Simon Carr: Advice to Ed: just say what you mean

For some reason when Labour politicians go out to ‘listen to people’ they only hear what they want to hear

Share
Related Topics

I hate equality. There, I've said it. Immediately I have to clarify or I'll end up like Ken Clarke. I hate Equality. I hate "equality". Does that make it clearer? I'm not sure it does.

How about – we have been "ill-served by the language of ahistorical, abstracted liberal universalism". I think that means the same though I wouldn't swear to it.

The author of that quote, does he or doesn't he hate equality? He's a contributor to the Blue Labour pamphlet – or as they call it, The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox. There in the title is the problem they are trying to solve. By "paradox" they mean "contradiction", or "confusion". Or more pleasantly, "different experiences that don't obviously fit together very well." But they prefer paradox because it's a Greek word. It's elevated, more like discourse. So they probably do hate equality too, because they write and think like an élite defending themselves against the attentions of their plebs, proles and assorted paupers (I mean you, and so do they).

Ed Miliband wrote the preface to The Paradox. He discovered Blue Labour theory in the person of Maurice Glasman and made him a baron. Now they are equals, more or less. Maurice drew together thinkers and principals in the Labour aristocracy to conduct "a series of seminars in Oxford and London" (you may have warning bells ringing) and at the end of their deliberations on how to re-engage with the working class – or those members of it who own a Kindle – they published an e-book.

In the preface Ed, as patron of the movement, issues an rallying call. He declares that all contributors "recognise the centrality of life beyond the bottom line".

There it is. What it is all about. The centrality of life. That which lies beyond the bottom line. Roll that phrase around in your mind. Why would you say such a thing? Does it mean anything? Is it the same thing as Ed Miliband thinks it means? You can see that it's a sequence of words that derive from some sort of idea – something like "there's more to life than money".

But why would you say it like that? Especially if you were getting back with your C1s and C2s? Several of the contributors say it's important to be like – or at least act in accordance with – the things they're trying to do. Whatever that is. You might say that this is picking out the silly bits in order to discredit the whole, and that's not entirely unfair. Some of the ideas are good, and some are fresh as well. Allow smoking in the old public bars, for instance. Try and not be so effing disapproving of people all the time, that's another one.

The good ideas you can understand at once. The bad ideas are so bad they really may not mean anything at all. Here's one of the academics: "... the immediate task [for Labour] is to help release the relational capacity of its own party members, supporters, and the broader citizenry...." but the writer cautions his readers in case they "mire Labour in an alienated, transactional individualism from which no strong challenge to rampant capitalism can possibly emerge."

OK, so we can be clear. Whatever a "relational capacity" is, I am not having mine expanded by the Labour Party. I don't care if it would make me a better person or improve my neighbourhood. I don't know what it is, and when I find out I will resent the messengers so much I will actively damage myself rather than submit myself to their wisdom and expand my capacity relationality-wise. And if there are unemployed ex-miners in Nottinghamshire who agree with me – and there will be some who do – I will call them my brothers in the most fraternal way.

So, is the pamphlet a failure? It's hard to say without reading it more carefully than it deserves. There is so much of everything in it there are bound to be things you like.

"Labour is robustly national and international, conservative and reforming, christian and secular, republican and monarchical, democratic and elitist, radical and traditional, and it is most transformative and effective when it defies the status quo in the name of ancient as well as modern values."

There must be something in there for you.

But too many words, don't you think? The political strategy I've recommended to Conservative leaders applies equally well to Labour and I daresay it will be equally ignored. But the strength of the strategy is that there's only one word in it. It's all you need*.

Ed might get to this strategy by doing two things. First: he must limit himself to two-syllable words, or fewer. Second, he should take a one-bed flat in the East End for a month and go drinking in pubs. Or, I suppose you could point out – he might go and live in his constituency and chat to people. Not "to engage with people's real lives, as they are lived, to fashion a narrative based on the stories of real events to prepare a platform for bringing about real change". No, and not going "the length and breadth of the country listening to people". For some reason, when they "listen to people", they hear what they want to hear. Getting sloshed in pubs for a month would do Labour the world of good.

And he's got to see that his efforts with Blue Labour look suspiciously like an attempt to get those voters back, who've gone off to join the BNP. It's true that Glasman is a bit of a fan of the English Defence League. Or he wants their supporters – or however it can be decently phrased. And that's the reason why so much of the work is couched in this obscure, multi-syllabic jargon – so we can't understand what they're really getting at.

In their broad church of nationalists and socialists there must be room for those who've gone to the BNP. Not that Blue Labour are national socialists – but they're looking for some way of doing the something that will make them electable to do things though they don't yet know what they are.

And from that confusion – anything might emerge.

*The word is "Plumbers".



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Protein World advert displayed in an underground station in London which says  

Protein World’s advert 'not offensive'? Try telling that to the 70,000 people who signed the petition to ban it

Anna Cafolla
A Palestinian child screams in pain at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip after she was hit by shrapnel during an Israeli military strike near her family house  

As a surgeon who worked in Gaza last year, hearing that 511 Palestinians died after their ambulances were obstructed doesn't surprise me

Ghassan Abu Sittah
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most