I was taught by a former Sales Manager that God gave us two eyes, two ears and only one mouth. And that we should learn to use them in proportion. “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.”
She was talking about learning what our customers really wanted but I was reminded of these wise words often as I watched the comedy which is the Labour Leadership elections play out.
Strangely enough, it was thinking about the referendum campaign which first formed the link. There is ample evidence that the Unionist forces had convinced themselves that the YES campaign could achieve no more than about 25% of the vote and that this would be enough to bury not just the idea of Independence but also the SNP!
They knew they held many very powerful levers. All the UK political parties were on board with NO, The Tories had brought in the CBI and Labour had broadly brought the Trade Union movement with them, every newspaper was lined up for NO as was every TV and radio station. It must have seemed to them that the YES campaign was determined to humiliate itself in a crushing defeat. So what went so very badly wrong?
For the first 18 months or so of the campaign, there was very little movement in the polls, (TNS put us at 28% between 28/08 and 4/10 2012), generally around the high 20s to low 30s. This remained broadly the trend through 2013 and into early 2014. It was just after Project Fear launched its “February Fright” offensive with Osborne’s warning on the pound, the three monkeys lecture on currency sharing and George Carney’s speech that thing started to move. Why?
Looking back over Facebook etc and the campaign records it’s clear that around that same time, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps caused by these speeches, the people of Scotland actually changed mode and moved from repeating what they were being told by their “betters” and started to listen and gradually learned something new.
Through January we were still generally in the low 30s but as February moved on we moved into the mid to high 30s and then into the 40s. The rest you know well.
Many campaigners at that time felt that a new, listening phase had developed, people were asking more questions, taking more time when visiting stalls and canvassing was taking longer on the doorsteps. People were listening. Crucially people moved from listening to the doommongers of Project Fear and started listening to their own peers, their families, workmates etc. They started doing the research themselves and we all know the excitement that was building. I think it was Kevin McKenna who wrote to the effect that for his solidly Labour voting family, Independence was never worth discussing because it was never going to happen. Suddenly with the referendum it was a possibility and had to be examined.
So, what you might be asking, has this to do with the Labour leadership elections?
Well, I suspect that something very similar has been happening. In the immediate aftermath of Ed Milliband’s resignation everyone was repeating the same mantra, you couldn’t win from the left so it had to be one of the centre candidates. Corbyn was just the “Buggins’ turn” left wing sacrifice. Remember he only got on the ballot because right wingers supposedly felt sorry for him and “wanted to broaden the debate”. Corbyn’s campaign simply stopped talking for a while and started listening.
Then the people who had been enticed into registering as Labour supporters, paying their £3 to take part stopped repeating “what they already knew”, and started listening to what he was saying. Just as with their reaction to Nicola, they heard something they wanted to hear, lessons they wanted to learn. Hopes and aspirations they could be proud of. And the polls moved again!
Labour’s high command (ok, I’m having a laugh but you know what I mean), moved into the Project Fear mode which had been so successful in Scotland, and started to repeat the same mistakes and at the moment it looks as though they might have made even more of a mess of things. Corby has not yet been told that he will be denied the use of the pound but that might come yet.
In Scotland poor wee Kez bemoaned that Corbyn would leave them carping on the sidelines for years! Just what else she imagines they have been doing since 2007 is hard to comprehend!
Labour are now in the midst of a witch hunt with members being urged to tell on each other’s behaviours. He is not displaying enough “Labour values”? Expel him. She dared to criticize the Leadership! Off with her membership card and expel her! They joined the Labour Party but they are Socialists!! Off with her membership card and expel her get rid of their votes!
Are you now or have you ever been a Corbynist?
It’s hard to know if McCarthy or Stalin would have been more proud.
Now we see Labour retreating from being a “Broad Church” to being a reclusive sect!
It’s but one example of the stark differences between our philosophies that our new SNP members were welcomed in and several are now MPs with more set to be MSPs next year. Labour by contrast treats them as a threat to be managed and excised.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.”
But they are perhaps too late to start listening, too late to learn the lessons and way beyond time to apply them!