Thanks to the good offices of Liberal Conspiracy and Labour List (not to mention the Fabian Society and Unite), a fascinating fringe meeting occurred today at Liverpool Town Hall on the subject “Should Blue Labour take over from New Labour?” and I went along to hear the panel and the subsequent debate.
What was interesting from the start was hearing the kind of ideas that had come from those associated with the “Blue Labour” tag with the prism of media reinterpretation removed: thus far, there has been little general coverage, and too much of it has splashed on Maurice Glasman’s supposed comments on immigration.
And what had not been splashed was much of the message: straightforward ideas like less managerialism, more community engagement, and more mutualism – although, as was pointed out by one Liberal Conspiracy regular, that last needs to be in a form where people become properly consulted and involved.
So far, so interesting, but I have two immediate concerns. First is to make sure that any new ideas regarding a less managerial and more community oriented approach are differentiated – and in the public mind – from Young Dave’s “big society” and the localism agenda which the Tories claim to be pushing.
But my greatest concern is how any new approach is put before the electorate. It’s clear from the Glasman immigration hooha that even the least hostile media outlets can amplify events in a distinctly unhelpful way. How does any party of the centre and/or left cut through the mire of media misinformation?
This is particularly relevant when Rowenna Davis – author of Tangled Up In Blue, which looks at the ideas behind “Blue Labour” – put directly the thought that many potential voters look at today’s crop of politicians and conclude that they do not understand the concerns of ordinary people.
Part of this may be down to those politicians, but an equal or maybe larger part is due to the impression that voter gets through his or her consumption of print, broadcast and internet media. Changing ideas within a party may appear to be a mountain to climb: changing the media will be the same over again.
Anyone believing otherwise need only look at where the media world is right now: the broadcast part increasingly battered by a dysfunctional press more ready to devote resources to invention and agenda satisfaction rather than factual journalism, and that when the latter is not chasing slebs and their hangers-on.
Mountain to climb, indeed.