What should be the relationship between politicians and the public? This is the fundamental question at the heart of Labour's response to concerns about immigration.
There have been, traditionally, two possible answers here. At one end, we have Edmund Burke's view that parliament is a "deliberative assembly" which ought not to heed "hasty opinion." On the other end is the "politics as consumerism" view, in which the customer/voter is king and should be given what he wants.
It's pretty clear to me that a party which took the Burkean view would tell voters that they are mostly wrong to link immigration and wages. Hopi seems to take this view in urging Labour to "have the courage of our convictions, even if it means a fight."
But I'm not sure the party is heeding him. Both Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna have said immigration concerns are "understandable" - and they did so not merely in the context of unease about social cohesion but in the context of wages. And Yvette Cooper also links immigration and wages, without pointing out that insofar as there is a problem here at all the solution is a more redistributive tax and benefit system. Her demand to make serious exploitation a crime looks like a cack-handed version of the "left-right-left pivot" Hopi complains about.
In failing to tell the truth - that immigration has only mildly adverse effects on low-wage workers and that these face many more and greater threats to their livelihoods - Umunna and Cooper are following Gordon Brown. The worst aspect his notorious encounter with Gillian Duffy is not that he called her a bigot, but that he utterly failed to make the case for immigration.
What's going on here is a slide from the Burkean to the consumerist conception of politics; voters' concerns are "understandable" and must be listened to, even if they are mistaken.
Herein, though, lie two paradoxes. One is that some of the most successful businessmen - from Henry Ford with with (apocryphal) quote about faster horses to Steve Jobs saying "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them" - haven't listened to customers. The other is that the more politicians talk about listening and connecting to voters, the less support and respect they've gotten.
The two paradoxes might be related by John Kay's obliquity. Sometimes, you can get want you want by not aiming directly for it. Ford and Jobs didn't waste time on market research but instead created great products.
Perhaps, then, Labour's urge to listen to voters is a two-fold importation into politics of the worst forms of corporate ideology. Not only does it see voters as customers, but it believes the party's objectives can be achieved merely by focusing on what voters seem to want, rather than by developing a worthy product.