Centrism isn’t a one vote stand


Nobody wants to fuck a Centrist. I’ve got evidence for this and so do you. Cast your mind back to your student days. Or, if not your student days, the time when supper was a tin of soup reheated on a single ring in a bedsit.

Or, if neither is applicable, the time when you were lucky enough to have your parents pay for a room in a shared flat somewhere ironically mispronounced with too few consonants and too much pretension.

Now, how many times did you make the beast with two backs under a dog-eared poster of Che Guevara? Come on. Admit it. You are counting the bedpost notches up right now. The owner of those ubiquitous posters were sending you a message about how they saw the world or how they wanted you to think they saw the world.

That poster was as much of a come-on as the application of beer goggles in the pub or the insouciant drag on the shared ciggie at the party. That poster told you that you were about to do the dirty with a rebel. They wanted to fuck you and the establishment. 

Of course, the opposite extreme had its own attraction. There were some who used Debrett’s as an analogue proto-Tinder in pursuit of Thatcher’s children. Granada TV gifted us the sepia toned aphrodisiac Brideshead world that was made available as flesh at the Sloaney Pony. The back pages of Tatler were Loot for totty. All grown up and with a bit of jowel, you can see them lounging on the Tory benches and swivel chairs in the City.

Lust is an extreme emotion. Extreme positions are fuelled by passion and the raw-nerve energy of transformative revolution. Extreme is a turn-on.

Centrism isn’t. Centrism just isn’t sexy.

I have a hunch that after Brexit and the disruption that it brings, Britain will be weary and disillusioned by the clenched fist and call-and-response brigades. They will find fewer takers for horizontal diplomacy under Che’s snarling visage. The dirty puns in prep-school Latin will be packed away in the naff drawer along with the red chinos.To misquote Michael Gove, we will be sick of sexperts.

Here’s where it gets sticky for us in the centre (sorry, had to be said), we will never sell ourselves as objects of political desire. We are neither swipe left, nor swipe right. This has left a sizeable chunk of the electorate staring at the screen until it goes blank.

This can be to our advantage in the coming years. We have a new Conservative government that is, for many of its new voters, a one election stand and a Labour Party that is ghosting itself.

What Centrism is, is marriage material.

There are a few requirements to convince the country to give up its promiscuity and settle down with us. We need to think of this as a period of counselling followed by an ongoing effort to keep our relationship fresh and exciting. We’ve just got to dress better and learn to flirt first.

Centrism is competing with the fringes convinced of their own rightness and their unshakeable certainty while we are perceived to parse and equivocate. The country is already finding this duopoly exhausting and voted to just make it stop.

Centrists must push our glasses up the bridge of our nose, lick the end of the pencil and ask the voters ‘What do you need from government?’. And then, we need to keep asking. People are attracted to great listeners.

We could try a little romance as well – ‘Hey there. I spotted you across a crowded room of ideas with that Embittered Leftist/Smug Disaster Capitalist and I thought we might agree on some things together’. That conversation has been absent throughout the recent turmoil. The extremes have closed the menu with a snap and ordered for us. Our effort to woo needs lots more woo-woo.

Once we’ve sealed the deal, we need to offer the electorate what every marriage thrives with or dies without- respect. The centre has to find a voice that isn’t a shout. We need a sense of urgency to fix what ails the nation without threatening what we love about it.

We have to be the ones who don’t throw policy crockery at the heads of the voters. It’s fair to say, we just tried that and they walked out in too many constituencies where it mattered in our current system. The centrist vote share shows that they didn’t slam the door shut in anger, but in fear and enervation.

Maybe, just maybe, we can tempt them back as the extremes show no signs of dropping their treat-’em-mean-to-keep-’em-keen approach to governing.

Centrists have a golden opportunity for self-appraisal and time to plan our pursuit of the jilted middle ground. They have been ill used by the cads with sweaty sheets and absolutist ideas.They have been seduced by the false promise of an end to uncertainty with the end of discussion. They have been told to lie back and think of England.

The electorate is smart enough to know it was being fucked – this time, it chose the paramour that it knew wouldn’t call in the morning over the one that offered a free lunch.

Centrism is not sexy. It’s rational but excited by policy that is based on evidence. It’s yielding and willing to compromise. It’s consensual politics. And it works on the most important sexual organ – the mind. 

In case you are wondering what was blue tacked to my wall, it was an Annie Hall film poster. Any takers? No?

Rebecca Strom Trenner is delighted to be on board with Radix. Let’s keep the conversation going.

The blog editor writes: On that note, we are shutting ourselves down for Christmas. We will be back on New Year’s Day. Thank you so much for your comments and attention over the last year. See you in January!

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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