Friday, August 12, 2005

Tone vs Substance

Following my last post, I've reflected further on the issues of presentation vs substance in the leadership contest.

I freely admit that I may sometimes have got rather overexcited about the contest, and my tone may have turned- to use B2W's term- 'shrill'. The same applies to any number of blogging supporters of all the various candidates. Now as far as I'm concerned that's actually one of the joys of blogging- the normal niceties of public political discourse are dropped, and it becomes more like one of those late-night no holds barred discussions you had at uni.

But many people are understandably turned off by yah-boo, and DD himself is never less than calm and measured. Which is one reason why he will make an excellent leader, whereas I wouldn't.

So tone, yes- we must at all times present ourselves as the reasonable rational people we actually are (well, most of us, anyway). We must persuade, not shout.

But substance- that's completely different. Politics is about deciding between competing views of what? who? how? etc. Conflict is built in, and we need to be very wary of arguments that go like this:

'When we were a winning party we were not pure and unsullied, we were always a coalition of various views from Unionist to National Liberal from left to right Tory, free marketeer to state interventionist. Everyone of Mrs T’s Cabinets was a mixture of wet and dry, right and left, libertarian and dirigiste. Howe lived with Keith Joseph, Clarke with Tebbit and so on.

What has happened with Blair is that he has not only stolen our policies but, and more important, he has stolen our strategy too. He dropped the ‘better pure than in power’ left wing agenda Labour stuck to in the 70’s and 80’s and moved to ‘better power than purity’ on the basis that in power he could change things but without power he can only protest at what is changed.

I want the policy of Macmillan and Thatcher, Baldwin and Churchill: power not purity.'

Wrapping in Thatcher is novel (and completely misleading), but this is the Blue Labour line, and I for one don't want it.

So tone, yes. Substance, no. Which is another major reason we need Davis.
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