The tensions between pluralism and tribalism….

Caroline Lucas on the Labour leadership election

Whilst I am much in accord with Caroline Lucas’s article and position regarding the Labour leader contenders and their need to become more pluralistic, there is still a possible contradiction relating to the desire to break away from tribalism and move towards pluralism, which needs to be considered for pluralism to succeed.

Before considering this contradiction further, Lucas’s summary of the Labour leadership is perfect:

The Labour leadership contest has hardly set politics alight. “Boring” and “predictable” are two of the kinder terms levelled against it. How has the task of filling one of the most important jobs in politics – of potentially selecting the country’s next prime minister – come to this?…

The leadership campaign thus reflects all that is worst in our politics: blandness, a lack of honesty, and a choice between slight variations on the same product, namely weak social democracy overshadowed by subservience to the market and international commercial interests. It is not a formula to restore faith in politics, help realign the left, or build a foundation for an assault on the coalition, let alone choose a future PM.

You couldn’t say it any better.

But what about pluralism?

Lucas is right to prioritise several aspects, which would help make up a so-called “dream candidate”. This candidate would understand that we no longer need Trident, and that the environment and climate change are pressing important issues. They would understand that inequality has only risen under New Labour’s tenure, and is set to increase once again due to the economic illogicality of the current government. They would understand that the economic system is fundamentally linked to the environment, and that the desire to keep producing beyond our means is a key problem for both the environment and the economy, as it feeds into the lack of sustainability but also the endless boom and busts. Furthermore, the candidate needs to have a desire for political and electoral reform, and has to have a real commitment to diversity. Central to all this is the need for pluralism.

I agree that pluralism is key to future progressive battles – this is clearly shown by the Coalition of Resistance (yes, I have mentioned the coalition again!). But, if you consider Lucas’s “dream candidate” – this isn’t what many people in Labour actually want, nor believe. Consider the sustainable argument, there are many within the Greens who want a zero growth economy due to sustainable matters, and also fairness. Furthermore, there are many in Labour who oppose the AV referendum, not on the basis that it is tied to unfair boundary reforms or that it doesn’t offer PR voting alternatives, but more on the basis that they don’t actually agree with voting reform.

So whilst pluralism is ideal, there comes however, a problem, a problem that I myself have been trying to grasp with in recent times. This is because I look at the Labour leadership, and much like Caroline Lucas, I think man is that it. It’s very disappointing and frustrating, and then us Greens and some within Labour start to construct the alternative candidate. We construct what we want to be ideally happening. As Lucas did in her article, we construct our own ‘ideal’ candidate for Labour – and this is based very much on our own tribalism ideological view of what constructs the most progressive way forward.

It can be detrimental to the need for us to also embrace positive progressions from the current candidates, especially more left leaning ones such as Ed Miliband – as they aren’t seen as progressive enough to us. Our frustrations with their inability to really break out and construct a much more appealing and progressive platform results in us casting the contest as a losing situation. We fail to see the positives and this is where the problem for pluralistic politics occurs.

Thus, whilst I am very much for progressive pluralistic cooperation – as this will be key to future fights against the cuts that are yet to bite as much as they will in the near future. We also have to be aware that with pluralism, there will always be almost a sense of well I want to cooperate but…. I guess this is what Lucas means when she says:

I have discussed the need for a more progressive, pluralist politics, based not on Blair’s suffocating “big tent”, but on a campsite of different parties and movements, sharing common values but maintaining their own identities.

So I guess we just have to remember this tension when furthering progressive alliances. Maybe we can move on from seeing it as a contradiction but more an adaptation and consideration. As there are many causes that the left do share, and even if we do have different aspects, when it comes to alliances to fight for a living wage, or to combat the cuts – well pluralism will become more and more important.

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5 thoughts on “The tensions between pluralism and tribalism….

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