The assumptions are that southerners are "so prosperous, so comfortable and so self-centred that all they want to be is demanding consumers whether at the supermarket or in public services"... the imaginary Mondeo Man or Worcester Woman or now in London, between the Rich Greater London and the Poor Inner London. Is the category of citizen not missing?
In reality, many would vote for policies like Surestart (childcare more costly in the capital), affordable housing (ditto) and a living wage (more temp/agency work) for example.
The assumptions that marginals and lower middle classes are the key to a Labour victory, when our support amongst lower middle class voters has dropped by 9 percentage points since 2001 but that it has also dropped by 8 points amongst working class voters. Maybe we need to start treating people like the citizens that they are, with their complexities and contradictions.
Winning the new progressive consensus needs to be rooted in values that embody greater equality and democracy and policies that connect with people's everyday lives.
We need to recognise that the consensus is not about building a vision based on the power of weak ties (who isn't in favour of choice or opportunity?) and a strategy of triangulation (always meeting the other party half-way). Indeed, should we be wheeling and dealing our values just to reach a fabled consensus, if we have to concede on a more equal and democratic society?
We need to recognise the ambuiguity of preaching a new progressive consensus. This cannot be the same consensus as Labour enjoyed in the 20th century, primarily based on class and labour structures, not the same consensus as the triangulation towards a virtual magnetic centrism, where people are led to confuse Brown with Cameron, both professing the dawn of this fabled progressive consensus.
A new progressive consensus should be inviting, inspiring and emancipating
We need not only to include but invite all progressives, especially those excluded from political and civic participation, whether by lack of access or interest. For this to happen, it needs to be make sense to them, that connects to their everyday lives and their moral values. It also needs to be worthwhile for them, that they can make a difference in a way which is accessible and purposeful. It needs to instill a sense of enthusiasm and emancipation, that by working with others towards this common endeavour, they can contribute to emancipating others by emancipating themselves.
We need narrative about what we mean by progressive and what this might look like in practice. Progress can be objective - improvement of what exists currently - or subjective - improvement towards a vision of what we strive for. Therefore "our" vision of progress should be about continuously looking towards building a more equal and democratic society.
How do we get there?
Can we learn from the experience of running London? Despite some saying that he was "bad for business", Ken Livingstone has made London the most successful city in the world, overtaking New York, with productivity up by 25%. But as we know, celebrating wealth doesn't always help reduce inequalities. By making sure that every Londoner feels that that they can share in their city's wealth and success, Ken has constantly tried to make everyone's lives
- more affordable, through introducing the living wage, ensuring free travel for children, disabled and pensioners, while now ensuring that those who buy less polluting cars pay much less than those who don't and of course, ensuring that 50% of new homes should be cheaper homes to buy and homes at affordable rents
- easier, through introducing the Oyster card, doubling the night bus network and being the only major city in the world where there has been a significant shift from the private car to public transport, cycling and walking
- safer, increasing the police force and making sure that every neighbourhood has a regular beat as well as reducing crime by 6% (including knife/gun crime by 22%)
- more fulfilling and empowering, not just through cheaper access to cultural events but also developing education and skills or providing greater facilities for young people (especially outside of school hours) and pioneering equalities policy before anyone else so everyone enjoys the same rights
"There seems no reason to behave respectfully towards that little old woman coming out of the Post Office if you feel that she belongs to a culture that is alien from your own... Why not piss against the wall if you feel that it is not really your wall, but part of a foreign country.' (Boris Johnson, Lend Me Your Ears, p207)
"People from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential...They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves." (Ken Livingstone, following 7th July 2005 bombing)