In stark contrast to UK progressive parties in this election, the incoming French President Emmanuel Macron campaigned and won on an unashamedly positive, outward-looking, centrist ticket
There is a simple fact that is often forgotten by progressive parties in elections, which is that to win, you must give voters a positive vision to get behind.
This is easier said than done of course, but it is a fact that is currently being completely ignored by Britain’s main nationwide progressive parties, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats.
Believe it or not – voters are much more enthused by a positive message of hope, such as the one espoused by Mr Macron in the French election, than the constant moaning of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron.
Corbyn’s message is negative and reactive to the core – complaining about a system that is “rigged” and poisoned by an unbalanced media, that is biased against him. He looks and sounds angry, and certainly with good reason in some respects, but this is a tone that will simply turn people off. What he is saying may be true, but you are not going to win people over simply by complaining about the current state of affairs. He needs to find a positive vision in the coming weeks – he clearly has it in him, it is just not evident at the moment.
Farron’s Lib Dem message too – is reactive, and shrouded in negativity and pessimism. He is positioning the party as the only “real opposition” to Brexit, and spends a lot of his time talking about the fatal mistake made by voters on June 23rd. Like Corbyn, he is simply reacting to negative situations around him, instead of creating a positive vision of the country he wants to see. Again, he is of course right in his analysis of the negatives, but wrong in his choice of tone.
Hilary Clinton too, fell foul to this strategy. Her message was negative, and based around insulting Trump’s voters as “deplorable” and essentially just reacting to Trump’s agenda. Another example was the Stronger In campaign last year, which again, reacted to the hyperbole, and outright lies of Vote Leave, with their own hyperbole, and outright lies about the risks of leaving the EU, instead of offering a positive, patriotic vision of the country as a major player in the EU, as Macron did for France.
The now President-elect of France did not sanction any essence of negativity to infiltrate his campaign – even stopping his supporters booing his rival Marine Le Pen at his rallies. “We don’t boo here” he declared, urging his supporters to cheer his passionate pro-European message instead of focusing on what his rivals were saying.
This is how progressives should campaign – setting the agenda from the centre – instead of reacting to bad decisions, and “unfair” biases in the media. It is the New Labour formula – a message vague on detail, but full of hope for the future, underpinned by a patriotic vision for the country. Blair in 1997, Obama in 2008, and Macron in 2017 all campaigned on hope, and all reached beyond their base, by offering a fresh, positive vision for the future.
Today, Britain’s progressives are nowhere near achieving this. If there is ever to be a progressive revival in this country, parties of the left will need not only new messengers, but a new message of hope to get behind.