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Power Doesn't Enthuse Voters Sadiq, Ideas Do

28/09/2016 13:21

Power politics has seemingly grasped the Labour party by the throat and it will not let go. We have had a summer of debate within the party as to whether Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of politics are electable. Would the country vote for such a radical shift in policies and surely the pursuit of power is all that should matter to a political party.

In his 12 minute address to the annual Party Conference this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan epitomised this fervent internal discussion by urging his colleagues, party members and the rest of the public to get Labour back into power. In his very limited time, he used the word "power" an astonishing 38 times. His message: Labour needed to be 'not only talking the talk, but walking the walk too.'

While I have no principle opposition to Sadiq's argument; the truth is that unlike the professional political class, the rest of the public does not concern themselves with the brand of power politics that Khan and many in the Labour party have been espousing. The ordinary voter that does not attach themselves to a particular political ideology or party is not enthused by the mere notion of a labour politician in power. Rather, they concern themselves with ideas, a vision for the future and the values that drive political work.

Before you can start walking the walk, we need to know where we are walking and why.

This is something that the Labour moderates (a phrase I will use for lack of a better word) used to understand. Before their fetishisation of power politics, the moderates used to have real issues to talk about. The first ever national minimum wage, introduction of sure start and the cutting of NHS waiting times were all topics that were passionately discussed in the public discourse. They were ideas that were presented to the British people and we saw a decade of Labour governments.

But where the moderates have failed, Jeremy Corbyn and the left of the Labour party have succeeded.

In his initial leadership campaign and following what may go down in history as the worst coup in political history, Jeremy presented the party membership with a vision for the future. A vision of investment, an alternative course of anti austerity ideas and a party bound and driven by values. Whether one agrees with these ideas or not, it is difficult to deny these policies dominated his second leadership contest with Owen Smith, with the key difference being this notion of power and electability peddled by Owen and the Parliamentary Party. The results were damning, an increased majority for Jeremy and back to backbench's for Owen.

It should serve as no surprise that people stuck in a social housing crisis, witnessing the dismantlement of the NHS and experiencing a new wave of racism aren't concerning themselves with power politics. A generation disenfranchised with the political system aren't going to rush to the polling station to win power for powers sake. Rants about electability, regardless of who they have come from, will not drive voters to the ballot box. Ideas will. Policies will. A vision will.

Of course it is also entirely possible that the trivialisation of our political system has reached the point of no return. That it has all become nothing more than a sport where politicians are players and we paint our faces red or blue. We root for our team regardless and winning is all that matters.

Or maybe, just maybe, our politics is more than that? Maybe people can recognise the difference between values and gamesmanship. It is clear to me that the reason the Labour moderates are failing to not only connect with the people of the country, but people in our own party, is they have abandoned the very principles for power.

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