In the Labour Party, we like boldness. A bit more boldness is always in order. Mark Ferguson has written a call for boldness on LabourList today that’s a good example of the genre.
Mark’s criticism of Ed, and I think he makes it well, is that the boldness of the policies and the boldness of the rhetoric do not match. His answer is to make the policies bolder. The alternative – making the rhetoric match the policies – isn’t considered. It almost never is. Boldness – in our arguments, our policies or our criticisms – is a Good Thing.
By happy coincidence, being bold feels great. If my policies are small and fiddling then I must be small and fiddling. But if my words and my actions are bold then I am not small. Indeed, something as staid as an interest in social democratic politics becomes rather dashing, if you apply enough boldness.
Calling on people to be bolder has a few nice ironies. It’s one of the least risky things any commentator can recommend – who is going to boo me and demand more pusillanimity? It’s also a bit of a contradiction: I want Ed Miliband to believe in himself more, but I’m also telling him to do as I say.
Another question is whether more boldness is more convincing to voters who are making up their mind about Labour. Suppose I tell you you’ll be £100 better off if I win the next election. If you’re convinced, great. But maybe you’re a bit sceptical. Would you be reassured if I came back the next day and said it’s now, £1,000? How about £10,000?
Being bold feels good when you’re the one being bold. But voters are choosing someone to do something on their behalf. I can’t fly a plane but I imagine pulling off a loop-the-loop feels pretty damn cool. Nevertheless, if the captain starts talking about how bold he or she’s feeling before take off, I think I might want to get off the plane.