Monday, May 26, 2014

The 'p' in politics

Tony Benn used to say, with regularity, that what mattered in politics was not personalities but policies, even as he was a living witness to the flawed nature of that claim, winning an ear for his own policies through his own personal projection of them.

One lesson to be taken away from the depressing election results in the United Kingdom where the UK Independence Party topped the national poll was that personalities do matter.

UKIP is a party that is policy lite (I am being kind) but in Nigel Farage has a personality that captures and channels a significant degree of disaffection with the political mainstream and projects himself (however artfully) as an ordinary bloke. None of the leaders of the other main parties manage this feat - except one, who also had a reasonably good night, even though he is in government, namely Alec Salmond, Scotland's first minister.

Meanwhile, both of them, as well as conveying a sense of 'realness' offer 'simple' solutions to discontent - a nationalism of the past and a nationalism of the future - a 'safe haven' in a radically complex and unnervingly uncertain world. They offer a sense that we might reconnect as a 'people'
- even as the nature of that reconnection is very different in both cases.

So before we all pour our 'liberal' consensus vitriol at UKIP, we might like to ponder their proffered politics of connection - to a leader and to a circumscribed haven in a felt storm - and think out how we might offer likewise, though in a radically different key.

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