A New Dream of Politics


The Booker prize-winning writer Ben Okri was called a genius by Jeremy Corbyn in his Labour party conference speech.
Here he responds,

A New Dream of Politics – a poem by Ben Okri

They say there is only one way for politics.
That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
And shapes it with a ruler’s edge,
Measuring what is possible against
Acclaim, support, and votes.

They say there is only one way to dream
For the people, to give them not what they need
But food for their fears.
We measure the deeds of politicians
By their time in power.

But in ancient times they had another way.
They measured greatness by the gold
Of contentment, by the enduring arts,
The laughter at the hearths,
The length of silence when the bards
Told of what was done by those who
Had the courage to make their lands
Happy, away from war, spreading justice
And fostering health,
The most precious of the arts
Of governance.

But we live in times that have lost
This tough art of dreaming
The best for its people,
Or so we are told by cynics
And doomsayers who see the end
Of time in blood-red moons.

Always when least expected an unexpected
Figure rises when dreams here have
Become like ashes. But when the light
Is woken in our hearts after the long
Sleep, they wonder if it is a fable.

Can we still seek the lost angels
Of our better natures?
Can we still wish and will
For poverty’s death and a newer way
To undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth
Of the Middle East, and prosperity
In Africa as the true way
To end the feared tide of immigration?

We dream of a new politics
That will renew the world
Under their weary suspicious gaze.
There’s always a new way,
A better way that’s not been tried before.


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The ode takes an apparent swipe at Corbyn’s opponents, inside and outside the Labour party, who have damned him as idealistic but unelectable, a dreamer not a doer.

Can Corbyn get to Okri’s vision? The poem promises:
“Always when least expected an unexpected Figure rises”, and in a final couplet that could almost fit on a lapel badge concludes:
“There’s always a new way
A better way that’s not been tried before”

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