Thursday, 15 July 2010

New is the New New

We were trying to write a short paragraph to sum up this blog and came across a problem. As we were attempting to pick appropriate adjectives we suddenly became aware that we sounded eerily like the Conservative manifesto. For a leftist blog this was a slight concern. Were we Tories all along? Luckily I have a politics degree so went through my extensive notes and happened across the answer below:

Great, that proves it then. Definitely not Tories. So why does every attempt to describe what we believe in sound like the result of some sort of overpaid PR yuppie? The answer unfortunately is that modern political debate has descended into lowest common denominator newspeak that is so simple it means everything and therefore nothing. The simplest message not only can be understood by the most people, it is also harder to challenge. A great example of this is “change”.

Change is generally used to combat incumbent administrations and was used effectively both by Obama and David Cameron. You can’t argue against change. Everyone wants it. If I lived under a government that gave me alone one million pounds a day I would still want change. I would want a million and one pounds a day.

“Progressive” is the newest gem. In the 90s Clinton’s New Democrats found that if you are “new” you are again beyond criticism. New has no precedent that can be held down and scrutinised. This was then copied by New Labour and then again by David Cameron. However, Labour’s new third way was very different to the modern Conservative approach. Whilst they genuinely tried to reposition themselves to straddle the centre ground (leaving them with an ideological deficit), the Tories have instead adopted the language of progressive politics without changing at all. This does mean though that occasionally they tie themselves in knots though. They are carrying out age old Tory policy under banners of “choice”, “responsibility” and “progressive politics”. The ConDem coalition helps them immensely in this regard as it can be sold as a new progressive system of government.

So where does that leave the young writers of a blog who find party politics unrepresentative of their knowledge and beliefs, who are trying to engage in a genuine debate to find left of centre answers? Well just as that sentence demonstrates, by using words like “engage” and “genuine debate” it leaves them looking like a bunch of Tories.


Tom @ Eyes on Power said...

This is a major problem for anyone on the left. The discourse of political discussion is so narrow and meaningless today that it's hard to even debate properly anymore. As you say this can be traced back to the Third Way in the US and then in the UK, but this has also been compounded by the mainstream media. The only recourse is to attack individual Tory policies in basic terms and hope that people take your side. The problem with this approach is that it's a single-issue approach with no over-arching ideological backbone. We may know what we mean but if you try saying something like 'Nationalise all essential industries' the media today will call you 'looney left' or 'out of touch', and the general population will either not know what nationalisation means or think of you as a threat to their 'freedom' (another catch-all-means-nothing word).

Laura @ Eyes on Power said...

And 'social justice'. They hijacked that concept too. Not to mention daring to call themselves the party that will protect the poor, young, elderly - collectively 'the great ignored'. Politicians know its desirable to protect the vulnerable. The problem is politicians think they can use the words without any substance. Spin at its best (worst).

Post a Comment