Dog-whistle democracy

I said earlier that this piece by Owen Jones was a repetition of the old “vote xx, get Tory” argument, employed by Labour for many years. It’s a depressing argument for those of us who would actually quite like to vote for the party nearest to our views, rather than whichever of the big two comes “closest”.

Owen pointed out, emphatically, that the piece is specifically clear that it is not using that argument. This is technically true. There are two paragraphs of detail on exactly how voting Green would get Tory, followed by a line and a half saying “but Labour shouldn’t say that”.

If this were a right-wing commentator, explaining exactly how immigrants could be taking your jobs and drinking your beer, followed by a line and a half saying “my party does not support this view”, we would call it “dog-whistle” politics. Even as direct advice to Labour, the piece reads “you SHOULDN’T do this, but if you DID here are the facts…”. As a piece for public consumption, it plants the idea before attempting to head off the allegation.

I should say, for the benefit of the more binary among us, that I’ve got nothing at all against Owen Jones. As media politics commentators go (or at least those that get on the mainstream channels with any regularity), his is one of the very few voices that gets me anywhere near a nod of agreement. It’s just this particular argument seems to be recycling old failures.

I think “vote Green, get Tory” probably is one of Labour’s stronger arguments, so tactically for a Labour supporter the piece is perfectly sensible. For someone like me, who now couldn’t stomach any of the three current largest parties for various reasons, it simply won’t be enough to say “vote for us – we’re the least worst and you might have more of a chance of voting for your favourites in future”. As I said in the tweet – we tried that last time, and look where that ended up.

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One Response to Dog-whistle democracy

  1. This happens at every election. Whoever is the vogue populist “left” of the moment gets dragooned in (either directly or by a self imposed emotional magnet) to warn others on the left to “vote labour but with no illusions” or “vote Labour but force them to fight”. The time to fight for socialist policies is after the election they say. Even leftist parties openly hostile to Labour – the SWP, AWL, SP, CPGB, (take your pick of letters) – take that line in one form or the other.

    Even if they have campaigning for extra-Parliamentary activity with strikes and mass protest, or have called for a new movement that hints at a new party, or have argued long and hard about Labour’s drift to a corporate friendly centre-ground that has betrayed their voters and their tradition, come the election they fall in line and make a fetish of the ballot box. That is how dissent on the left has historically been channelled in Britain. That’s how Labour get away it.

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