The Labour Party is in opposition in the UK. Their policies, and those of the tea party, couldn't be further apart. But there are lessons from the rise of the tea party, that any political party in opposition could learn from:
it's a popular movement. Ordinary people who have done ordinary jobs, who joined politics because our passion to change things. Labour used to represent working class people, the unions put forward their candidate, who were working people who are passionate about supporting their fellow man. The tea party replaced "establishment" candidates with ordinary people who could speak about their experience, without fear of being exposed. The Labour Party is now full of "establishment" figures – people who haven't done a day’s real work in their life!. At least Ed Milliband started from a working class background, even if the only jobs he has ever held have been in Parliament http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Miliband#Education . The unions should recognise that with the money they contribute to the Labour Party, they have the choice to choose the candidates; and they should choose candidates who have worked, and can safely be said to represent the working class. http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1964903,00.html
They Work for You. No really. "If they don't do their job, we'll sack them and replace them" – (co-ordinator of the tea party) said this about the candidates entering the House of Representatives with this election. Politics should not just be a gravy train for life, with a series of lucrative spin-offs. We sent them the government to work for us. We didn't send them to get wined and dined by lobbyists, and work for big business.
They're populist and don't have any real policies. The tea party mantra "reclaim America" is illogical – reclaim from whom? Surely the Native Americans (or the British) are the ones who have a right to cry "reclaim America"? How about the other favourite mantra - "Cut taxes"? The USA faces the biggest deficit of its history. Cutting taxes will make the deficit worse. Unspecified cuts in public spending won't do any good either – you can't save if you won't identify exactly what you are going to cut, and the tea party refuses to cut to the biggest spent (Medicaid, senior citizen entitlements, defence http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2029359,00.html ). In opposition it really doesn't matter what you chant. But they are in power now, at least in one house. Politicians are supposed to look ahead, to work in our interests in the longer term, are supposed to give us what we NEED, which sometimes isn't what we WANT.
There are definite. They have mantras that can be repeated, and that you can agree with. Obama has managed to achieve great things in only 100 days in power. But perhaps he is too intellectual, refusing to allow himself to petty populist tricks (like crying, or letting his voice crack http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2029358,00.html ), refusing to score points from his opponents. Sometimes you need to remind people what they have gained, to remind people how good it is now because of you, to take credit. Sometimes you need to rephrase your plans into short punchy sentences that can be repeated on the streets with a loudhailer. Now there's a challenge!
Let's hope political parties in the UK can learn from the lessons. Can we overcome the cycle of politicians who went straight into politics from University, whose only connection with their constituency is that they went and bought a house there in order to become a candidate (and they could afford to!)? Can we only allow people in who have done a normal job?