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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Now Jeremy has to play the game

He was like all men of imagination, who fall in love with their projects, and who expect them to succeed on all occasions, as if wishing hard was all that was necessary to change their dreams into realities.
Émile Gaboriau - L'Affaire Lerouge (1866)

Many games of chess are decided by the accumulation of small advantages. Politics is played the same way. A knighthood here, a peerage there, a favourable headline, a covert briefing, a policy filched from the other side, a judicious lie, a stab in the back, an innuendo, a speech to the converted are politics played like chess.

To play the game well, politicians must respond to events and opportunities, they must spot small advantages whenever they crop up. They cannot afford to be doctrinaire or inflexible unless that happens to be an advantage too, when a principle is worth dusting off and waving around.

David Cameron and the Tories know this. Tony Blair knew it very well indeed as did his groupies but Team Blair has been disbanded. Even though they are not particularly good at it, the general election suggests the Tories were better players than Labour. The Lib Dems tried to play with a broken king.

On whose behalf the Tories play the game is another issue, but they play it. As with chess, the political game is about winning. It is about picking up those small advantages, weighing one against another, bad publicity against good, a move into opposition territory against the risk of upsetting stakeholders. It is about being adaptable.

The nature of the game cannot be decided beforehand, strategy cannot be written in tablets of stone, opposition moves cannot be ignored merely because the agreed plan doesn’t cater for them. The political game is a game of skill, strategy and opportunist tactics. It has features of a game because it is a game. Principles, however moral, are no guide to winning.

In which case, Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters may have a steep learning curve to climb. They have to learn the game and poor old Jeremy has to play it.

At this early stage when the 2020 clock has barely begun ticking, any number of unforeseen events could swing things his way. The mood of the electorate could be behind him for some fairly obvious reasons - greedy bankers for one. That’s hoping for the best though. It is not how professional adjust the odds in their favour and the game is all about winning against professional players.

Cameron and his Tories may not be stars, but I don’t think Corbyn even has a taste for the game. We’ll see.

12 comments:

Sackerson said...

Sad to say, I think you're right.

Demetrius said...

There is always the unexpected, the unwanted, the unintended, the unknown and the unknowing. Jeremy often seems to be a child amongst men. He is going to have to grow up very quickly, despite his age.

Sam Vega said...

If Corbyn sticks inflexibly to his principles, he will be unelectable. But if he plays the game and makes the necessary compromises, the opposition (both the Tories and the even more dangerous opposition within his own party) will show that his lack of principles makes him unelectable.

More importantly, what happens to a party of compromisers like the modern Tories when they are handed a one-party state and no longer have to compromise? Will they let rip with the hitherto-hidden ideology, or will it be a benign government of democratic managerialism?

The Stigler said...

"At this early stage when the 2020 clock has barely begun ticking, any number of unforeseen events could swing things his way. The mood of the electorate could be behind him for some fairly obvious reasons - greedy bankers for one. That’s hoping for the best though. It is not how professional adjust the odds in their favour and the game is all about winning against professional players.

Cameron and his Tories may not be stars, but I don’t think Corbyn even has a taste for the game. We’ll see."

The electorate doesn't actually give much of a toss about greedy bankers. Guardian readers and wonks do, but what the public cares about is schools, hospitals, pensions, terrorism, immigration, tax (they'd like it lower). Corbyn's going to be a massive failure because unlike Blair, he doesn't get this. He's one of these lefties that lives in a bubble with other lefties thinking it's about the middle east or Trident or immigration (getting more of them). And yes, I believe he's utterly sincere about it, and may even be a nice and kind person. But when it comes to the ballot, people will pick a shifty guy like Blair over Corbyn.

James Higham said...

He's certainly good for politics as he'll highlight issues again, i.e. people will oppose him. With Cameron, it's just tedium and he gets away with so much.

Roger said...

So, he steps into the arena armed with a teaspoon. Will the big beasts kill him quickly or let him dance awhile. Interesting but possibly disgusting.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - I almost wish him well.

Demetrius - I agree but I think he's left it far too late.

Sam - we'll probably end up with benign but socially oppressive managerialism, it seems to be where the world is headed.

A K Haart said...

Stigler - I think you are probably right, although I think the reputation of bankers is one of his small advantages. It doesn't have to sway millions to be worthwhile. But as you say, he seems to be utterly sincere and that is only another small advantage with lots of consequent disadvantages.

James - yes, if he manages to highlight them then that will be healthy.

Roger - it's the Golden Teaspoon Of Righteousness though. The big beasts probably want him to stay around for a while.



Graham Wood said...

An old politician called Corbyn
He won the New Labour love-in,
"Ill nationalise till it comes out of their eyes"
And hope voters will not put the boot in.

A K Haart said...

Graham - lots more merriment to come I suspect.

Woodsy42 said...

I don't think he will even try and play the game, or even acknowledge its existence. I think he will simply be himself and work according to his principles ignoring the bubble-chatter. That's his appeal and that's what he is, and to be honest that's what politics needs.
The sad aspect of the entire sorry situation is that he has such extreme and disasterous left wing views while no similarly principled person seems to exist with ideas and policies that would work in the real world.

A K Haart said...

Woodsy - I agree and maybe that is a problem with entering the real world. Once other people with differing views and ambitions have to be confronted, appeased and persuaded then the principles begin to wobble, as they must.