Bit of an eventful few months so I’m really sorry for the lack of blogging. Fingers crossed I’m back now. Got loads of stuff to cover, don’t you worry your pretty heads.
I went to the Liberal Conspiracy conference today on “Where does the Left go from here” and whilst I found it illuminating, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm for serious engaging with the public. Yes, we all blog, and we’re all members of the public, but we also know each other’s internet presence, and have political in-jokes, abbreviations, and preconceptions about the nature of those we might disagree with.
We were divided up into tables of about 10-15 people, covering a range of topics, and asking round my table why the Daily Mail is the most popular newspaper in the UK, no one could provide me with a suitable answer. Is it because it’s cheap? Does it really reinforce the opinions of the majority of the UK? Is it because it’s written to accomodate those with a reading age of less than perhaps the Telegraph or Guardian?
At Westminster Skeptics, there are people from many different backgrounds and, shock shock horror, right wing Tories. Some of them are really nice if I’m honest, you’d never know what lurks beneath the surface. Rather than campaign on party-led issues, they come out to support issues that affect everyone, the most recent being the Libel Reform campaign for Sense About Science, and the Science and Technology Committees Evidence Check, regarding evidence based medicine.
There’s been a fair amount of political naysaying from the left recently. We’ve had people denounce the Lib Dems for joining the Tories, the Blairites and Brownites for pushing otherwise Labour voters away from Labour, the mainstream media for giving the Tories an easy ride, but not many people on the left have been calling for Labour to take stock of its mistakes and failings over the last 13 years in order to repair the relationship they have with voters.
What do the left want to achieve? I don’t want people to agree with me because I’m better at arguing, I want people to agree with me because they’ve looked at how policy has affected their lives versus those who make the decisions and can see for themselves what I’m saying. The right wing media make it easy for people to agree with them: Newspaper columns have a fairly straightforward agenda and the content appeals to us on a personal level. Stories about foxes attacking sleeping babies is a good example of this. It doesn’t matter that this sort of event is excruciatingly rare (and dependent on several factors, like the kids being left unattended with the back door open??), it frames a potential discussion about foxes being a nuisance, so perhaps we should reconsider the hunting ban. Cynical, yes, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if we start seeing pro-hunting articles in the news over the next few months.
Why don’t we do this on the left? Where are our anecdotes and our interviews with low-income families struggling to pay the mortgage now that the new budget has been announced? Where’s our gossip stories about the lifestyles of the fatcat bankers, profiting from the bailout WE GAVE THEM. Anyone would think the banking crisis was ancient history, the way people have forgotten their recklessness.
Why are people so happy to swallow the idea that we need public sector cuts to get us through a recession? By all means cut Trident, ID cards, the Royal budget (pffft! as if), but getting rid of teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen to fill the gaps the bankers made? Come off it. You’re reading this leftie luvvie blog, so perhaps you know it, they almost certainly know it. Why isn’t this widely known apart from the odd Guardian or Independent article.
We have some excellent writers highlighting these issues on a daily basis, but we’re reaching out to those who already agree with us, much like my own blog really. My big grand suggestion is to cast our nets much wider, and actively recruit those we have tried to distance ourselves from. Sometimes, engaging with the public means engaging with those we think lesser of. I reckon that not only will we be surprised by the outcome, but we may just reach an all-round better conclusion in UK policy for a range of issues.