This week I’ve been trying to understand why people hold views that are seemingly self-defeating. The two obvious examples are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and the Brexiteers in areas of high EU subsidy.
Why, I wondered, given that JC would never be elected to be prime minister, do many Labour people want him to remain as leader? Surely, if you share his values, you would want someone as leader who has a chance of actually doing something about them?
Away from the daily battering Corbyn receives from the established directions (for example, David ‘for-God’s-sake-go, man’ Cameron – sounds like projection in retrospect), my 15 year old son enlightened me:
- Corbyn speaks his mind not news speak
- He is for the people – all of us, not some sub-section
- He’s here to fix the party, not to lead it.
In other words, his role is to sort out what Labour is here for and to reconnect it with the people. Someone else would lead it to victory. It is accepted that the next election is lost. Corbyn is playing a long game. He doesn’t play the game as conducted at Westminster, in news rooms , and in north London dinner parties. There would be no point in electing someone who does. That would be going backwards.
This has a logic with which many who despair of standard issue politics could at least understand.
In some ways, similar motivations are afoot for the Brexiteers. Like most of us they are essentially powerless in relation to the decisions made in Brussels. But unlike Remain voters, Leavers are often those without an economic or cultural stake in globalisation. None of its benefit in the form of economic prosperity reached Leave voters who, entirely rationally, do not want to forego national sovereignty and/or democracy to reap the ‘rewards’ of globalisation.
“Now that’s Brussels fixed we’ve got to fix Westminster” to quote one Yorkshireman.
The Brexiteers and the Corbynistas have common cause. Taking the time to understand one another, rather than to criticize or condemn, is a significant step towards building the electoral alliances to redesign extensively the systems of government that simply do not serve us – whether in Brussels, Westminster, Holyrood or Cardiff.
In that vein, it was heartening to see the emergence of the ‘Progressive Alliance’. Thus far this alliance includes the Green party, Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru the welsh nationalists, Liberal Democrats, and possibly some of Labour. It is aimed at an electoral pact – when the other parties in the alliance stand down in favour of the one with the best chance of winning – to achieve enough seats to then reform the voting system.
The Conservative party will never reform it. Having been rejected by the Empire, Ireland, Scotland and the Church and now having exited Europe, it has returned to its spiritual home of England, the only place it has left to govern, and a ‘duty’ that can be realized only through First Past The Post.
Whether Labour will twig that its future as a party of government rests with PR, who knows. But the Progressive Alliance will need all the allies it can find, including some less obvious like Rethinking Economics an international student led movement seeking to reform the discipline of economics so that it is more pluralist, critical, democratic and participatory, and one of the newest independence parties Yorkshire First
We are back to common cause, understanding each other, and uniting with all those that want to change the system – not picking holes in what theoretically divides us but will never be implemented. To paraphrase Voltaire, once more, the best is the enemy of the good. Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage are on the same ‘good’ side as the Progressive Alliance. And UKIP has 4 million votes. Once the electoral system is reformed normal hostilities can be resumed.
Except that if, as is essential, other parts of the system are then reformed and governments are obliged to take decisions based on facts and balanced information then those differences will reduce and even disappear. But I’ll come back to that in the next blog.