A common characteristic of the changes arising from technology, globalisation, immigration and market forces is that they can have adverse impacts in specific areas – for example where many jobs have been lost or where there has suddenly been an influx of immigrants.
Politicians need to respond when people become concerned about their financial security, increased pressures on public services and cultural changes. People expect a response. They are powerless, and they have empowered politicians to make economic and practical decisions on their behalf.
Politicians cannot prevent change, or turn the clock back, but there is a lot that they can do to help people to adjust to change:
- They can describe to people how both globalisation and automation deliver overall benefits, even though some individuals are damaged.
- They need to explain how protectionism is a tax on everyone and can result in retaliatory tariffs (220.127.116.11).
- They can visibly engage with the issues, by publicising their recognition of specific problems and telling people what they are going to do.
- They can give people a mechanism for expressing concern, by holding public meetings and setting up telephone helplines.
- They can set up task forces to address some issues, assisted by local volunteers.
The possession of some funding, and a visible engagement with the problems, would go a long way towards allaying people’s concerns. There is a strong argument for compensating the affected areas. If society as a whole benefits from a change, it should be able to fund the areas that lose out – and make the relevant local authorities responsible for reacting to job losses (18.104.22.168) or accommodating population inflows (22.214.171.124).
Initiatives need to be well publicised, so that residents can see that the problems have been recognised and are being addressed. The publicity needs to be both national and local. At national level, politicians need to make the case for showing compassion towards refugees and for allowing immigration to fill business needs. Locally, politicians should tell people what is happening – using social media, local radio and newspapers where available, and putting leaflets through people’s doors.