I’ve remained quite detached from the Labour leadership debates. I’ve seen an awful lot of infighting that saddens me, much of it has been fueled by what is now standardised, mainstreamed mediacratic misinformation, misquotes and generally fiendish mischief-making. I’ve purposefully avoided getting caught in the crossfire.
Most of you already know my position on the matter – that whilst I think Jeremy Corbyn reflects my own values and principles most closely and has my support, I will continue to campaign from within the Labour Party for progressive change, regardless of who is leading. I will also continue to campaign to raise public awareness as best I can at a broader level, regarding key social issues.
I’ve said elsewhere that I have never regarded a Labour government as the end of our fight for progressive and positive change, but rather, as the only viable starting point.
The Labour Party is a broad church. I can respect other people’s various preferences for a party leader. Not least because I recognise that the Labour Party is on the horns of a dilemma. However, much of that dilemma has been created by the shifting Overton Window, nudged ever rightwards by the radical Conservative neoliberal paternalists in office.
It’s worth considering that even the least esteemed party leader has given us social policies that have meant most of society are much better off than they are under ANY Tory government. Yet here we are with a second term of Conservative austerity: welfare is being dismantled, the NHS is being steadily privatised, public services are stripped of funding, there is growing inequality, grinding poverty and increasingly, human rights abuses.
It’s a point that many people seem to miss. The so-called High Priest of neoliberalism – Tony Blair – presented us with some outstanding social policies nonetheless, such as the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act, the Climate Change Act, the Anti-Bribery Act, Every Child Matters, the Fox Hunting Ban and animal welfare policies, Good Friday Agreement, and many more, which the Tories are currently very busy trying to repeal. These policies certainly defy the widespread, retrospectively applied “Thatcherist” label and do not fully warrant the sheer extent of knee-jerk hatred that people pour out at any mention of Blair nowadays. This said, Blair was certainly a neoliberal, and his social safety nets were designed entirely in that context: to protect people from the very worst ravages of the economic neoliberalism that he endorsed.
Without the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act, we would not have won any of the legal cases brought against the Tories, regarding the welfare reforms.
Just for the record, I am not a Blairite. I didn’t like the Third Way – left-wing social policies with a neoliberal economics compromise. I protested against Iraq. However, if the Party is to learn, develop and move on, we must have an open mind, a balanced view and not dismiss the lessons from merits and success because there were also failures. And Blair’s synthesis of a reduced, ethical socialism was at least founded on an idea that we can remove some of the unjust elements of capitalism by providing state safeguards, including social welfare, public services and via protective policies. Now we are desperately fighting to preserve that basic layer of traditional and institutionalised social justice. The persistent Conservative narrative, comprising of tales of “welfare dependency” and “scroungers” have de-normalised collectivism and shifted the balance between citizen rights and responsibilities, unfavourably.
As a result, the Labour Party is caught between a rock and a hard place. Many supporters don’t seem to know which way to turn.
Some people think we should take a sharp left turn, re-embracing our post-war principles, others feel we would be better moving right towards a Blairist central destination, more in line with the perception of where the ever-narrowing Overton Window has placed shifting public opinion. Do people want a principled-responsive or populist-responsive party? The latter option, it is held, will make the party seem more electable. The difficulty is that the apparent public shift to the right make achieving both options difficullt. And neither direction is without risk.
Perhaps one way to define the dilemma clearly is by seeing it as that of “the real” and “the ideal” – the “real” is that we have to appeal to the broadest base of the population that we can, yet without compromising our inclusive, internationalist principles, we will continue to lose supporters to UKIP and the right. The “ideal” is that we very much need to build bridges with other progressive, anti-austerity parties, appealing to and uniting the left. But that is also risky because there has been a public shift to the right, here in England, at least.
Nationalism in England seems to have pulled many to the right, nationalism in Scotland (allegedly) pulled people left.
