We need a New Turn from tribal politics

Politicians want young people to engage in business-as-usual party politics. But young people are not voting and are turned off the old approach to tribal politics.

Politicians want young people to engage in business-as-usual party politics but our generation is switching off this old approach to empowerment.

At the launch of New Turn, a new young person’s think-tank, Emily Thornberry MP said:

“All of you should be involved in a political party … make your choice, think about it very carefully and don’t ever move from that political party.”

This mindset is blind to the problems within the party political system that have helped to foster a culture of disillusionment among today’s young generation, and shows a lack of understanding that tribal politics is slowly becoming outdated. With the rise of interest group politics, swing voters are in the ascendancy.

In 1997, 67 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted. In 2001 and then 2005 this figure had dropped to 38 per cent and then 37 per cent. Thornberry may not have realised that the views she espouses are reminiscent of a party political system the population cannot trust, but recent studies indicate only 13 per cent of the British public trust MPs.

Tribal politics has become jaded as the ideological gaps between the three main parties have closed. Though this may not necessarily be a bad thing, parliamentarians must recognise that it makes it harder for party allegiances to be as definitive as they once were. In reaction to this we will need more organisations that are defined by their ability to neutrally question rather than their ability to mould their solutions to a political line. The young people who fail to identify with party politics in the manner that people used to, cannot be lost from the system of political engagement. Organisations such as New Turn and 38 Degrees are necessary to empower young people while parliamentary politics finds its way again.

At New Turn we realise the importance of party politics but, in order to be truly successful in encouraging the types of discussion that promote ideas on their merit rather than on their origin, recognise that we must transcend tribalism by being independent . Things need to change in politics, and they wont change merely because we believe they will, they will change the day we are willing to support ideology with action.

Our guest writer is Babs Williams, Vice Chairman of New Turn

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16 Responses to “We need a New Turn from tribal politics”

  1. Andrew Regan

    @leftfootfwd "We need a New Turn from triba…": Politicians want young people to engage in business-as-usua… http://bit.ly/a8K4b6 #labour

  2. Adam Bell

    @BridgetFox Emily Thornberry condemned on LFF '[Her]mindset is blind to the problems within the political system' http://tinyurl.com/ykgsc4w

  3. Kurt

    We need a New Turn from tribal politics | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/d9CGk3

  4. Bridget Fox

    RT @Adam_Grant_Bell: @BridgetFox Emily Thornberry condemned on LFF '[Her]mindset is blind to the problems within the political system' http://tinyurl.com/ykgsc4w

  5. Dean Whitbread

    I think Emily’s point is to stress the value of loyalty; but loyalty to ideals not parties will re-invigorate politics, and all parties need to recognise that if we are to get the systemic change we need.

  6. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adam_Grant_Bell: @BridgetFox Emily Thornberry condemned on LFF ‘[Her]mindset is blind to the problems within the political system’ http://tinyurl.com/ykgsc4w

  7. Alix

    “promote ideas on their merit rather than on their origin”

    The problem you are going to have, as I’m sure you realise, is that it’s rarely the case that one idea will result in a lot of dead kittens, and the opposing idea will result in lots of happy, flourishing kittens. Normally, the outcomes of given ideas are less easy to rank according to “merit”. The abstract notion of “merit” does not exist. People develop an idea of “merit” based on their core values and assumptions. In other words, they develop a basic ideology.

    Often, this ideology can be characterised as mostly liberal, mostly conservative, or mostly socialist. That’s not to say the party system isn’t a very debased format – it clearly it. It’s also not to say that there aren’t infinitely complex gradations within those categories (and I realise I am lumping things in slightly by including “anarchist”, for example, under the extreme end of “liberal”).

    But these concepts have grown up and given rise to major political parties for a reason. Independence is certainly achievable, in the sense that no-one will be paying you and you won’t be subject to a whip, but it is stunningly unlikely that you will be the only people who are able to operate outside the whole spectrum of current ideology.

  8. Babs Williams

    Alix… As I am sure we both know your analysis of my article is one of a “SLIPPERY SLOPE” nature. I have no doubt that you understand the crux of the article, but instead for the sake of point scoring have taken it to its extremes.

    Of course ideology will always play a part in the solutions we dream up, what I am advocating is not something that ignorant of that, but in an article as short as the one above it is difficult to create an argument that also incorporates political psychology.

