There was one line in Aditya Chakrabortty’s column yesterday about Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent to the leadership of the Labour Party that got me thinking…
Moments before his final campaign rally last Thursday, I asked Corbyn how much of a work-in-progress his opposition would be. A lot, came the answer: everything hung on who would join his frontbench and what ideas they’d bring. Then he shrugged: “But life is a work in progress!”
I don’t have the power of prescience, so I’ve no idea what will happen in the next few years in British politics, but the idea of the political process being an open continuous work in progress, rather than absolutism, is an interesting one. If you look at our press, you’d assume that we as a population like things precisely black or white.
But of course the world isn’t like that – it’s continuous shades of grey. And as a result politics has increasingly become an exercise in vacuous mission statements and values that are able to look vaguely concrete but in fact commit to nothing. When one of our major political parties has a core value of having strong values then you know that things have gone beyond a bit meta.
What would it take to move to a more agile approach to politics? Well, if the experience of agile in organisations is anything to go by, an awful lot of time. The challenge is that just about everything in the public system is geared around confrontation, not collaboration – from the press to the chamber to our voting system. And with all of that cultural legacy geared against a politics of agility and consensus, it will take a heck of a movement to deliver that change.