Monday, July 12, 2010

Memo to leadership candidates: please stop talking to us

I am fed up with hearing the Labour leadership candidates explaining to the party what we should do over the coming years to win over sceptical voters. Don’t tell us, show us. Stop trying to win a leadership election and start acting as though you’ve already won it.

Make speeches aimed at the wider electorate. Craft your arguments and language for an audience that’s not terribly partisan and only intermittently interested in politics.

To win a general election, you need to be able to do this. So start showing us that you can.

Yes, intellectual depth and strategic analysis are important – David Miliband’s latest effort I liked, but then I’m a political anorak and a philosophy graduate. Or, in other words, a weirdo. Most people will be left utterly cold by phrases like “a compelling articulation of aspiration and hope”, which is of course not a compelling articulation of anything. And that’s a very mild example.

But while I agree with Hopi that someone needs to “stop Mr Miliband stringing abstract nouns together and calling it an argument”, I wouldn’t join him in calling this sort of thing “Cameronian”. Whatever his faults, the PM does know how to use language in a way that ordinary people can nod along to.

The Milibands aren’t as bad as Jon Cruddas, who can hardly open his mouth without the names of half a dozen long-dead political philosophers dropping out, but they’re close.

We know you’re clever. Now show us that you can engage with people.

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