Simplex and Sapiens are discussing the opposition’s strategy.
Simplex: This government has lost all credibility and support and has no plan for dealing with the crisis.
Sapiens: Agreed. The times we’re living in require a complete change of policy and different priorities.
Simplex: And the absolute priority has to be getting rid of this government.
Sapiens: We have to recognise that ‘business as usual’ is failing us and that we need system change. We need a real alternative.
Simplex: But we need to listen to the voters and go with the flow of public opinion which is basically moderate. Elections are won from the centre, we can’t advocate too much change or challenge the system too much because it scares the people whose support we need.
Sapiens: But public opinion is well ahead of the opposition on many issues, and in any case parties exist to shape the narrative, not just to follow ‘public opinion’, which can be all over the place. Look at the consistent support for nationalization, for redistribution, for union action and for the ‘Enough is enough’ demands. Surely, now is exactly the time for a clear, costed, radical programme which breaks with the current failing system.
Simplex: We won’t get into power as a party of protest, we can’t be associated with strikes and mass action.That’s not how you win elections. We need a ‘grown up’ politics of government; radicalism is just a childish and immature lashing out.
Sapiens: But people are angry, and that anger has to find political expression. It needs to be channeled into political demands, or millions of people will feel unrepresented. Radicalism is a serious and rational response to the crisis we find ourselves in. There needs to be a real discussion now about the kind of emergency programme that’s needed.
Simplex: But this isn’t the right time to be too specific. We need to keep our powder dry. If we set out all our policies too soon, other parties might have time to steal them, adapt them or rubbish them.
Sapiens: But policies aren’t secret weapons! Ideas belong to everyone, they need to be out there, being discussed, in order to have a chance to establish themselves and grow support – that’s real politics. The longer your bold good ideas are out there, the more momentum you can build for them.
Simplex: Tactically, it’s much better to criticize the government without exposing yourselves to criticism. There’s a lot to be said for standing by while they reveal all their weaknesses and lose support: “don’t interrupt your opponents while they’re digging” as the saying goes.
Sapiens: You can’t assume that you will be the beneficiary of all anti-government sentiment. New protest movements might emerge and organize politically. Meanwhile, you’re not building support for an alternative programme. Isn’t this the politics of silence and passivity – a kind of anti-politics?
Simplex: Not at all, we’re busy creating a sense of competence and trustworthiness and building a government-in-waiting which is ready to take over.
Sapiens: Take over and do what, exactly?
Simplex: Listen, if we don’t get in, we won’t be able to do anything at all. Voting for us is the only way to get change, even if it’s not all you’d hope for. Our electoral system forces voters to be tactical and vote for the ‘least bad’ option – and that’s us.
Sapiens: But shouldn’t we also have the option to vote for the kind of programme that will actually make a difference?
Simplex: Do you want the current governing party to win? Anything other than voting for us basically lets the other lot in. Rocking the boat, or abandoning the boat, is just self-indulgent and plays into the hands of our enemies. When it comes to the crunch on polling day, there really is no alternative.
Sapiens: Even your party was once a minor force with little chance of winning – until it grew in support and was able to gain power. There has to be an alternative and real change must be possible.
Owning our crises (March 2022)
A political education (May 2022)
Sapiens and Simplex have also discussed:
Genetics: Stupid Gene (December 2021)
Selective schools: Your dogma, my principles (September 2016)
The future of the Labour Party: Labour Pains (July 2015)
Does exam success boost the economy? (December 2014)
‘One nation’ education (September 2014)