder.

Whilst no one really spoke about life after Brexit in this election, we need to remember Brexit was a symptom not the cause. Many wounds remain, waiting to be healed.

This may read like a downbeat opinion piece, but I am filled with hope. The positioning of ‘politics as service’ must surely be the right thing. A return of dignity and humility to politics is long overdue and we’ve seen that on both sides of the political spectrum in the past few hours.

If you’ve not yet watched, it’s worth seeing Heidi Alexander and Robert Buckland’s respective acceptance and concession speeches. It is perfectly possible to speak with humanity, kindness and unity when we spotlight what unites us, rather than what divides us.

This term of office isn’t going to be easy but I believe that unifying actions and close collaboration can feed hope and ensure that good intent can lead to change – something our sector does only too well.

At our Annual Conference, held just one week before we headed to the polls, we heard time and again how we bring about change, that hope exists and that ‘Shaping Tomorrow’ and a better future for all, is more than possible.


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