Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Narrative

I don’t usually repost blog articles etc. here, preferring to use this blog for my own thoughts, but this short piece on the New Statesman’s Staggers blog chimed strongly with things I’ve been saying into the ether for far too long. Particularly this:

[T]he right has positioned itself as the status quo, and apart from a few platitudes about Queen, country and hard working families, it doesn’t need a thorough going narrative about who and what they are – because they already are, they are the ‘establishment’ and it’s up to the challengers to come up with a compelling reason to get them out

Exactly. There has been a lot of talk about narratives pre, during and post-election, which actually don’t do justice to their importance. It gets as far as ‘telling a story’ or delivering a good sales pitch. Labour particularly needs much more than this, otherwise we will simply be using the language and the tactics of the Tories to take on the Tories, in which case – lo and behold – the Tories will win. Developing a compelling narrative isn’t just about having a better shopping list of policies and explaining why ‘we’re better for you’, the individual. It’s about taking the dominant discourses – the ideas and imagery that presents itself as the ‘mood of the nation’ or however you want to think of it – and shifting them so that the conservative position is no longer the ‘natural’ choice (for the handful of Gramscians in the audience, organising ‘common sense’ on to our territory). Labour will never do that if they keep using the language of the right to frame their policies, and that is at least in part why it is proving so difficult to form a meaningful narrative around the policies.

All this will certainly come to (blinding) light if the party elects a right winger like Kendall as the next leader.



  1. I have been thinking the same, especially since the election. But it merges in with thoughts about how you go about actually engaging and enthusing people that the ideas and values attached to challenges to the status quo are both something to seriously consider and despite the uncertainty of change will lead to something better.

  2. Sorry, Lee, meant to reply to this ages ago!

    You make a very important point. It’s one thing to say we need to challenge and change discourses and frames of debate, but it’s quite another to actually put in to practice a strategy that will achieve this. It’s certainly something I still struggle with. There are difficult lines to cross between discourse, rhetoric and practice – particularly when it comes to the point-scoring game of party politics.

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