The Grant Rule Trust works with people of all political persuasions and none to cultivate inclusive communities. However, political leadership and strategy has a huge influence on uniting or dividing communities.
This is why I believe the Labour strategy for the next election should be to spearhead a coalition of the left, rather than trying to out-Tory the Conservative party.
Change is a continual process, it’s happening all the time, and trying to prevent things changing actually just means you have no conscious influence on the direction of travel. Politics is the discussion about which direction we want to go in.
My definition of the largely irrelevant term “left” is that ‘policies of the left’ focus on creating a healthy and balanced society. It should go without saying (though apparently it doesn’t) that you cannot have a healthy and balanced society without a healthy and balanced economy, but economic management is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Parties of the right, principally the Conservatives, seem to believe that the role of government is solely to deliver a vigorous economy, and market forces will deliver a healthy and balanced society. Since this seems to fly in the face of centuries worth of evidence, I can only assume they believe this happens by magic. Sometimes, because there are a lot of good people around, a bit of magic happens – but this seems to me a most unreliable approach to creating or sustaining the society most of us want to live in, and want our children and our grandchildren to enjoy. As most Conservative voters are quite comfortably off and probably of an age where they are unlikely to personally witness the actual consequences of the policy, I guess they don’t worry too much about whether it works or not. They are certainly not concerned how much it compromises the natural environment in the process.
Under the above definition of “the political left”, I consider Labour, the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru to be “the parties of the left.” These four parties between them won 27% of the votes cast at the 2015 election as opposed to the 25% polled by the Conservatives and the DUP.
The LibDems are also potential coalition partners, especially as such an alliance gives them the possibility of rebuilding the credibility of their party and regaining some of the credibility they lost by working with the Conservatives. Even with the collapse of the LibDem vote, they polled 5%, which would give the left alliance 32% of the votes cast at the last election. Under our crazy electoral system this doesn’t seem to give an actual majority in Parliament, but this paper is looking at actual support in the country in terms of individual votes cast. I would suggest that reform of the electoral system is part of the package the coalition of the left would need to put forward.
Then there is UKIP. I believe its something of a mistake to consider UKIP a right-wing party. It seems to me they are a party designed specifically for people who prefer prejudice to reason and value opinion (preferably their own) above evidence. Such people are to be found on both the right and the left of politics. I believe UKIP’s rise to power is due largely to the fact that we have created a political system which actively discourages reasoned debate or considered thinking about the complex issues that are the hallmark of democratic government – economic stability, social justice, environmental management, international relations, etc. Instead, our media feed us soundbites and slanging matches about single issues, delivered by career politicians all vying with each other to craft the most populist message. We are encouraged to think only of safeguarding our own position, hoarding our own wealth and cherishing our own prejudices. We are not challenged to defend those prejudices, or consider our social responsibilities. We are not asked to weigh the arguments and accept valid points from those we disagree with. When the electorate is treated like a bunch of spoiled children whose parents are terrified of having to deny them their favourite sweeties, a proportion of the electorate will behave like spoiled children and demand ever more sweeties. Others will simply disengage with the democratic process.
We do not need politicians who simply reflect our own prejudices and fears back to us and use them to pursue their own agendas. That is not democracy. In my view, it is the job of a politician to consider those complex issues that democratic governments have to wrestle with and to set before the electorate a range of reasoned options for tackling them. These are the options the electorate should be asked to vote on. Individual voters with jobs and families cannot be expected to have the time, skills and knowledge to understand all the nuances of international economics and diplomacy, delivering social justice or even the realities of environmental stewardship, which is why we need trustworthy politicians who are properly investigating and considering the best approaches to dealing with these very real issues.
Our politicians should be providing leadership. They should be nailing their colours to the mast and saying, this is what I stand for, these are my priorities. If you agree, vote for me. Of the Labour leadership candidates, only Jeremy Corbyn is doing that. And that’s why he is racing ahead of the others.
The Conservatives are very clear what they stand for and very patronizing of anyone who suggests they may be misguided, short-sighted and/or concerned only with protecting the rich. That’s why they give the appearance of strength. That’s why they are being allowed to lead us by the nose towards disaster. There is no-one giving an opposing view that is equally strong, equally convincing, but designed to take us towards a healthy, stable society.
We desperately need it. Because, last but by no means least, 34% of the UK electorate did not vote in the 2015 election.
How many of those disengaged voters could be attracted to an alliance that put the health and wellbeing of UK society at its heart?
How many are turned off by the divisive and puerile nature of the current political dialogue, and would respect a party that sat down with its natural allies and negotiated a working consensus? I don’t know the answer. But at least they could not say that all politicians are the same.