Three things are happening at once and it’s perplexing. First, the old politics is looking very tired. On our screens we see an election we have all seen before – like a BBC repeat – run by the same people in the same way. It’s not that the outcome doesn’t matter – it seriously does. But not as a way of building new energies – just falling over the line first. And then what?
Whoever wins on 7 May, or more likely whoever shares winning in the weeks after, there will be no transformative mandate for change because no one who can lift the prize is asking for one. Worse still, none of them are looking to tap into the sources of extra-parliamentary energy to make a mandate meaningful. Some in Labour and even some in the Liberal Democrats are battling to keep hope alive – but within the orthodoxies of mainstream British politics its proving a tough ask.
Second, and in part because of what’s happening to the old, the new politics is breaking though. It will soon be spring so we can do green shoots analogies. And yes the colour is Green and the yellow of the SNP. For some who feel Labour has left them behind the colour is the purple of Ukip. Or it’s the colour of their living room walls where they will sit and defiantly elect not to vote – because for them nothing ever changes and they all sounds the same.
These parties and a myriad other – like Fromes Flat Pack Democracy, Yorkshire First, the NHS Action Party, MyStroudMP and myriad other groups doing tactical voting, vote swaps and anything that gets us round the death grip of first past the post elections will try and open up the space for something different and better.
And then there is a third group – of activists and thinkers trying to imagine and create an alternative in the hear and now – to prefigure a good society and not wait for a politicians to give it to them. So come on down Transition Towns and the alternative currencies of places like Brixton, ShareAction and the social economy and cooperate movements, Citizens UK and the unions fighting for a living wage, UK UnCuts and anti-frackers who put their bodies on the line for social justice and sustainability, the idealists who want a 21 hour week and a citizens income and know nothing less is feasible. The world is coming alive with possibility.
But the problem is that these worlds rarely talk and often sneer. They fail to recognise that it will take a rich ecology to change the world – that no single party, person or organisation can deal with the complexity of the 21st century. We need each other, the best of the old parties and the new, the single issue campaigners, the practical builders and the idealists. We wont agree on everything, let alone a programme. But if we share a commitment to social justice, sustainability and democracy then it is beholden in us to practice a politics of empathy and solidarity.
From Scotland, Spain and Greece we see a new political world emerging. Not because people did the same thing and expected a different outcome but because they were willing to change themselves so that they could change their world. The alterative is just too bleak to imagine.
The Compass (un)Conference Change: How? is this Sunday, 8 February, in Islington. Join 100 speakers and acts and 500 participants in a day of new politics