Whilst I have full applause for Caroline Lucas’s Guardian article re pluralism; which for me was a much better assessment of the need for a pluralistic approach – instead of producing endless demanding lists of areas where Labour need to change, a much more constructive approach is required – I do not share the same praise for Nick Clegg’s latest (and frequent) musings regarding pluralism.
The argument “if you don’t support the coalition you are against pluralistic politics”, rather misses the actual point and meaning of pluralism in politics – well when addressed regarding what the LibDems ‘used’ to stand for; now they seem much more like a modified Tory party. Before the election, the LibDems were closer to Labour on many areas, and many of their ‘faithful’ (not to Liberal tradition mind) figureheads would have told you that (and still do). But it was up to a few at the top to do a deal with the Tories.
Regardless, the LibDems compromised in a way that changed the actual doctrine and premise of their support base – that was and is why they have seen such a negative reaction. Nick Clegg reaffirms this as he says that people wouldn’t have supported them joining Labour as it would have been as discredited as they ‘lost’ the election (even though he also contends that no one actually won the election), he tellingly rarely mentions the actual values of Labour (even though they do need to reform, they were a much closer to the former progressive LibDems).
The point is, the pluralism that the Greens and some of Labour talk about would not include the Tories, as it is a progressive pluralistic position. There is no way that the Greens would ever support economic masochism that stands fundamentally against everything we believe in the name of pluralism, and get away with it. Yes, we would have to support the odd policy here and there that we might not agree with – but pluralism isn’t about getting all your own way, but nor is it about changing fundamentally what you stand for in the name of the blurry eyed and social constructed concept of ‘national interest’.
Clegg attempts to utilise the progressive argument of pluralism, whilst he remains in a deal that upholds tribalism in its strictest sense as the parties are often in headlock over so many areas; it prevents pluralism from flourishing. However, there is an aspect of the LibDems that has come through to cement a strong relationship with the Tories – this being steered by the leadership, not the majority of the membership (consider the votes against academies for example, whilst prominent cabinet ministers supported the policy – even those who once slandered the ideas) – but this isn’t an aspect of communal support re grass-roots.
Pluralism is very much a concept of the left, and the progressives. It is now for the progressives amongst us to show Clegg what pluralism is! Hopefully, Ed Miliband will embrace this concept and take up Lucas’s challenge; after all he needs to. There needs to be movements towards cooperative movements and organisations and mutual and cooperative structures to remove the state dominant over-handed structures in society – a revaluation of the state is central to move forward.
There are many challenges for pluralism, and overcoming the slogan orientated approach of Clegg is one of them. He is branding around the concept as though anyone who uses it against the coalition are ignorant to the reality of so-called ‘pluralistic’ politics of the coalition. We need to make sure that pluralism has a positive orientation associated with the progressives amongst us, and that pluralism is not used as an excuse for excessive and ideological cutting instead of being about shared and consensual, whilst principled, decision making.