In the Times, David Aaronovitch accuses the left of being "completely without ideas" and of sinking into the politics of "symbology" because they have "nothing else." I'm in two minds about this.
One the one hand, it seems wrong. A few decent ideas get us a longish way towards leftist ideals: an expansionary fiscal policy including massive housebuilding to get us away from the zero bound; a citizens' basic income; a serious jobs guarantee (pdf); and worker democracy. One might add to this higher taxes on inheritance and top incomes and (though I'm more sceptical of these) wage-led growth and participatory economics. The left has lots of decent ideas which are reasonably well grounded in evidence and logic: see, for example, the real utopias project.
This, though, merely poses the question: how, then, can someone as intelligent as David think otherwise?
The answer is that such ideas, for the most part, are outside the Overton window; they're not discussed in mainstream media-political circles - or if, they are, it is appallingly badly done.
There are several reasons for this.
One is that the media filters out such ideas. "Mediamacro" has constructed a hyperreal economy in which the deficit is the economic problem. And deference towards bosses prevents journalists from even posing the question: mightn't worker control sometimes be more efficient?
Our warped media, though, in part reflects public opinion. Numerous cognitive biases serve to support hierarchy and inequality and so close off thinking about alternatives. (In saying this, I'm not making a specifically Marxian point. It was Adam Smith who complained of our "disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition" (Theory of Moral Sentiments I.III.28).)
Another problem is that there's adverse selection in politics. Whatever other abilities Natalie Bennett might have, they do not include an ability to argue for even well-founded policies. And this highlights a wider problem. Politics selects against intellectuals: as Nick Robinson said of Jonathan Portes, "he would not have a chance of getting elected in a single constituency in the country." Instead, what's valued is a perceived ability to "connect" with the voters. And this means following public opinion, not changing it.
But there is, though, also a problem with the left itself. Since the 80s much of it has lost interest in economics - except, it seems sometimes, to dismiss the entire discipline as neoliberal ideology. As Nick says:
I have seen half my generation of leftists waste their lives and everyone else’s time in petty and priggish disputes about language. They do it because it’s easy, and struggles for real change are hard.
What I'm saying here is that, if David is looking for leftist ideas in the media-political bubble, he's looking in the wrong place. As a great man said, the revolution will not be televised.