Good piece by Ian Dunt on the way purity politics has spread from the Toytown worlds of student unions and social media activism to infect the world of real politics, and has a negative impact of the ability to make positive change in the real world
There are two options in politics: stay pure and accomplish nothing, or compromise and affect change. No one ever changed anything on the basis of moral purity. The history of radical change is the history of principled men and women making painful compromises. It’s terribly easy to sit on the sofa and shout righteous indignation at the television. It’s much harder to work on how to expand the audience which might be interested in your campaign, to convert those who might be open to some of your ideas. But as soon as you do that, as soon as you get into the mucky business of debate and compromise and practicality, there will always be people out there calling you a traitor to the cause.
It’s always been like that, but right now it’s worse than ever. Much of the blame must surely rest with the digital echo chambers of social media, the daily self-propaganda machine in which we can surround ourselves with those who already think like us and then shriek with outrage when the it turns out the world does not agree.
It’s making us incapable of nuance or compromise and highly sensitive to the visuals of cooperation, which we take to be a sign of corruption. That’s where the online and student debate is. And mainstream politics is just now learning to profit from it. The SNP and the Tories have proved highly adept at it. And Labour, previously the victim of these efforts, is now gearing up to use the same rhetoric itself. The frenzied tactics of student politics and Twitter shouting matches are increasingly the common currency in Westminster.
The way the falout from the Scottish referendum campaign deeply damaged Labour’s brand north of the border suggests that the electorate is as guilty as the parties. But it would be a tragedy if the parties, especially Labour, were to risk the European referendum to be lost purely for short-term electoral advantage.