With great privilege comes great responsibility

Kelvin Bathe

Faculty: Business and Law
School: School of Management
Course: MSc Marketing
Category: Business

17 April 2015

Right, this one needs a bit of a heads up, full disclosure, spoiler alert whatever you want to call it as we are about to dive into the world of politics. Couldn’t not, really. There is an election on…I know, why else would Bilbo Baggins be doing a TV ad for a political party? I am sure that the University will want me to make it crystal clear that any views expressed here are entirely my own, it is their platform after all. Not that they have said anything but I am a man of impeccable manners, me.

So let’s jump on the battle bus and buckle up for a few thoughts about your democratic privilege. Important word that: ‘privilege’. Do you know how many proper, free democracies there are in the world? According to the Freedom House ‘Freedom in the World Report of 2014’, only 88 of the world’s countries are entirely free out of 195. That’s less than half. That is why a vote is more of a privilege than a right.

Which brings us to our starting point, international marketing. Hardly controversial? On the face of it not, but when you study the subject as we do on the MSc Marketing you realise how important things like trade agreements, tariffs, trading blocs and nationality are in our evermore globalised world.

As I have been struggling with my international marketing assignment over the past few days I have been able to link it more and more with the important choices we face on 7 May this year. Don’t worry, this isn’t go to be a party political broadcast for anyone (well, maybe a little) but I hope it will make you think about the process a bit more and one important issue in particular. This issue is so big it prompted ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair to make his only campaign contribution (so far). Ah, Tony…unlike most of you I am old enough to remember the feeling on that glorious spring morning in 1997 when we really thought things would change – and for a while they did (*writer drifts off into wistful reminiscing with stupid grin on face*). Anyway back to the here and now. That issue is Europe and this country’s membership of the European Union.

It seems to me that so far this campaign has been about the trivial and the downright dishonest from all parties. I don’t need to see anymore pies being made, interviews in kitchens, hi-vis jackets being worn or let’s face it, manipulated statistics being used to prop up ideological arguments.

There are bigger issues facing the country, like Europe, that need to be dealt with. Here’s the thing, if you think that being in Europe is a disaster for this country then you will relish the chance to have your say via a referendum. That’s fine. My concern is the short-term nature of a campaign that focuses on the sound bite, pithy Tweet or an on-message message means that the longer-term consequences of the decision we make in the polling booth are not being discussed.

Spin forward. Let’s suppose the Conservatives win and the promised referendum is set and the country decides to leave the EU. Never mind that the organisation and campaigning for this vote distracts said Government from its real business of running health, education and defence, it now has to deal with that exit. First thing will be Scotland. Most likely there would need to be another referendum there, as a) their electorate is predicted to want to stay in Europe and b) the UK would not be the one they decided to stay within in 2014. You can’t see them staying this time.

Then the car companies would leave as they would now be paying tariffs to make cars in this country and export them to Europe (the bigger market), so wave goodbye to Nissan, Toyota and others and their thousands of skilled jobs. Next would be the financial firms in the city of London, many of those and their jobs and tax receipts would leave for Frankfurt where they can continue their access to foreign exchange trading.

While that is all going on the Government will be busy trying to re-negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world as a single entity, no longer with the might of Europe behind it (oh and without Scotland as well). How well will that go? Think that we might get pushed around a bit?

Finally we will have to meet the rules of Europe so our remaining companies can do business with Europe even though we are not a member who can shape those rules. No wonder David Cameron doesn’t want a third term.

None of this is far-fetched. We could end up as a smaller, more isolated country in an increasingly competitive world. Like the sound of that as someone who will have not long left university, with all the promise (and student debt) that comes with it?

My point here is not whether we should be in or out (although I think you can work out what I think). No, it is the fact that politicians are not talking about the consequences of this and the TV interviewers and press are not pushing them on it. They seem happy to get their party-approved quote and move on. Like I said, you have a privilege so please register (don’t assume that you are already) and use that precious vote wisely. Get involved, ask questions and have your say so they (the politicians) have to tell you more. And you can start that process next week as the local Cambridge candidates will be on campus to answer your questions. What are you waiting for?!!?

Thanks; I feel better for getting that off of my chest. Politics does that, makes me all preachy. Sorry. I’ll get my coat and go back to my assignment.

(Credit due to Nick Cohen of The Observer and his column of 4 April for additional motivation for this piece.)


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