This post was meant to go out at 9.30 last night. Thanks to Orange, it didn’t.
Call this whimsical if you like, but I’m coming round to thinking that ideas – like most other things in the Universe – have a lifespan.
What happens is this: they start off as ideas, and then become sort of political – at which point they are presented to the public as ideals common to a loose Party of thinkers. But then time passes, and socio-technological change renders them pointless, or experience proves them wrong – at which point they morph into Beliefs that are Fundamental to the Movement.
Given half a chance, they will be given supernatural correctness by the Movement (by now heading towards a religion) and from then on they will gain the status of dogma. If matter can be neither created nor destroyed, then dogma can be neither developed nor ditched. It becomes a security blanket sold by the religion’s high priests; even worse, it becomes the reason to silence and perhaps kill all those who question its tenets.
Christianity, Islam, socialism and then feminism, Thatcherism and even free-market capitalism are all at various stages of the idea-to-dogma life cycle.
But the problem for British politics is that both major Parties (I no longer think of the LibDems as a Party – they’re more of a Wake) consist of an oil-and-water suspension in which tactics and dogma are equally useless.
Poor old Ed Miliband must deal with both Blairite technocrats who believe in nothing, and Harmanites who believe only in women. Camerlot must deal with relics who believe only in the Blessed Margaret, and the new Young Right who have not a clue how to move anything forward save for their careers.
Radical Realism is the only way to break this cycle. Be bold, try it, and measure it. If it doesn’t work, don’t defend it: try another route. Engage people in the process. Demonstrate leadership. And above all, be accountable.