The impact of any major political change is assessed through a number of mechanisms. One of these is the FTSE100 which reflects the share value of the 100 largest publicly listed companies. If a political policy or anticipated election is seen to create a change to the FTSE100 then newspapers and broadcasters will use the change to help form their response. Whilst the FTSE is not a holistic economic index, there are other ways of reading the impact on our economy. Some of this emerges from anecdotal responses by individual industries. We heard some of this today from a response by estate agents dealing with high value properties to Fridays election results. Apparently Friday saw substantial work as overseas buyers set about putting in offers on properties in central London.
There is nothing wrong with the use of these indices and data from industries to test our society for its economic response to change. Inevitably it is much easier to measure the value of listed shares and economic output than it is to measure pressure on social services or on our the advice service. One easy to measure piece of data that points towards the social wellbeing of our society is a count that the current Government has shown itself to be very wary of. The numbers of people using foodbanks has become one social index for the nation. However it is only testing one measure of societal change and because there is only one national network of foodbanks, albeit one that represents some 60%-70% of this provision, it places great pressure on one national charity. We also count the number of people sleeping on our streets but just as with foodbanks, many on both sides of our political spectrum argue for or against the merit of this data in a way in which the FTSE never gets treated. Another measure is the level of personal debt in the UK, another measure.
My concern is that if the FTSE reacted badly to a particular issue, the Government of the day or indeed the Party seeking election would be challenged very robustly by the media and their own campaign team. Analysts may dig into the data and argue that the reaction was coming from only one sector, but in essence the news would be taken seriously. Is it possible to find some way of measuring our social strength that has the same sort of impact. This would need to be done in a manner that removes a focus on single charities or even on single issues such as food poverty or borrowing. By using a measure that is broad and holistic, the importance of the social impact on society of policies or politics might be elevated to give the same sort of traction as the economy does. Whilst I don’t pretend to be smart enough to formulate such an index I do think our nation needs something of the same gravitas as FTSE100 that can change the way in which our media and many voters think about political decisions that are made in our name.