Andrew Wilson: Labour hopefuls fail to hear silent majority

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a meeting during his campaign in Ealing. Picture: AP

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a meeting during his campaign in Ealing. Picture: AP

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LISTEN contains the same letters as the word silent. Listening, one of life’s core skills. My finest friends are world class at it and I am blessed with a rare group of the very best.

It can envelop and comfort you in a way you can’t appreciate until you are in its embrace. Its presence releases us from the grip of anxiety in such a fundamental way. We should practise it. All of us.

Cast around and you see its call resonate in the wisdom of many. Hemingway’s exhortation was “when people talk listen completely, most people never listen”. Truth, right there.

How many problems could be seen off if the quiet voice, the soft signal and the heartfelt plea were spotted by an open ear, heart and mind?

As the great Stephen Covey put it: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand , they listen with the intent to reply.” Ring any bells?

You’ve all met them, been them even. Goodness, I recognise it in myself, itching to get my idea out and entirely missing the depth of the point I should be hearing. Whether to our children, partners, colleagues, ­clients or friends we need to learn to listen with far greater generosity and intent.

In politics the entire system has its interpretation out before the people have even cleared their throat. Time to listen.

The potential election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party (for younger readers, they were big in the Nineties and early Noughties, but we needn’t be detained by their history) is a case in point. I have a nagging doubt about whether he will make it, but all the polls and commentators currently tell us that he most definitely will.

His opponents preside over a vacuum where purpose should lie, shifting one way or the other to reflect or refract his light. Where leaders should lead, they offer only tack and tactics. It is risible in every sense.

Labour remain a prisoner of their past. Tony Blair was once the future but now they seem hell bent on elevating a man who has done very little at any point to suggest the capacity to lead. Or indeed the appetite.

If successful he will be destroyed by that reality as sure as night follows day. He offers no solution and doesn’t appear to even pretend to. But the people backing him are saying something that must be listened to and heard.

All around the world people are making clear their deep dissatisfaction with the politics of now.

This is creating the condition for all sorts of choices to fill the gap. Whether it is the circus of Donald Trump’s presidential bid or the flirtation with the fringe right or left in the UK.

Alternatives will be considered by a discerning public but quickly dismissed as reality bites. The once all-conquering Ukip’s UK support is now barely in two figures. Trump appeals to a tiny minority of US citizens but carries weight through celebrity, low turnout and the Primary system.

Corbyn Labour is a million miles from carrying popular support. His party is polling in the 20s and his leadership, so say the pollsters, would diminish it further. This is no popular uprising. It is an accident of a system that is finished and the echo of a people who have had enough of the politics of yesterday. But what of tomorrow?

In Scotland the SNP enjoy more than twice the support of the Labour party at a UK level and are a stable party of government. They present an alternative to the politics of now that is far more enduring and sustainable.

What a true irony it would be if they allowed the network coverage of Corbynmania to come close to framing anything about their own agenda. They are far too clever for that.

Some of Corbyn’s stated agenda deserves airing. Much of the rest of it, in contrast, is as old and tired as the jumper his mum once knitted. No-one should confuse the attraction of what he is not, for the reality of what he is.

Meantime his Scottish colleagues are now led by Kezia Dugdale, a fresh, new and modern voice for a party still currently bereft of purpose or position. How she fills that void will determine her success far more than any stylistics about her own abilities. Her political pull and talent should not be in doubt. The substance of what she chooses next will define her.

The UK is packed to the gunnels with old voices trying to project their own outdated view of the world on a political system that is in complete flux. But positive solutions to the actual realities of our daily lives are hard to discern.

I see very little in UK Labour that suggests any positive impact on the decisions that matter for most people anytime soon. I see only self-indulgence and self-harm for months if not years to come.

Scotland’s three main parties are led exclusively by women, whose gender, on the whole, has a far greater talent for listening than men. The possibility exists to show a better standard and culture to how politics can serve. This should unite and ­excite us all. «

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