The Importance of Political Narrative

Telling stories is an important part of who we are, as a nation and as a species. There’s a huge amount of data thrust at us by the world, and, given that we can’t be experts in everything, the stories we tell ourselves and others are a very useful short-hand to help us make sense of the chaos around us.
By failing to realise the importance of storytelling, politicians and voters underestimate the ability of influential leaders to shape public opinion, rather than just chasing it.

In this essay we’ll begin by examining two the standard narratives that have been constructed around the 1983 and 1997 general elections; we’ll look at the part the idea of ‘economic competence’ played in returning the Tory Party to power in 2015; we’ll examine the way people latch onto tangible details over more important but more abstract details; move on to look at Labour’s messaging in the 2015 general election and the question of whether Miliband’s Labour or the SNP were more left-wing; examine debates around the minimum wage and the living wage; look at contemporary failures of political journalism; and then ask whether Jeremy Corbyn is electable.

Continue reading “The Importance of Political Narrative”


Fact-Free Coverage of the EU Referendum

This first appeared on the Facebook page

There’s still two months until we vote, but the EU Referendum has been an absolute mess. Rather than a broad, fact-based debate about the role we play in the European Union, we’ve had personality politics and childish insults.

This weekend Boris Johnson has claimed that the American president’s Kenyan ancestry motivates a hatred for Britain, and followed it up by calling Obama ‘weird’. This isn’t so much the pot calling the kettle black as the pot calling the dinner-plate black.
Johnson is not alone in his indifference for facts.
Dominic Cummings, apparently notorious for his previous role at the Department for Education is now the campaign director of Vote Leave. When testifying before a House of Commons select committee he said that “I don’t think it’s Vote Leave’s job to provide figures”.
When told that “Vote Leave quotes numerous figures on its website … most of them misleading or inaccurate”, Cummings responded that: “Accuracy is for snake-oil pussies.”

Continue reading “Fact-Free Coverage of the EU Referendum”

Why it Matters that Cameron is the Heir to Blairmore

David Cameron is likely to remain as Prime Minister, in the short-term at least. However he is engulfed in controversy over his father’s tax avoidance past and his own unwillingness to explain his own role in the business. The company set up Ian Cameron, is named Blairmore Holdings – slightly amusing given that David Cameron once described himself as ‘the heir to Blair’.

Most people will agree, as a moral principle, that a child shouldn’t be held responsible for the sins of their parents. It’s just about the one decent argument that has been brought up in David Cameron’s defence during the Panama tax dodging scandal. We try to be reasonable people and, as much as we don’t like David Cameron, there is an argument there. Partially.
To start with, it’s likely that when Ian Cameron made the decision to move from working as a stockbroker in 1982, the 16-year-old David had no chance to prevent it.
We would have liked to think that, as he grew older and became interested in politics and came to understand the way that tax avoidance deprives the state of resources, David would confront his father over the issue. (As a teenager David Cameron worked as a researcher for the MP Tim Rathbone; seemed to have played no part in university politics; then went from university straight to working in the Conservative Research Department.) However, it’s understandable that risking a family rift may have been something that young David Cameron was unwilling to do.

Continue reading “Why it Matters that Cameron is the Heir to Blairmore”