All the political parties make this mistake, but there is no word for it


Sign Up

Get the New Statesman\'s Morning Call email.

There’s a tendency across all organisations – large and small, private and public – to, when faced with two sets of incompatible choices, to think about it and then try to do both, with predictable consequences.

I write about one such choice made by the Labour leadership today but the disease is endemic across life and all the political parties. The Liberal Democrats have a clear choice – do they want to fish in the pool of the 48 per cent of people who think the coalition was the right decision and the 20 per cent who actively supported it, or do they want to try to win back the anti-system voters that they harvested from New Labour in the Noughties that are now firmly back in the Corbyn camp? A lot of the time, they try to do both and the result irritates people who preferred the new model Cleggite Liberal Democrats while failing to win over disillusioned opponents of the Coalition.

The Conservative Party meanwhile has a choice: to maintain its current policy platform, which means finding some way to win a greater number of Remain voters than it is currently, or to change its platform in order to increase its already strong performance among Leave voters. Most of the time, the choice made is to do a bit of both: to maintain a policy of seeking a big breach from the European Union while offering very little to cater to the broader policy preferences of Leave voters.

This mistake is not confined to politics, yet there is no word in the English language for it.  

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Free trial CSS