The Government has failed to empower the older segments of our population - Daxa Patel

It is political party conference season and the politics addict in me cannot help but get drawn into the media coverage. Readers will know from my recent columns I tend to voice challenges faced by our wise elders and I will touch on this to some extent here.

I will start with HS2, do we in the North feel incensed? I do, not so much by any potential, and genuine arguments on the cost benefit analysis, but more because once again, the big promises of levelling up, was just that, a hollow promise dictated more by political ambitions, rather than to bring much needed equity to bridge the North-South divide.

We in the North will always be the stepchild and London, and the South will always be the chosen one. It is hard to admit that this is how it will always be but I doubt very much that in my lifetime I will see Leeds treated like the capital city of England.

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My grievance about the HS2 project is simple: public rail transport from Leeds to Manchester, let alone from Leeds to London, is still frustratingly poor. If countries like India can have a state-of-the-art Metro, why can’t we? I used to work in Manchester and the train service then was haphazard to say the least. I doubt things have improved since.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference at the Manchester Central convention complex. PIC: Danny Lawson/PA WireChancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference at the Manchester Central convention complex. PIC: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference at the Manchester Central convention complex. PIC: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The PM’s refusal to announce his decision despite the speculation by the media is either because he is super confident in his handling of the situation. He says he has judged the public mood, well he has not judged my mood and the mood of many who feel Leeds is missing out of economic parity. This is discrimination of sorts and as a northerner I must protest.

Ageism cropped up in the Chancellor’s speech to the Conservative party conference. He opened his speech with a thank you to the PM for allowing someone over the age of 50 a second chance.

As Jeremy Hunt put it, after his last speech at the conference as Foreign Secretary four years ago, he thought he had had his time in front line politics.

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I wish he did not need to mention this, but it is true, a second chance for a 50 something is indeed a rarity when in fact it should be seen as a positive, and not at all unusual if the person has the ability to do the job. As Colin Bell, the abseiling athlete and 102-year-old gentleman recently said, what has age got to do with it.

I would prefer Mr. Hunt to be the PM on account of his gravitas and experience. I want a PM who is able to unite us and more importantly hear us.

Rishi Sunak, like his previous two predecessors, is a Tory through and through, and sadly, whilst he has succeeded in steadying the ship, he has not been able to end the civil war in his own party. That does not give us much hope with regards to his leadership for the country going forwards.

I truly believe if his appointment was left to his party membership then he would not be the PM. That’s how his predecessor got elected.

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The decisions made by this PM, and this government over the past 10 years or more, have not been to empower the older population. They have been desperate to act for short term political gain, and the Covid enquiry will no doubt shed more on the mishandling.

We know the pandemic was unprecedented and no PM would have found it easy to lead the country through this crisis, but the systemic disregard and contempt towards our older people, the shortages or unfit PPE for care homes gives the public enough doubt of their intention to ring fence this ‘vulnerable’ group.

That said, the enquiry will listen to the evidence and conclude accordingly. If I had to bet, I would say the handling of the pandemic was ageist amongst other things.

Coming back to the party conference season we had the painful pleasure of watching the PM interviewed by seasoned journalists, Laura Kuenssberg and Beth Rigby.

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I am a leadership coach and my work has made me acutely aware of how listening actively is underrated and underused.

These interviews were not constructive due the PM’s failure to answer some questions, something most politicians have difficulty with.

But talking over someone must be seen as the worst thing you can do when one is interviewing someone invited to answer questions. These people could benefit from Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think. In her book she gives an insight on how it is possible to have an enriching conversation without cutting people short mid-sentence or without constant interruptions.

We must not forget what we all went through during the pandemic. We are blessed with a second chance to live. It is incumbent on us to leave the world a better place when we go. Create bonds that will heal rather than cause more friction.

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Be kinder to everyone around us and not put them in a box before their time. Not much to hope from an enlightened society, is it?

Daxa Manhar Patel is a leadership coach, author and solicitor (non-practising).