We TIGgers are a sunny bunch. Our MPs can be seen eating together, laughing together, snapping group selfies. Best Buds 4eva! They turn their shining countenances on the warring tribes of Westminster and declare ‘Not for us your internecine scraps. We reject your factional ways and recognise your compositing as compost. Your left and right wings may be in a flap but we prefer ours with lemon and herb.’
Whilst other, less temperate parties rage and spit and invoke by-election as a curse upon our tiny corner of the House, our happy band carries on. The tune is mild and sweet. It is full of harmony and counterpoint while all around blast Death Metal turned up to 11.
As TIG activists, we have gravitated towards this new project, in part, because it has a quality we missed in politics- collegiality, consensus, compromise- in the surrounding stormy seas (C what I did there?).
However, an essential element in political parties is passion. Parties want change. Parties desire the betterment of the country. We long for a reason to go out on rainy days to knock on doors and hand out leaflets. We relish debates with doubters who might come around to our cause. We organise, we rally, we advocate.
And we risk being political blancmange.
We need some anger. Maybe not the spittle-flecked variety of the Tankie/Wanky/Milli left with its raised fist. Not the fortress-Britain-weekend warrior type either. It’s one thing to quote Shakespeare and Tennyson but quite another to understand them. Maybe we’re in need of a new political pique.
Which ever side we came from, we’re all pretty sure about what straw broke the camel’s back for us. To mix a religious metaphor, as a Jewish turkey, I wasn’t going to vote for Christmas with Corbyn. Equally, given that we don’t know how many shopping days we have before our goose is cooked (or turkey, or nut roast or whatever you eat), the sound of the escape hatch to our nearest neighbours slamming shut fills me with dread. Corbyn to the left of me, Brexit to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with TIG.
How long can we go on being so irritatingly nice? We’re really good at saying what we’re for (absent any actual policies), but, we need to get a lot louder about what we’re against if we hope to rally the electorate to put a cross in our box. Our pleasantness will prove an own goal (see what I did there?) if we don’t whip up a bit of righteous indignation.
The British electorate, save party activists, doesn’t usually vote out of a sense of optimism or conviction. We vote to boot the bastards out. We vote to give someone a good kicking. The Remain campaign completely missed that our political choices are often a reflection of dissatisfaction and malcontentedness rather than a series of thought-through policy judgements. Our first past the post system creates governments that outstay their welcome, become sclorotic, corrupt and unresponsive. And then we vote for the other guys. So, it’s Brexit or Lexit, racism or racism.
We need a new and improved brand of anger, an anger all our own; principled, determined, moral. We need to outsell the other guys in the marketplace of ideas. Brexit is theft from future generations, public services must be improved for the benefit of all and policy better be based on hard numbers and evidence. We need to call out the other guys when they lie about polls and when they obfuscate about protecting bigots. When they offer up their identikit surrogates to the media, we need to challenge them and not let their doggerel slide. Ignorance doesn’t sound better delivered loudly and quickly by the same faces on every channel. If the electorate is to trust us, we need to hit back.
We keep saying #politicsisbroken. It is past time to say ‘We will fix it NOW’. We should be past delivering the message with a sigh of resignation. We have got to stop apologising for leaving the parties that caused havoc on our nation. We don’t need to fear frightening voters who are already trapped between platoons in battle dress. We’re so consumed with being likeable that we’ve forgotten that this is a fight and voters want someone scrapping on their side.
It’s time to get out there and let rip. It’s time for a new and improved political anger.
Rebecca Strom Trenner is a writer in the moments when she stops screaming into a pillow in a darkened room.
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