NEWS: Can public relations sell voters the stakeholding dream?

When I heard Labour leader Tony Blair had come out with the concept of a ‘stakeholder economy’, I groaned. I had been here before. I was brought up to believe that nationalisation gave me a stake in controlling the commanding heights of the economy. At times, I felt as if my stake was being driven through my consumer’s heart as I tried to secure service from a publicly-owned industry or just to get to work. I certainly did not feel to have much of a stake in three-day-week Britain induced by Arthur Scargill.

When I heard Labour leader Tony Blair had come out with the concept of a

‘stakeholder economy’, I groaned. I had been here before. I was brought

up to believe that nationalisation gave me a stake in controlling the

commanding heights of the economy. At times, I felt as if my stake was

being driven through my consumer’s heart as I tried to secure service

from a publicly-owned industry or just to get to work. I certainly did

not feel to have much of a stake in three-day-week Britain induced by

Arthur Scargill.



Then, in the 1980s, I found myself presenting Thatcherism as giving

everyonethe chance to acquire a personal stake in their community or

British industry through council house sales and shares in about-to-be-

privatised concerns that we had once been told we collectively

controlled. This seemed to have more appeal. I followed it up by

arguing, for example, that opting-out gave every parent a direct stake -

certainly more direct than through council control - in the management

of their school.



In short, stakeholding has got political whiskers on it. All parties are

for ever offering voters stakes in their nation - as is evidenced by the

Tory and Liberal Democrat rush to claim that they got there first when

Mr Blair was inspired by antiseptic Singapore to come out with his

latest soundbite.



This suggests that everybody can see political attractions in

stakeholding but that the product needs refining. For this reason, I

think I should state, especially in this journal, that, in the interests

of effective PR, they should be clear what they are offering me before

they again seek to sell it to me.



It is painfully obvious that there is not a single socialist who can

tell me in a single sentence why I should go a bundle on the

‘stakeholding economy’. Stakeholding thus lacks credibility for want of

convincing explanation. That is one of the most fundamental of all PR

failings. It is certainly no way to win my vote.



And yet I know what they are reaching for. In my childhood, rich and

poor lived in a disciplined and relatively rigid society. The post-war

socialisation of Britain was a well-meaning attempt to secure Tony

Benn’s irreversible shift of power in favour of working people. It

collapsed in 1979 in a welter of economic failure and trade union and

welfare abuse.



Lady Thatcher tamed the unions and stopped the economic rot, although at

a price in higher but no longer destitute unemployment. But the wider

abuse continues to this day, too often accompanied by violence. So

stockholding’s real aim now is social rather than economic - to recover

the disaffected by somehow making them feel wanted. As a PR man, I say

‘Fine...but how?’ An awkward question.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.