    “But these concepts have grown up and given rise to major political parties for a reason. Independence is certainly achievable, in the sense that no-one will be paying you and you won’t be subject to a whip, but it is stunningly unlikely that you will be the only people who are able to operate outside the whole spectrum of current ideology.”… Oh not another slippery slope comment?!!! As if New Turn by recognising the failures of our current political system is now attempting to replace it! Secondly, by focusing the article on New Turn and a bit on 38 Degrees, it has become obvious that what I was really trying to say (according to you) was that New Turn “will be the only people who are able to operate outside the whole spectrum of current ideology.” That slope just turned into a cliff and down we all go. I am now reminded of why I do not read The Sun.

    No offense Dean read the quote! There is no need to add any personal interpretation to soften the blow of what was meant. I think the intentions of the quote are pretty clear without me needing to be willfully disingenuous and attempt a slippery slope argument.

  9. Alix

    “Alix… As I am sure we both know your analysis of my article is one of a “SLIPPERY SLOPE” nature. I have no doubt that you understand the crux of the article, but instead for the sake of point scoring have taken it to its extremes.”

    Um. Sorry, but no. I was pointing out what I saw to be a major problem with what you said in the article. Of course, if your position is actually more subtle than that, but there wasn’t room in the article to say so, then good for you. But I am here as a reader, and all I’ve got to work with is the article, right? I read it, I see a problem, I comment. There’s no point you asserting that you “have no doubt that I understand” when, by your own admission, you haven’t had enough room to provide me with all the information.

    Your second paragraph doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but I suspect that’s because I don’t understand how you’re using “slippery slope”. If you can explain, without resorting to sarcasm this time, that would be great, but if you can’t, then don’t bother. To be quite honest, I’m a little surprised and dismayed that your primary response to anyone criticising your set-up is sarcasm and unpleasant implications about point-scoring. I suggest maybe you should rethink this approach.

  10. alixmortimer

    Can someone sanity-read this and the comments for me, and tell me if I'm being frightfully unreasonable? http://is.gd/8IoXQ

  11. James Graham

    I’m similarly puzzled by Babs’ response to Alix. Isn’t there the danger that a new tribalism will emerge/is emerging, an anti-politics tribe whose members attack anyone working within the party political system with exactly the same dogmatism and petty point scoring that they accuse parties of? It seems to be on display here.

  12. Millennium Elephant

    @alixmortimer Not sure what Miss Babs is actually arguing FOR http://is.gd/8IoXQ

  13. Sunny H

    Actually I have some sympathy for Alix’s point of view here: not everything is defined by evidence and policy. And it’s not so easy deciding what has merit.

    Take abortion or climate change: In the first there is no ‘evidence’ as such that can persuade some one virulently right-wing to accept abortion should be a right. They just buy into a different set of values.

    On climate change: there is evidence but right-wingers still don’t accept it. What do you do? Sit there and constantly go on about evidence? It will make a little difference but you may still lose the war on public opinion.

    Both require that fighting back go beyond just an appeal to evidence. They can also be deeply emotional issues (CC for example is also about protecting our environment, energy security, wanting cleaner conditions, justice etc).

  14. Martin Crosby

    Party politics is the most effective and safest mechanism for the social engagement you’re looking for Babs. There needs to a capacity within parties for internal (but public) debate.

    The non-establishment movements that engage young people in the US (Ron Paul, Obama etc.) happen within a party mechanism. They are made possible because political power is spread around enough that people can run on a ‘the system isn’t working’ message and then, to a lesser or greater extent, enact it.

    My worry would be that community networks like New Turn or 38 degrees makes us feel warm and fuzzy without tackling the entrenched problem of political power being held in the UK by the ‘system’. Parliamentary politics won’t ‘find its way again’ by accident, but has to be made to find its way through a mixture of dynamic party political debate and constitutional renewal.

  15. Babs Williams

    I shall stop being a polemicist, and in doing so apologise for my earlier tone Alix.

