Tag Archives: tribalism

Tribalism and party splits

Extraordinary circumstances force us to address hard questions. And the situation in British politics at the beginning of 2019 is the most extraordinary I can recall since I joined the Liberal Party 59 years ago. Both major parties are bitterly divided, with some long-term members talking almost openly of leaving for some other group. Neither of their leaders commands popular respect. Normal government has almost ground to a standstill, with ministers and officials overwhelmed by the uncertainties of Brexit. Either or both Labour and the Tories may find MPs, Councillors and activists splitting away.

Which raises, for …

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

Tribal politics and liberalism – the fight to the death

I have a slightly irrational aversion to holding up diamonds, wearing rosettes and beginning sentences with the phrase “Only the Liberal Democrats”. In fact I canvass now with a badge I had made which says on it against a yellow background “Bloody Politicians”. 

I really,really do get the importance of branding etc but I do think that the future of Liberalism depends on the death of tribal politics.

We are living in strange times where political discourse is often reduced to the exchange of insults, declaration of tribal belief and parodying of alternative perspectives. As Nick Robinson tweeted<

Much but not all of this is done through social media. Political debate ,as opposed to the political exchange of fire, is harder now to engage in. Voters are increasingly endorsing populist-right and left- politicians who offer simple solutions, ignore complexity and play successfully on emotions and fears.

Polarised politics though has certain key definable features we need to understand and as importantly worry about emulating.

It characterises political opposition in terms of a moral gulf. Those who back a different position are knaves, fools or both. They are not just people who have arrived at a different opinion. There can be no dalliance with the enemy not just because they are wrong but because they are necessarily evil. So we have the coarsening of political discourse, mindless abuse of opponents etc 

A second key characteristic is to deny or minimise the possibility of shared truths between political opponents. One side has to have got all the facts right and the other side all the facts wrong.Intelligence is only ever used by opponents to mislead and confound. 

These two key characteristics act to reinforce each other. It cannot possibly be the case that one’s political opponents have looked at the same facts one sees and arrived at different conclusions, possibly sharing some similar core values to oneself. That’s a liberal mirage.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 20 Comments
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  • User AvatarDavid Raw 20th Jan - 9:44am
    I normally find your comments very interesting, David, but sorry, I'm afraid I find your use of the word 'Stalinism' way over the top with...
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan - 9:33am
    Andrew, there are a number of reasons why someone might want to use a pseudonym. Perhaps they have a job that is "politically restricted". Or...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 20th Jan - 9:23am
    A very sad day. I would like to to add three memories to the tributes above. The first two relate to his well-crafted conference speeches...
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    George Potter 19th Jan '20 - 11:59am......................On the contrary. It was obvious from before the campaign even started that the Tories would frighten soft Tory...
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    "Might it also be of help to also analyse the attitudes and behaviours of the corporate or mainstream media around the election?" It could but...
  • User AvatarInnocent Bystander 20th Jan - 8:43am
    @Steve, All of that Peoples' Budget, Keynes stuff is wishful thinking. Neo-liberalism survives because no one has imagined a viable alternative. Unacceptable? Then will someone,...