Posts Tagged ‘pluralism’

Pluralism isn’t a choice for Labour, it’s a necessity

05/12/2012, 05:30:25 PM

by Kevin Meagher

One of the curiosities of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is the way in which the institutions look nothing like Westminster.

Whether it was a Freudian rejection of the hyper-tribalism of the Commons chamber and Westminster’s self-regard, the model for the devolved bodies has ensured a more pluralistic form of politics, with more grown-up politics the result.

That’s something Westminster village dwellers are not used to. Here, politics is still shaped by student union politicking and the public school debating society.

Yet all parties are coalitions of people with a wide range of views who happen to coalesce around broad themes. Is there really much of an issue of principle, therefore, to seek agreement with people outside the tribe if the ends are mutually satisfactory?

Enter Labour for Democracy, launched in Westminster last night and led by MPs Paul Blomfield and John Denham. The group seeks to make the case for inter-party working, particularly on big, expensive, long-term, cross-cutting issues like social care, pensions and climate change. As the website blurb puts it:

“The tough decisions that we will face, and the need to build wide support for radical change, demand a new approach to the way we do politics.’

It adds: ‘The days when over 95% of the electorate voted either Tory or Labour are long gone. Increasing support for smaller parties, switching between parties and differentiation between local and national voting reflect the changed approach of the electorate.”

By 2015 the age of majoritarian government may well indeed be behind us. There is nothing to guarantee Labour will win a general election victory outright (alas) and the party needs to get its collective head around that prospect.


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Labour4Democracy – building the case for pluralism

01/10/2012, 12:30:34 PM

by Paul Blomfield

Sheffield exemplifies how UK politics is changing.  We were the first major English city to elect a Labour council, in 1926. And we stayed in power for 72 years as working class voters instinctively gave us their support. But it began to change in the 1990s, with differentiation between local and national voting.

People who continued to return Labour MPs, began to vote for Liberal Democrats in council elections until, in 1999, they took power.  Later the Greens too began to make inroads and now hold two council seats in a former Labour heartland.  But many of their supporters gave me their vote in 2010 – indeed some displayed both Labour and Green posters, indicating the different way they were voting in national and local elections.

This changing political terrain is reflected across the country.  From the 1970s party attachment and membership has declined, and class identity has changed fundamentally.

Data from the British Election Study (BES) shows that the proportion of electors identifying very strongly with a party fell from 16% to 10% in the few years between 1997 and 2005.  And those identifying as either Labour or Conservative dropped further – from 76% to 63%.  A recent YouGov poll, from June 2012, found that 34% of people voting Labour in 2010 described themselves as not very strong supporters, while the same applied to 60% of those who voted Lib Dem and 34% of Tory voters.

At the same time, issues that don’t fit the traditional left/right spectrum, like Europe and immigration, are playing a more central role in our politics.

But this de-alignment and increased support for smaller parties sits alongside a clear consensus, reflected across supporters of different parties, for the sort of radical change which will be at the heart of Labour’s future programme.  So the changing terrain may threaten the way we’ve done politics over the last 60 years, but it provides real opportunities for a Labour Party looking for radical change.

In response to this challenge, a number of us from across the party have set up “Labour4Democracy”, to promote a more pluralist approach to the way we do politics.


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