And I contend we are better for these stories. Stories help us to make sense of the world, and just as importantly help us to understand ourselves. They give us themes we can hold to guide us in our lives - will we be the the cowboy in the white hat, or the one who wears black? Will we be Rapunzel, or Maid Marion? Lancelot, or Arthur? Hell, Roy Rogers or Trigger...
In politics, it is even more important to have a narrative to tell the public. Usually the broad themes have come easy - it will always be the good guys (us) versus the bad guys (various). We have seen this in the Cold War, we have seen this in our new 'clash of civilisations'. But this is not enough. We get bored with only one story. What we also want is the story of where we are going, not just where we are. We want to believe our masters have a plan, a destination in mind, a vision of what they want the country to be.
Tony Blair had that story. He swept to power with the old story about a vibrant young country, Cool Britannia, which was going to take on the world with style and panache. He told us that we, all of us, were going to make things better. No problem was insoluble, and together we were going to throw of the troubles of the past.
He had a story, and we bought into it. We liked it. We wanted to be part of it.
But now? Brown is not a storyteller. He is dour, a competent administrator, a man who can get things done. But he doesn't have the capacity to sparkle. He doesn't have the ability to captivate, and that is what we yearn. And that lack means we no longer let him be the man who gets things done.
But along comes Cameron, and he has a new story for us. About a fresh faced young man who leads a kind party, who are coming to save us from the stuffy old sorts. He is going to make the world right, he is going to heal the world, save the world with nice green policies.
It's a good story. But there are better ones out there.
I'm now going to have a look at US politics to try and see where we can go. I apologise in advance for my naivety and lack of understanding of American politics - I'm talking as a complete outsider, making wild assumptions based on inadequate press coverage. So for all our American friends: Sorry. But I'm going to tell you the story of how I see it.
Any successful political narrative, the narrative of a government, has to tell us who we are, and where we are going. It has to reassure us about the future. There are two basic ways of doing this.
The first has been used by the Republicans for a number of years now. They will tell you a story about how great America is, about all the wonderful ideals and values it has, and that it has shared with the world. And their vision for the future is to tell you how they will protect those values, they will keep them safe, protect the glories of the country from perils within the country, and from foreign lands.
The second has been used by Obama in the primaries. He told a story of how great America is, about the wonderful ideals and values it has, and that it has shared with the world. And his vision for the future is to take those values, to take those ideals, and to build on them. His story is to tell you that yes, we have done so well, but we can do better. His story is to tell you to never settle for what you have, never to rest on past glories, but to move forward, to strive to be better than you were.
This is, as you will have seen, a restating of the positions of conservative against progressive politics. One seeks to preserve what is good, the other seeks to make it better. One risks stagnation, one risks strife. These two positions have been the dominant themes of western politics for as long as I can remember. (Note that conservative versus progressive here doesn't split neatly down party lines - in the UK, you'd have to say under this model Thatcher was a progressive - she sought to change society. I may not agree with it, but that's a different story.)
But the stories are more than this. They are designed to elicit a certain response. The first seeks to inspire fear - fear of the unknown, of change, of the future. The second seeks to inspire hope - hope for improvement, for change, for the future. And I think the American public are getting ready for hope.
Clinton's campaign seemed (again to a complete outsider) to be based a little bit on fear. She portrayed herself as the Washington insider, someone who knew how the game was played, someone who could get things done by virtue of her experience. Obama was the opposite - he portrayed himself as someone who would take the public's desire for change, and make it happen, regardless of the opposition. One position is for those who fear failure, the other is for those who hope for success.
And that's why I don't think much of Cameron's story. He's been very good at telling us who he isn't, about what he wouldn't be like. But for me, he hasn't yet told us who he is. He hasn't yet set out a clear vision for the future. He hasn't told people of hope. He's told us to fear more of the same.
I suppose that's why I can't give up on the Labour Party just yet. They've always had the better stories. They've given me stories of how the world can be better, of how we can work together to give every single one of us a better life, a more fulfilled life. But they haven't been telling me that story for a long time.
New Labour wasn't based on hope. Oh, they told us it was, they gave us hope, but the whole idea of it was based on fear. The triangulation theory was there because the people at the top were afraid the public wouldn't be with them, wouldn't hope with them. They had been out of power for 18 years, and they were afraid they'd stay there. Fear built them a system that won elections, but didn't win the future.
But now I, at least, think things will have to change. The game-plan they have used for the last three elections doesn't seem to be working now. They can't rely on fear of the Tories anymore. Fear isn't working. Now, perhaps, they will turn to hope.
Even if they don't, I still believe things will change. Because I believe the British people are, like the Americans, starting to turn away from fear. If the Conservatives are to ride that feeling all the way, then they need to talk of hope too. And once one of the major parties has, the other has to join in, or face utter defeat.
And that's a good thing. Because I am tired of seeing non-entities lead us. I am tired of slick debating tactics used to belittle both opponents and members of the public who don't play along. I am tired of people I wouldn't want to work for making laws. I am tired of middle managers as Prime Minister. I am tired of politicians who are so professional.
Because I don't want smooth style and slick efficiency in politics. Because I want to see someone with fire in their belly, passion in their heart, anger in their eyes, and righteousness in their voice. Because I want a politician who has a vision for the future. Because I want to see a politician who wants to change the world, not manage it. Because I want to see a politician that believes.
Because I want to hope again.
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