Jeremy Corbyn described his party as the new centre ground in British politics in his New Year's address. This is quite a bold claim for a party whose mission under Corbyn is best described as far-left socialism ‘for the many and not the few’. Stuck in a culture of ‘centrist dads’, Blairites and nostalgia for the Third Way era, centrism has lost the once popular pragmatic appeal it held in political days of yore.
But in an increasingly polarised and tribal political climate we’ve never needed centrism more. Radical centrism focuses on the belief that genuine solutions to social issues require realism and pragmatism, as well as emotion and idealism. It seeks to fundamentally reform institutions by using the best solutions that the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ have to offer.
Radical centrism aims to build consensus between polarised groups in society. In a post-referendum Britain beset by increasing divides between the ‘many’ and the ‘few’ – be that the wealthy and the poor, London and all that exists beyond the Watford gap or cities and the countryside - it’s clear that the only way forward is consensus building in the Centre. Corbyn’s increasingly polarised ‘new centre ground’ can’t give us this.
A nation led by governments of alternating extremes, with the Labour Party building what the Conservatives would only tear down when in government (and vice versa), will never find lasting solutions to the complex issues we face as a society. The most vulnerable in society should not watch election results with fear driven by the alternating possibility of hardship under whatever the Far Left or the Far Right inflict upon our nation over the next four years.
To build a Britain that is fairer, safer and kinder to all we need incremental long-term solutions, driven by a mixture of experts and those affected by the social issues we seek to resolve. Much like a flower these solutions need time and the right conditions to develop, not to be pulled up and kicked to the dirt in favour of whatever extreme wing of politics is in vogue this week.
We need to build more robust communities from the ground up, from council wards to local authorities to cities and beyond. In an increasingly unpredictable world we will weather whatever storms come our way by relying on each other and tackling the issues that the latest global catastrophe creates at the grassroots, in a way that works for communities, in communities.
Lurches to the left and the right cannot offer us the stability we need to build resilient communities capable of facing challenges. Corbyn’s Labour Party describing itself as the new centre ground will not absolve it from the problems it creates by fueling tribalism and missing key opportunities to collaborate on sensible middle-of-the-road solutions, whilst May’s Conservatives do no better with their ‘Brexit means Brexit’ lurch to the right.