Politics are about hope. Or, at least, the best politics are about hope. Politics can represent a way to find freedom from tyranny, or simply highlight a future with a higher disposable income and more security. Entire campaigns can be run on hope and little else (President Obama’s, for example).
Politics should be about inviting the electorate to see your particular vision of tomorrow, and asking them to help you get there.
And that’s why I’m enjoying the Labour Party conference so much. I always felt this would be the main event and I haven’t been disappointed. Admittedly, they haven’t really outlined a vision of how a fourth term Labour government would look. But maybe they have provided hope to their supporters.
It was meant to be a wake. A last gathering of the party faithful to rally them for the coming massacre. But is it, instead, providing a glimmer of hope?
Andrew Marr’s popping of the anti-depressant question may have been the turning point. Instead of questions about the PM’s competence there was a mood swing; such questions are, rightly, inappropriate and instead of leading to further questions of the PM, it resulted in investigation of the rumour’s source and questions about the journalistic merit of the interview.
And while there have been some depressing polls for the government (even seeing them in third place), there have been some far more heartening polls undertaken more recently. YouGov’s daily tracking has already given them a 5% conference bounce. Another poll (and I apologise for the News of The World link) suggests that half the population can still envisage a Labour win.
Given that the electoral system has a significant built in advantage for the Labour party (a Conservative victory would break a number of records) maybe the faithful in Brighton needn’t be so glum.
Brighton has seen a few good performances by Mandelson and Darling, and if Brown can follow it up later today then the election starts getting interesting.
Of course, the next election has never been taken for granted by the Conservatives – either locally or nationally – but it was clear that Labour activists were not enthused. So while in Tooting Labour’s Sadiq Khan is clearly fighting hard to hold what has become a marginal seat, in neighbouring Putney you get the feeling Stuart King’s game plan is for the Tooting nomination in 2014.
The biggest danger any party faces is when its most loyal supporters give up hope. It’s the equivalent of turning off life support. It happened to the Tories in ’97; activists suddenly found themselves otherwise engaged, supporters just didn’t have the time to vote.
Until now exactly the same was happening to the Labour party, but maybe there’s life in the old dog yet: and where there’s life, there’s hope.
AND AFTER BROWN’S SPEECH… The problem with expressing opinions that are, basically, dependent on a future event, is that if said event let’s you down you are screwed.
Having watched the big speech I just don’t think Brown rose to the pressure. A lot of recycled policies, but no passion or even much of a sense of purpose beyond not letting the Tories in. If I were a Labour activist, I don’t think I’d be describing myself as enthused. What do you think?