As I write the final count is being tallied on Jim McMahon’s substantial win in Oldham West, a majority of some 10,000 votes. This victory flies in the face of what most of the press deemed a close fight, with the by-election being framed as a referendum on Corbyn himself. Tonight’s success in Oldham West and Royton will scare the heebee jeebee’s out of the UK’s right wing.
Jeremy Corbyn’s proclivity for ‘asking the audience’ is the start of something revolutionary in our political system.
Elements of the traditional media once again proved out of touch, sensationalist and incapable of being relied on for objective reporting when it comes to JC. The print press (left and right) is barking as it’s influence wains, whilst online ferments a melting pot of grassroots conversation, ideas, feedback and opinion.
A week back I was consulted via email on whether our nation should go to war. I felt privileged to have my opinion canvassed. I moved from being witness to a decision, to being a part of the decision making process. My opinion it transpired was ignored by sixty-six MP’s. Never the less. Jeremy Corbyn’s proclivity for ‘asking the audience’ is the start of something revolutionary in our political system.
When Ed Milliband led the Labour party to a different decision two years ago I was proud the PLP made the right call. Yet somehow I felt oddly dislocated from the process, a witness rather than a participant. This new method of online involvement from Jeremy is very deliberate, it’s ground breaking, it levies more responsibility on the party member, and is yet to be recognised as the significant step forward it is.
A lot of people will be down hearted after the government’s successful mission to begin bombing a fourth Muslim country in thirteen years goes ahead. Bear in mind this is the second time Cameron has asked parliament to go to war, (and assist with BAE share prices whose value has increased 14% since the Paris attack) he would no doubt visit parliament whenever opportunity arose until he got the results required.
You can’t bomb for peace. You can’t verbally abuse for it either.
If by some miracle we had restrained ourselves from ‘doing our bit’, we would have been turning back the clock on over one hundred years of violent interventionism. It was close, as Cameron’s ‘terrorist sympathiser’ comment reveals. But in order to make this change possible something new is required.
Historically governments are afraid of asking for public opinion. Referendums in the UK have been generally limited to questions surrounding devolution and/or the statehood of the entities that make up the British Isles. We the great unwashed are unpredictable and egalitarian and as such would never be granted a referendum on something as important as Trident.
The unruly masses often move with an instinctive impulse, as has been demonstrated by the vitriol unleashed on Labour parliamentarians voting with the government on Wednesday evening, something akin to online trolling. Surely anyone engaging in such harassment can see how much it undermines Jeremy’s leadership and goes against his core values. You can’t bomb for peace. You can’t verbally abuse for it either.
Despite that set back the Labour Party under Corbyn is having an instant effect on national politics, but it will take more than the informal lobbying of the last few days to roll back the bloodthirsty tide of our history. Corbyn’s polling of party members was a smart move, but the utilising of this mandate was unconvincing and clumsy, growing pains I believe.
The current form this email dialogue takes appears somewhat ad hoc and rudimentary. Extracting concrete data from an open form text window allows for not much more than a yes and a no pile, perhaps the copy / pasting of some highlights. But utilising Labour members as a vast think tank come opinion poll is a genius and bold move, and once taken to its logical conclusion, it could be a quantum leap for the democratic process.
As this medium develops I hope the number of members responding increases. The notion that 500,000 party members could be directly consulted on important matters as they occur is exciting and furthermore a very literal manifestation of the impact the Internet is and will have on policy formation and future governance.
In the light of a clear mandate from party membership MP’s would find it difficult to stray from their responsibilities to constituents. It will be harder in future for newspaper owners to marginalise new political thought and manage the direction of the political mainstream. It will be harder to ignore ideas that do not fit the status quo if they can be backed up by quantitative data.
Once Labour has polished up this system, perhaps giving us some multiple policy choice, perhaps pre empting political hot potatoes, perhaps feeding back breakdowns on the data, other parties may well start sitting up and taking note. However a shell party like the Tories may struggle to find an audience from which to create data and midterm mandates, or find their membership want a lot more Millibandism than the parliamentary wing cares for.
‘The national conversation’ traditionally dominated by the print press, more recently exposed to the impulsive tide of twitter, is now growing up and becoming measurable, harnessable and producing results that can be implemented. This is something Labour should make a part of any future manifesto. It’s a paradigm for party structure that could be implemented in left wing groups around the world. It could lead to the formation of global and implementable left wing consensus.
The development of this medium may become Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest contribution to politics, enabled by Ed Milliband’s extension of party democracy. Two gentle politicians, who quietly opened Pandora’s box and enabled the public to contribute more fully to the democratic system than ever before.