Monday 5 February 2018

A British En Marche?

With the Tories in chaos, Labour split down the middle and the Lib Dems floundering on 6%, it’s hardly surprising that folk should grasp at the recent elections in France for inspiration and dream of launching an army of the political innocents to rescue Britain from the mire we’re stuck in. But Emanuel Macron’s En Marche! was not a latter-day children’s crusade; the Tories show no signs of being about to split over Europe; and a final debacle in the Labour Party, if it happens, certainly won’t come before the next election – which in all probability is a good four years away. Alas, the record so far of political movements based on the idea that the solution to all ills is to bring in completely fresh people from outside politics has not been encouraging: UKIP, the clowns party in Italy and alt right movements in Eastern Europe to name but a few. The same is true of individuals co-opted into ministries from the world of business – generally, lots of promise but not much delivered and all too often recriminations and a rapid exit. Democracy benefits from experience and needs specific skills which can only really be learnt on the job with the help of those who’ve gone before.

The latest arrivals on social media seem to have lots of money and plenty of good looking, ambitious, fresh faced enthusiasts to fill their ads, but the truth is, that’s not what won office for Macron. First of all, he had a track record as a very senior minister in government; second, he was incredibly lucky with the left splintered and discredited and the right (which would otherwise have walked it) torpedoed by their own candidate, who was mired in a ridiculous scandal and refused to stand down; third, he could on call experienced delegates and mayors (mostly people from the Socialist Party, who didn’t relish spending the next decade in the wilderness and could slip across without being seen to surrender to the old enemy); and fourth, he was operating in the framework of a completely different electoral system.

What’s most disappointing about the new parties that are jostling in the centre is that, without any clear political philosophy, they don’t add anything to the electoral landscape in terms of real choice: in the middle, against Brexit, a bit more equality without much explanation of how it’s to be achieved. If that’s all you’re looking for, why not just join the Lib Dems, who do at least have an organisation, members and experience.