Tag Archive: Andrew Harrop


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I’m an odd sort of politico at times.

Like all other political obsessives, I have my passions,  my causes and my beliefs. I have a vision for what I want from the Labour Party and the next Labour Government. But within that vision, are layers of possibilities. An understanding that my utopia will not be the same as my neighbours (especially as we’re both quite loud, and have very, very different taste in music). I understand the bargaining that an appeal to electability across a mass audience can bring. But even with this understanding, I know that there is and always must be a difference between bargaining and capitulation.

I’m an odd sort of politico at times.

I see too many people on every side of any argument cherry pick evidence to prove not just that a policy will work, but that it will be popular. Clutching at those articles that reinforce your world view, while disregarding anything that challenges it. I think that to be a Socialist, you have to be an optimist. Not necessarily an unrealistic one, but an optimist nonetheless. But to be a strategist, you have to be a pessimist. Not a hopeless one - that’s no good to anyone – but able to see the bumps in the road. Reconciling the need for pessimism in favour of the greater cause of optimism is tough to balance. So it’s not that I am not easily pleased, more that my fear of being too easily pleased will send me too far in the other direction.

I’m an odd sort of politico. For these reasons, when I read something that I find speaks to both my desire for how things are, and my sense of how tings could be, my first reaction is not joy, but caution. Like Mulder, I want to believe. Like Scully, I want to see proof.

This is how I felt when I read Andrew Harrop’s excellent and potential strategy changing article on Labour List about “Ed’s Converts”. If this research is robust (and the Fabians are rarely anything but),  then it supports my belief that Labour has a new space arising from the Lib Dems abandoning their left flank to go into coalition. A space to be a more openly Socially Democratic Labour Party and future government. I want this research to be be right so much. So much so that my Spidey-senses are tingling. Do I want it too much? Does the research really support a more left-leaning Labour Party? I want this research to be right and I want it proved right, and as such it will need to be tested almost to destruction. If it can withstand all that might be thrown at it, it could be the basis for a realignment of politics as powerful and successful as New Labour. I hope that the Fabian “Labour’s Next Majority” project will do that testing. I have a few questions that I’d like to offer for their consideration.

The first place I would want that testing to begin is on the idea of the current coalition of interests that make up that group. In Andrew’s piece he speaks of two core groups that make up the group: lower income communities and left liberals. These two groups are not always ones it is easy to produce compatible messages for. On areas like crime for example, they are often diametrically opposed, while both rating their issues highly. For example around surveillance and the role of the state. Would appealing to one group automatically repel the other? How do Labour chart their way through that territory.

Equally, the article states that the worst case scenario with these groups is a hung Parliament with Labour the largest Party. But id their support is as solid as that supposes, would it not be more electorally viable (if not, for me, politically desirable) to tack right and shore up some centrist floating 2010 Tory voters? What would and what wouldn’t put these voters off and how can or should they be slotted into an “Ed’s Converts” based strategy?

Finally – just as part of a starting response – what can and what should we be promising the left in order to keep it united? When does the left’s optimism become the naivete of stereotype? I think we have more scope than some, but we’re not going to be living in or building a brave new world come 2015. Many of the problems that are stymieing Governments of all kinds all over the world will still be ongoing. It will not be simple and it will not be perfect. If this is the framework for a new coalition of the Left, forged under a Labour banner, how do we make sure it doesn’t just win, but lasts?

Those are a few questions I think need to be looked at as an ongoing part of the Fabian’s excellent work. I am incredibly excited by this, and the way you can tell is that I’m questioning it. Strengthening through questioning is – to my mind – the best possible way to support the growth of an idea. I’ll be hoping to contribute further to the Fabian’s ongoing work in this area, and I look forward to more like this.

I want to believe!

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The views stated are those of Emma Burnell and the other occassional contributors.
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