This year I was lucky enough to spend Valentine’s Day with people I love. I was outside number 10 Downing Street with Climate Rush, the Socialist party and a representative member of just about every left wing voice you’ve ever heard of, and many you haven’t. We shouted, we read poetry and we sang about the injustice of the imminent government cuts. Where we many in number? Did we get any column inches? Did we achieve anything? No, of course we didn’t.
Contrast this with the likes of UKUncut or 38 degrees, both of whom have achieved remarkable success in terms of getting their arguments into the mainstream. These movements work for precisely the same reasons that most left-wing movements don’t. They focus on a single issue and avoid big, all-encompassing principles.
I’m sure this is clear to those outside activist circles, but go along to any action group for a cause you care about, and you’ll find a whole other story -to be accepted into these movements, you need good Marx. If you don’t believe me, Google Tamsin Omond, a woman who, despite devoting her life to causes greater than her, gets no end of class rhetoric directed at her. She even wrote an article in the Daily Mail defending herself.
The fact that someone has to go to such lengths to “de-posh” themselves is testament to the fact that Hampstead Liberals are precluded from joining almost any left-wing movement. It seems like the massive social inequality we have in the country is supported by both sides. We politically self-harm because we don’t accept who we are, toffs and all.
Unfortunately for anyone who cares about such trivialities as poor air quality, social injustice and global warming, the people we are up against understand this rather better than we do. Right-wingers (I’m thinking the Republican Party) create targeted messages that appeal to targeted demographics, regardless of their ideological purity. Millionaires get lower taxes; the poor get to protect foetuses and the promise of a job when the rich spend their money. They consistently win in America’s poorest states.
The left (UKUncut excepted) have no such universal appeal. In opposition Labour has descended to “tax more spend more”. There is no counter-argument to the cuts that appeals to those safely in private sector employment. There is no explanation of why everyone benefits from benefits or why the welfare state is worth far more than it costs.
The left doesn’t need to hide away from what it is, whether you’re the grand-daughter of a baron or a believer in big government. We can, and must, appeal to everyone. We just need to appeal to ourselves.