Labour List had an interesting post yesterday from the always attuned Mark Ferguson. In it, he suggested there was serious evidence the Lib Dems would be splitting after the 2015 general election. I hardly think this is surprising. Society, after all, began to splinter quite a while ago.
And I don’t mean this is a negative way: this is not broken-backed Britain we’re dealing with but a simple recognition that the united society of yore was actually, probably, in reality, a bit of a lie anyway. The media have always loved to create perceptions which hardly correspond to ordinary people’s lives. Journalists have deadlines to meet – and a startling angle, however inaccurate it may be, makes their jobs, editors’ jobs and newsagents’ jobs so much easier to do.
On the occasion of the recent Netroots North West event, I came to the following conclusion:
[...] Coordinating the actions of thinking people never predisposed to singular mindspeaks was never going to be an easy objective to achieve. We are on the left precisely because we often disagree with each other. So are we prepared, after two years of Coalition ideology, to take our principles in our hands once more and entirely trust a political party? Or is the way forward some other different (and splintered) approach far more suited to the instincts of the 21st century?
I don’t know.
But I am inclined – if you ask me to bet on the future – that the answer for the progressive left will lie one day far more in the latter than it ever could any longer lie in the former.
So what should we do in the face of Lib Dem initiatives such as these? Is it our responsibility to circle like vultures, looking to take advantage of easy pickings? I think quite roundly not. The rumblings in the Lib Dems could quite easily be interpreted as being entirely due to the strains of Coalition government. But it would be simplistic to come to such conclusions. Society, far more widely, for far longer, has become far more discrete and disintegrated than ever before in recent British sociocultural history.
From the strains on the Union and those calls for Scottish independence to the very fact that the Tories were quite unable to win the last general election, the vultures – if we must see them that way – which are gathering round the British body politic should not be traditional political parties looking to carve up the pie that is the British electorate. The success of single-issue campaigning – from organisations like Avaaz.org and 38 Degrees to the recent social media-engendered movements against the Welfare, NHS and Legal Aid bills currently going through Parliament – just goes to show that getting people involved isn’t, in the future, going to be simply the old trick of putting them all in the same leaflet-delivering sack. The old political parties will still be needed – but just like the content industries struggling to understand the Internet, they will have to change their business models, downsize their reach and learn how to work with hundreds of different interests.
Interests, incidentally, they will not be able to control in the managerialist ways they have been used to.
If the Lib Dems do split, then, it will be a sign all the other parties should take note of. To interpret it as a weakness of Lib Dem structure would be to sadly – as well as dangerously – mistake the effect for a cause. All parties, however well led, will soon have to face the (for them) sickening reality that there are far more ways of getting involved in politics and democracy these days than either joining or even simply supporting one of the existing political groupings.
McMenu comes to politics? Don’t knock it. At least, not before you properly understand its implications.
Choice is a powerful harbinger of change. And change, from now on, is what it’s all going to be about.