    The trouble I see with your original comment Alix is that it doesn’t distinguish between political orientation and party politics. New Turn will always be classified as left wing, or conservative, or any other graduation along this line, dependent on who is writing for it at that time. But the reason it can, will, and must step away from party politics is because that gives it the freedom to adapt. By identifying with a party a group is lumped with every decision that party makes, and it becomes a conscious decision to oppose it. What we instead aim for is that by having numerous writers, each with a different perspective on politics, a range of articles and policy papers will be published. Undoubtedly each one could be classified as more left or right wing than another, but as a collection they will show that what is being written is simply what occurs to the writers as correct, regardless of what the parties are saying at the time. We do not wish to be anti-politics (James), opposing every party simply to say we are part of none as this ties us as much (if not more) as being associated with a party would.

    I do not support single issue politics. Personally, I feel they breed a political narcism that is not desirable in any shape or form. They weaken the ability to rationally discourse, stemming from the fact that they undermine a need for compromise and understanding of opposing arguments.

    Take for instance many of us who believe that climate change is real and happening in part as a result of humanity’s actions, many of our compatriots treat those who disagree with our viewpoint as fanatical heretics. We also do our best to stifle debate by tarring all those who dispute our views with the brush of “neo-cons”. But New Turn is not a single issue political organisation. It is just an organisation that wishes to proclaim that questioning is important, by encouraging these questions we hope more people will want to engage directly in party politics.

    I do not feel there is a clear dichotomy between the existence of organisations such as New Turn and party political engagement, I hope one will lead to the other as young people start to analyse the issues and realise that the way to foster change is not only by believing in it but also by pushing for it. “Disengagement don’t change nothing.” I do not see anything wrong in pushing that message. Martin we are looking into writing a policy paper this summer with a major think-tank on what needs to done on the topic of constitutional renewal to increase engagement in our political system.

    In terms of the importance of finding an emotional centre Sunny I agree with you. However, I cannot and will not devalue the ability to logically discourse merely because of emotional factors that cannot be engages in the facts or the figures. One, the relevance of empirical analysis may have its limits, but this does lessen its importance. Two, if you can’t quantify emotion, you can at least analyse why certain emotions exist on a particular issue, i.e. religion to abortion. Though emotion may inhibit New Turn’s and other bodies ability to find answers, and this does not exclude political parties, it will and should not inhibit our ability to find ask the questions.

    Martin says…”The non-establishment movements that engage young people in the US (Ron Paul, Obama etc.) happen within a party mechanism.” They only happen within a party mechanism because there is a certain level of trust, a trust that the wider British populace do not have. You say in the U.S. operate on a “system isn’t working message,” I think we have that message here in Britain, except it is followed by apathy in far too many instances. You then go on to give a solution which though I support, I see it more as an end rather than a means or even the beginning. The wider British public will not just start trusting politicians merely because growing debate constitutional renewal and a democratic dispersal of power from the center…

    … I personally believe that we can begin along this path again by encouraging ideology to flourish within British politics yet again. I.e. My kind of politician must have a vision. Politics must mean more than the tangible, it must also touch the realms of the abstract, replenish hope and alleviate fears, it must be passionate… Rather Obamafied, I know but I think we need to believe in politics first to actually believe in the sincerity of any constitutional reform.

    BW.

  16. PLEASE FIX

    I was thinking about this the other day.

    There still seem to be enough tribal followers of the 2 main parties to keep one of them in power.
    When the parties positions are close, the previous “branding” affect seems to take over – the current state of affairs is devalued, or ignored & former allegiances come to the fore.

    An example from the commercial world (observed in my Father) is the “Hello Tosh” ad.s from the ’80s. The branding from that apparently created enough allegiance to the brand, that he still prefers that brand despite other brands frequently surpassing it in terms of quality and usefulness.

    The same would appear to be true for political allegiance. Ironically, as the 2 main parties play on this, and try to claim all the “wasted votes” for themselves, they solidify the other main party as the only alternative to them, & infact strengthening their main opponents position – creating this somewhat incestuous old boys club!

    The tribal voters will often be voting on a somewhat sentimental “feel” for the way it was – the “feel” of the policies, ideologies and cultural drive of the party’s past glory.

    This “feel” is important. The gut instinct that identifies your own personal cultural preference with it’s nearest match among the political classes. In this election, I’m still yet to get any real “feel” for the way the parties are heading culturally. The current regime still has the feel of; at best apathy and at worst despair.

    PLEASE FIX

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