Power, principles and persuasion- what is politics for?


The Labour Leadership campaign chatter has revolved around two questions: “what is the point of principles without power?” and conversely, “What is the point of power without principles?”

Within this framework it is stated that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable because he is too far to the left to appeal to the “socially conservative working class.” He is portrayed as wanting to take the Labour Party back to the 80s and to a class driven, conflict riven party. Support from the likes of Derek Hatton only goes to support this claim. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are seen as  out to drag the party back to those days. Yet they are simultaneously accused of putting principle above the need for power..

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn on the otherhand portray the other candidates as Tory- lite, only concerned with gaining power at (almost) any cost. Certainly the failure to vote against the welfare benefit cuts and their varied support for the benefit cap would tend to give this argument some credence. But it is a simplification  which of course suits the media well.

What all the candidates and their supporters are focusing on is the next General Election in 2020 under the current voting system. The next nearly 5 years is reduced to one long election campaign.

What I want to know is how the Labour Party- in conjunction with other opposition parties or independently- is going to challenge the Conservative government before the elections. We seem to repeatedly forget that the government does not have popular support and even under the huge distortions of the fptp voting system, they only have a majority of 12. The Conservative government is vulnerable if there is effective opposition.

That opposition should be used to change the narrative and persuade the electorate that there is another way of doing things. The politics of persuasion seems to have been ditched. Corbyn supporters are seen as ploughing their  trough regardless of the greater electorate, other candidates of bowing to perceived public opinion. What if, instead of following they led and persuaded? A good example of this are the benefit cuts. These are seen to be popular with “hard working families” but are ineffectual and harmful. The same could be said of the Right to Buy policies. An effective opposition, working with experts and campaigners outside of parliament could be highly effective in persuading people that the government’s policies don’t work.

Disappointingly, none of the candidates seem to be addressing issues of constitutional and electoral reform. These issues may not be popular on the doorstep, but there is no better time to persuade the electorate that change is needed and desirable. The poor turn out, a result that relied on a few key votes in a few key seats, with other votes “wasted”, the rise of the SNP- these all point to the need for reform. Not some half-hearted piecemeal decentralisation in a few areas. Not the half-hearted English votes for English laws.

The next few years are crucial- if the Labour Party concentrate purely on the nxt election they will not effectively challenge the government in the interim. Whoever they elect.

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