Monday, August 04, 2008

Not The Work Of Homer

I seem to have spent an awful lot of time today thinking about this whole question of narratives; the belated spring clean I'm undertaking is probably to blame for this, as are James Graham and Ros Scott. Either way, I doubt you'll be surprised to learn that I haven't found many answers under the piles of paper.

As much as anything this is due to not really knowing what is required. I know that Neil Stockley and the other narrative advocates are right, I do. But agreeing with it gives me absolutely no insight into what it would be. Not that this should surprise me particularly; I am after all a policy wonk of many years standing and that in itself appears to be part of the problem.

Either way, we should resist any effort to use policy to drive any change in the narrative (which, let's face it, is what we're expecting to happen with tuition fees). We undoubtedly need to get better at communicating it, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we do have better policies than the other parties.

There is, however, one thing that does occur to me as a necessary ingredient for the mythic narrative.


I may be a policy wonk, but the policies I care about make me angry. Council tax makes me angry. The benefit trap makes me angry. The state of the railways makes me angry. And after eighteen years of Tory neglect and a decade of New Labour bungling, many millions of Britons are angry too.

Not that any of this means that we need Nick Clegg smashing up the Question Time set or taking Scunner Broon outside for a kicking (although I am minded of Leo's line in the West Wing about blowing the Sultan's brains out in Times Square then crossing the street to Nathan's and buying a hot dog...)

What it does mean, however, is being willing to say not merely that we disagree with policy x or policy y, we disagree with what you stand for, in its entirety and to do so with absolute forthrightness. It doesn't even have to be about the words; Ming's conference speech last year could have done it with the right intonation. What's more, anger is a narrative the Conservatives can't steal. David Cameron is not going to summon rage from the depths of Notting Hill, and reaching for it and getting no further than Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells will just look silly.

Of course I'm almost certainly wrong about all of this. But can we at least agree that we need to sort the narrative out and start doing it?


Francesca Montemaggi said...

I don't think anger makes for a good narrative. Hope does, hence Obama. I think we should focus on values rather than policies, which are the detailed plan for management. From my perspective, politicians are partly forced by the media in this game of soundbytes and image rather than substance. However they also seem afraid of values and morality. They seem unable to grasp the fact that you can talk about a progressive morality.

Auberius said...

I don't think anger is the narrative, but it's a component; we should be clear that we don't merely think things are a bit sub-optimal and could be arranged slightly better (which is about as far as Cameron could get without looking ridiculous). You're entirely right about values and morality though.