Hope and fear

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I can’t pretend I am happy about the political environment this morning. No one in the centre or left of the political spectrum can be.

It will take time to analyse the results, but let me offer you my thoughts on what has happened.

I believe that people essentially vote for one of two reasons: hope or fear.

I make the bold, but entirely justifiable claim that for the majority in any population the left offers hope. They should rightly be fearful of the right. And of course, the reverse applies.

At least, that would be true if economics were the main reason for people’s fear, and their motivation for hope.

But right now that is almost certainly not true. The vast majority of people in the UK enjoy material well-being. Not as much as they would like, I know. But sufficient (despite the perception that the advertising industry creates) for many to enjoy a standard of living that was beyond imagination a generation or so ago. That’s the lasting success of the post war years.

But it also means that people can have other aspirations. And fears.

They fear for their jobs. And despite government having proven its ability to salvage the mess within the economy that largely unregulated capital can create, people have believed the narrative on this issue of the right.

And they fear for their communities.

They fear for their jobs.

They fear for their pensions.

They fear for the future for their children.

Many of those fears are rational: there are enormous challenges that we face. But what is very clear is the left has not presented a narrative that addresses these fears. This is the real problem, and the fact that the Labour Party leadership has simply failed to represent anything that could be remotely described as ‘left’.

UKIP, the Tories and even the BNP have set up straw men; simple straw men, but ones that are designed to exploit these fears. They do not address them. But they do exploit them. That is, of course, the politics of fear. These parties are good at that form of politics.

And the left - especially in the form of Labour, has not offered them hope as an alternative. Indeed, that hope has been taken away. The expenses scandal reveals that the left has not lived up to the promise that hope requires that it deliver. That hope requires integrity. All hope is built on that basis. And at present that has been lost.

I don’t see how Gordon Brown can recreate that hope. He has helped destroy it.

I do not see how he can create that narrative: the story he has spun has for so long been short of any narrative of any sort. Expedient cooperation in the pursuit of power is not a narrative.

In its own way the tax justice campaign has been about creating a narrative: a cause for hope for many who have currently lost out so badly in this world. We can hold our head up. I know others who can.

But now we need to translate this into political narrative.

It’s a big job.

It can and must be done.

But politicians, Labour politicians in particular, have to play their part by sweeping the decks clean.

They have to: we have to recreate hope in a country that looks in the grip of fear right now.

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