I find myself irritated and depressed by all this talk about The Centre Ground in politics and in particular by the idea that it is only parties of the centre ground that have any hope of forming governments.
It’s not that I consider the Centre Ground to be a meaningless term - on the contrary it is very real, having something of the feel of a boxing ring in which a succession of centre left and centre right opponents slug it out to the point where one is declared the winner. The problem is: the boxing ring has been staked out for us by others, as a place where we can play out the game of electoral politics as an essentially safe sport. Meanwhile the machinery or power rolls on — to the spectacular benefit of a few, but with increasingly terrible consequences for the poor, underpaid, homeless and disabled.
We really must try to imagine something better; it’s not that difficult.
The refreshing thing is that there are more and more people — both young and old — who are asking, quite reasonably, why things at a national level can’t be ordered at least as well as (say) the Glastonbury Festival.
Of course, there will be people inclined to dismiss this as idle fantasy. After all, isn’t the Centre Ground defined by what the majority of people believe and desire? Yes maybe — but beliefs can be shaped and desires can be nurtured. It hardly takes a conspiracy theorist to see that News International, for example, devotes considerable resources to ensuring that elections produce governments that will be sympathetic to its aims. Thus people who question the established order are portrayed as infantile, easily-manipulated and naive — in contrast to the realistic, responsible and mature individuals who decide, on balance, that things are fine as they are.
Writing about the French Revolution, Wordsworth declared “bliss it was in that dawn to be alive” but he was a young poet and inclined to get carried away with himself. Once the heads started falling into baskets he came to his senses.
So — the advice goes — by all means feel free to dream and have ideals, but when it comes to changing things it’s probably best to leave well alone. Of course the argument doesn’t carry too much weight with someone on minimum wage working in a call centre or a single mother wondering how to give her children a decent start in life.
Despite what we are told by the dried-up old mandarins of the political establishment, I believe that things are on the move — and it fills me with hope and optimism. And if it is true that elections are only won on the centre ground, then it is high time we set about shifting it.
So I have registered as a Labour Party supporter and I will vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I believe him to be a decent man, putting forward sensible, moderate policies. I am astonished by the number of people who appear to agree with me.
It goes without saying that a Corbyn victory will provoke a firestorm of abuse from the neo-liberal establishment and large sections of the press — that much we can be sure of.