Miliband's speech: All the Left has left is social populism

The Right shouldn't get too cocky for fear of following the Left's example. But is it all about a populist bidding war for votes these days? If so, we're heading to a sad, sad, future

by Westminster shrink on 24 September 2013 14:21

For some it was called "conviction politics". For others, "the vision thing". There even used to be a line from the old-style British socialists that, "Labour was nothing, if it wasn't a crusade."

In a sense, thank goodness the mainstream British Left is no longer filled with apologists for communism, or some undefined utopia-dystopia we were all supposed to be heading towards. They can keep all that locked in the grubby old basement of their geriatric minds.

But, as the late-great British journalist Bernard Levin used to say of the Labour types of the 1980s and before, "at least there was blood coursing through their veins."

What have we got now?

If you watched Labour leader Ed Miliband giving his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference today, you'd be tempted to answer, "not much". But there is something darkly profound to be drawn out of the shallowness of his promises to freeze prices on this (energy was a headline), support public sector workers on that (The NHS, perchance?), and solve whichever social problem is flavour of the day (housing, was one of his themes, there was a shopping list of others).

Get excited if you can. But here's the real issue, and it cuts to the core of the political-society we now live in.

There are no big ideas. Politics, especially but not exclusively, on the Left has become a bidding war for votes. Strategists (at least that is how they grandly define themselves) are set to task: find a section or subsection of society; ascertain what the state can give them; make them an offer; buy their votes.

To be fair, the riposte is easy: What is so wrong with that? This is democracy? If people don't take the bait, the bargain will fail.

True. But in the absence of anything of substance to define us as a nation; in the absence of a vision for who we are and what we want to achieve in a sense that is bigger than the immediate gratification that social populism offers us, do not be suprised at the kind of society we are agreeing to.

These musings form a quick response. Nothing more, for now. But am I the only one who watched the Labour leader's speech and thought that, beneath the headlines, there's so much more to say, and so much to be depressed about?

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