When it comes to politics, imitation is not a form of flattery; it’s a sign a party is scared of losing precious votes to another party with popular policies. It can seem like savvy politics in the short term, but it can backfire. When one party imitates another they are inadvertently validating that party’s policies and values.
Rather than stealing a party’s votes, the imitator bolster’s it’s standing in the eyes of the voting public. Ultimately people don’t trust a party playing catch up. And they often stick to the party that came up with those policies first. After all, why vote for the echo when you can vote for the shout?
Under Corbyn, Labour are offering something truly exciting and different. This has clearly unnerved Mrs May, hence her attempt to reach out to voters who might be drawn to vote for those policies. This shouldn’t worry us. In fact quite the opposite. Thanks to Mrs May, the right wing commentariat (and I include some of our own MPs in that group) can’t so easily stick the ‘economically incompetent’ label on us when we talk about an end to austerity or major investment.
May thinks she’s being very canny, offering our voters a ‘perfect’ political pick and mix of progressive policies combined with tough immigration rhetoric. What she is in fact doing is giving credence to our socialist way of addressing concerns over migration – which often equates to its perceived impact on public services and housing. By promising to invest in our schools, hospitals and housing these concerns are eased, but only if those plans sound credible. Thanks to our new ‘progressive PM’ giving the thumbs up to greater state investment, our investment plans just got a whole lot easier to sell to the electorate. Yes, there is a certain demographic who simple don’t like ‘foreigners’ but we will never appease them, and nor should we try.
Maybe before embarking on this strategy, Mrs May should have reminded herself how the imitation game turned out for Ed Miliband. And despite the much hailed three election victories for New Labour, their fixation with imitating Tory policies did eventually drive five million labour voters into the arms of other parties; or even just into their armchairs, where they could sit and contemplate how depressing and uninspiring politics becomes when all politicians start to dress, look, and sound the same.
So let the DisMay government imitate us all they like. With every policy they copy, the more they legitimise us; and we can capitalise on that.