I don’t hide the fact that I am skeptical about the claims made by the Scottish National Party, and have pointed out more than once that Sturgeon’s skillful rhetoric, which is peppered with Glittering Generalities, does not connect up with concomitant policies.
The latter direction – the ideal – is the most appealing to me, and probably the easiest one to take, since it means compromising few if any of our traditional core values and principles. And of course, it presents a very clear, much needed alternative to social conservatism and neoliberalism. If we aim at uniting the left it would obviously make an election win much more likely in the future.
It is down to us to continue to raise public awareness about the devasting socio-economic consequences of Conservatism and unfettered neoliberalsm, and to present a clear, bold, coherent and cogent alternative.
We need to be shouting loudly that austerity has nothing to do with economic competence, it’s an ideologically-driven, crude experiment in human despair, for a start. We need to smash the illusion of cosy consensus, reflected in the Conservative and mediacratic smoke and mirror rhetoric.
The fact that the right-wing Sun feels at liberty to publicly endorse Kendall, who is widely perceived as the tame Blairite candidate for the leadership, indicates the extent to which the establishment want to thwart even a gesture of democratic socialism. Within OUR party.
And then there are the vile Conservative party supporters who never fail to descend to the blatantly despicable, launching a campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as the next Labour leader, strictly as a manipulative and opportunist event to discredit what they fear and loathe the most.
See, for example: For just a £3 membership fee you can help consign the party to electoral oblivion in 2020 – and silence its loony Left forever. They really wish. The arrogant authoritarians think they can decide the 2020 general election in advance and on behalf of the voting public.
It’s not as if the ridiculous Right’s dominant social Conservative/neoliberal narrative has any coherence, it’s a just a flimsy justifcation of crass inequality, cruelty and primitive tyranny.
There’s a lot of bad faith and reduced trust amongst many of us on the somewhat factionalised left, which makes working together a far from easy task. Nonetheless, it seems to be the only viable option, to me.
Perhaps we simply need a timely reminder that the real enemy is and always was the Tories – they are relentlessly and systematically uncivilising and desolating the country, dismantling our post-war settlement – our finest achievement – and they are coldly and remorsely destroying many people’s lives. And then blaming their victims, punishing those that they have impoverished for being poor.
We must make sure that the unremitingly savage social Darwinist dystopia that the Tories have designed is not normalised by the malicious political and media establishment, the swivel-eyed, ever-scornful twittering Conservative commentariat. Tyranny and cruelty must not become so casualised and entrenched in the public’s psyche that we forget what it is to be civilised, forget how to be humane, forget basic human kindness. If we lose hope, lose faith in each other, we really are lost.
We must present our alternative narrative, remembering that once our society evolved and progressed, now it is diminishing and regressing. It’s time to push back at the enclosing, stifling boundaries, crushing human potential as it drags us inwards, reducing us from human subjects to objects of increasingly depopulated, dehumanising socio-economic policies founded on ideology, not human need.
There is a great need for the ever-fragmented left to work together to achieve common aims, and placed less emphasis on the minutiae of party politics and divisive electioneering tactics, prioritising crucial social issues and needs instead.
Many people are suffering terribly because of brutal Tory policies, and we would be shabby, barren socialists indeed if we didn’t give our full attention and effort to doing our best in working cooperatively to organise and fight collectively to oppose the authoritarians and push back hard for positive change.
What’s the point in sterile debating and fighting amongst ourselves about what “real” socialism is when we don’t do the necessary joined-up thinking that brings about its practice?
I say let’s do it. Let’s be the change we want to see.
The alternative is to continue to witness the terrible consequences of a pathological world-view, now creeping forward to catastrophically affect more and more ordinary people, as Tory authoritarian ideology is translated from Darwinist rhetoric into public policies that manifest harsh, bleak social realities.
Many Green Party supporters have rejoined the Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn. There is still a clear unifying momentum going on at grassroots level, and it’s overwhelmingly behind a clear, socialist alternative. Let’s go with the flow.
Upwards and onwards.