Friday 20 March 2009

What British Politics Can Learn From Obama

Guest post by Nick Anstead and Will Straw.

The Obama campaign will be studied by parties around the world. The lessons from America in 2008 speak to the roots of progressive politics - which brought new social forces into democracy rather than arising from the old political elites – and there is now the opportunity to mobilise these new political movements in the UK. But success will depend on doing something more than graft some of the lessons of the 'new politics' onto the structures and cultures of the old politics: we will need to rethink more profoundly the way in which we do politics and what we believe that our political parties are for.

We must resist the temptation to see what is happening in the US as a quick fix for Labour’s current difficulties, a ‘to do’ list for the next election. This approach can only end in disappointment. Attempts to emulate the web-based campaigning or
fundraising networks will have a limited impact without recognising that these are examples of a different, more pluralist and less controlled culture of political organisation. And the new mobilising techniques will not prove a magic bullet
unless there is an inspiring political mission and message.

The US election challenges Labour to change dramatically – altering the way the party is organised, how it interacts with its supporters and communicates with the electorate. The reward of learning the lesson, however, is potentially huge; reawakening Labour as a movement and making the party fit for purpose as a campaigning force in the twenty-first century.

This is an extract from The Change We Need: What Britain Can Learn From Obama's Victory, published by the Fabian Society on Monday. Read more at our sister site here.


smartart said...

Only the blinkered have failed to see the Blair qualities of Obama. Only the very blinkered would wish another Blair on the world.

Nick Anstead said...

Hi Smarart,

Thanks for the comment, although I think you take a very "top down" view of what this is all about, focusing on the leader. We are much more interested in the "bottom up" aspect of Obama's campaign - in other words how he managed to engage so many people in participatory politics, many of whom had previously not been involved before. Check out Ben Brandzel's chapter (which is being pre-released on Sunday) for a take on this.

Best, Nick

Matthew Cain said...

I've reviewed the pamphlet here.

I thought there were lots of good things in it and it's a really important contribution but the conclusions were weak because they failed to compare properly the similarities and differences.