The idea talked of by some that Britain is fundamentally a right-wing country of conservatives, and the only way to win their votes is to tack right is a falsehood. The fact is, a large number of radical policies from the left, such as renationalisation of the railways and energy companies, and significant increases in the minimum wage are popular among large swathes of the population.
The reason they have not yet lead to an election win is not due to their very nature as ‘too left-wing.’ It is that, thus far, those who have espoused these radical left-wing views seem to be those most inept at providing a winning electoral strategy (namely Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn).
The fact is, the left are poor at communicating their ideas, and re-branding them to make them sound plausible, and sensible. Branding is key in politics, just as it is in any other aspect of a capitalist society, and the failure of the left to recognise this, is exactly the reason they fail to brand, and sell their ideas to the public.
Take nationalisation for instance. This is a word that has deep associations with the old-school industrial socialism of the 20th Century, and indeed with the Soviet Union. If, in 21st Century Britain, you adopt a policy of ‘nationalisation,’ you are painted as a socialist, a red, a commie, and any other derogatory word to describe someone outdated, and part of the ‘loony left.’
But what if you were to adopt the policy of nationalisation without describing it as such? What if you call it re-patriation for example? This is a word used widely by the Brexiteers in the 2016 referendum, effectively too, as a way of describing powers coming back to Britain from Brussels.
It is a word that would a level of patriotic furore to the idea, and enables you to sell the policy as a re-patriation of industries to Britain, from the vested interests of multi-national corporations. Indeed, it is a call for Britain to ‘take back control’ of its industries, and to stop giving them away on the cheap to state-owned companies from countries such as France, and China.
The myth that radical ideas are unpopular in Britain needs to be debunked if the country is ever going to move on from the Thatcherite consensus, present since the 1980s. I for one, am confident that if repackaged, and branded effectively, these are ideas that can win again.
Simon Garland Jones