The leadership contest offers Corbyn a chance to refresh his message
A while ago I wrote this article, the message of which I would summarise as ‘no to a new leader, yes to a new narrative’.
It was an attempt at constructive criticism, but it could have been a little more, well, constructive. A couple of commenters said they’d like to see less negativity, and more of a positive manifesto for change – so here it is.
For me, Corbyn’s only option is to have his party rally around a common vision. Give them all hope. Show them the light at the end of the tunnel.
I know many people who would claim that it’s not the job of any individual to lead anyone anywhere; but psychological studies of us deeply flawed human beings would suggest that they we need leaders to help us make sense of the world, to inspire us and to unite us under a common cause.
And this isn’t a bad thing – several studies have shown that authentic leaders, of which Corbyn is one, positively affect the ‘moral courage’ of followers. In other words, authentic leaders are those who give us the courage to fight for what we believe in.
This is what I would like to see from Corbyn if he is re-elected:
Give us a succinct, compelling mission statement – a vision of where we’re headed, what we’re fighting for. ‘Straight talking. Honest politics’ isn’t enough. I honestly don’t really care that much about politics – in fact, I, like most people, would like very much for the country to work so well that I never had to get involved with it at all.
I want to know what the country that I love will look like with Corbyn as its leader. And I want to know what this will mean for me, for my (not yet existent) children. Jeremy has enough intelligent and inspiring people around him to help him put his vision for this country into words – and I would very much like to know what it is.
From all the new insights we have about the way people process information – developments in cognitive psychology, behavioural economics and decision science – we now know that you cannot not influence the way people make decisions when you’re talking to them.
Every second people are processing thousands of tiny cues from your voice, body language, word use, and filtering that through the concept they have of ‘you’ with no small amount of confirmation bias. You’re either shaping the message they receive well, or you’re doing it badly.
I’d like to see it done better.
3. A decisive rejection of austerity
David Cameron understood messaging – he said ‘you have to pay off your debts’ over and over again until it became axiomatic for most people. The message was so powerful because it rested on an unspoken moral law and a metaphor; a metaphor that equated the finances of the UK to those of individual households.
Let’s leverage that to craft a different message. If we are as impoverished a household as the previous Government claimed we are, then their solution would be the equivalent of refusing to feed and water ourselves and our children in order to pay down our debts.
Investment is the only way out of this trap – borrow a bit more, put your children through school and take a night class – you’ll all earn more in the long run and, an added plus, you won’t starve to death.
Invest in the long run economic potential of our economy by investing in its people – demand will increase now, and our future growth rates will be exponentially higher.
4. A ten point economic plan
This one is even easier. Corbyn doesn’t have to do anything. He literally has a dozen of the best economists in this country rallied behind him.
They would be more than happy to put together a post-Keynesian growth strategy for Corbyn; it would centre around an intelligent public investment programme focused on Quaternary industry and the skilled labour force needed to support it, means-based fiscal devolution to rebalance growth geographically, the digital economy and digital government to enhance productivity, and a progressive, targeted welfare strategy to help those left behind. All he has to do is ask.
5. A ten point plan for restoring trust in public institutions
The Edelman Trust Barometer, which came out months before Brexit, confirmed what most of us already knew – trust in all institutions across society, from business, to politics, to law, to the voluntary sector, is the lowest it has been since we started measuring it.
We all have a role to play in restoring trust in these institutions by behaving ethically ourselves.
But Corbyn can put together a plan to get the ball rolling – outlawing lying by senior public officials, making company executives personally and criminally liable for damage they do to the country or the economy, exposing those who defraud the public, regardless of the institution they occupy, and holding them to account.
Neoliberalism is dying, there is no doubt about that – but the question we have to ask ourselves is what we will replace it with.
There is no going backwards, our economy, society and politics have all changed radically since the 1970s. We can only move forward, into the unknown. And that requires some creative thinking from us all, but especially from our political leaders.
There are no easy answers, but at least let’s start asking some provocative questions.
Grace Blakely recently graduated from a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. She now works in Greater Manchester on the city-region’s devolution programme
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