Political parties are developing an aversion to policy. David Cameron’s refusal to provide anything more than mood music in Bournemouth is only the latest tock in the unstoppable tick tock that’s moving politics into line with the other branches of marketing. Don’t mention the product, focus on the brand, communicate the feeling. Mars Bars became – unbelievably – ‘Believe’ for the duration of the World Cup, mobile phone companies talk about dreams and intimacy and not about call quality or coverage.
Political parties won’t ‘bang on’ about Europe any more. They won’t bang on about anything at all in fact. They’ll invest their time and money in telling us what kind of ‘guys’ they are, where there heads are at, what their hopes and dreams are. We’ll be invited to identify with them. We’ll be encouraged to act on our feelings about a party or a candidate without exploring their relative positions.
All of this will only work in the new, post-ideological political marketplace that all the new-age pols aspire to. The clever young people steering the major parties (or brands) are certain – collectively and across the left-right divide – that the old, differentiated politics is history and I guess, in a way, they’re right. There’s something very last Century – very iron curtain, clash-of-ideologies, Winter-of-discontent, Z-Cars, Sunday Night at the Palladium, Harold Macmillan – about the stunted bipolar politics we grew up with isn’t there?
Shouldn’t we rush at this new stuff? Embrace the funky flow of freestyle Twenty-first Century politics with all the parties arbitrarily arranged on the political centre ground where comparison on fundamentals is difficult and essentially pointless?
The old politics is obviously doomed. The question is, can the political parties survive the demise of political culture?