It has been an exhausting and unexpected night. One we will always remember, even more extraordinary than February 1974 – which I can barely remember myself.
I was woken at 6.30am by the Guardian and wrote them an initial reaction which I am not sure will stand up to my own scrutiny when I am actually awake. Though the drift – that the progressive forces will only turn this into government if they can work together and think – I very strongly believe.
Thinking is going to be vital, because the left has still not challenged the underlying trickle down economic model. They have tweaked the budgets a bit, talked about economics as if it was welfare, but not yet put forward a new model for creating and spreading prosperity. Without that, it is hard to imagine a major shift in the future.
The real question is whether the shift to Labour in the south is a return to any kind of centre ground, or whether it is a real backing for the strikingly old-fashioned manifesto put forward by Jeremy Corbyn. Or whether the next few months can buttress a more radical approach.
Which is where the fascinating editorial where the Economist, rather unexpectedly, nailed their colours to the Lib Dem mast. This is what they said:
“Our vote goes to the Liberal Democrats – not because we think they can win, but as a downpayment on a new party of the radical centre, essential for a thriving prosperous Britain.”
Now of course, we were fascinated by that ‘radical centre’ phrase. Because, apart from Radix, it is not really an idea that is gargled much in the UK. It is a label that has been developed by a real American radical, Mark Satin, former editor of the newsletter New Options and author of Radical Middle, the 2004 book which launched the idea in the USA.
For Satin, the radical centre is only tangentially a social democrat idea. It is a more fundamental American Liberalism, which is as much about escaping from the old industrial ideologies – enough to see the world clearly and completely – as it is about state versus private.
My personal view of centrism without a radical edge is rather like the Bible’s (“if you are neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth”). But there is a great deal of practical thinking required to turn the radical centre into a progressive idea that can sweep the UK.
It will only get to that position with support and ideas and recruits from the traditional right and left. Whether today marks a new low for centrist politics or marks its rebirth is really, in that respect, neither here nor there.
Radix will be involved in radical centrist thinking either way – and I hope we will meet you there.
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