At this moment, I have never felt so disillusioned & detached from politics & The Labour Party in my adult life (actually, in truth, since I was about 12 years old). In all honesty, I’m actually quite enjoying the detachment. I’ve not been on Twitter much for the last 6 weeks & I’ve not been slavishly following every political development as they happen, it’s been good for my general frame of mind & mental health I think. However one current story hasn’t escaped my attention so I’m very temporarily breaking my sabbatical from commenting on politics to write this blog. I’m not going to get into any arguments or pointless online debates, this is just what I think, I’m not telling anyone else what to think, I’m not campaigning on anyone’s behalf. I’m just getting it off my chest then I’ll go back to binge watching Portlandia & sending silly pictures to my son on Snapchat.
I’ve had huge gripes in the last few years with Labour partly because I felt that winning had become the only focus & that beliefs, principles & ideology were a bit of an afterthought.
This current “mania” appears to me to be leaping to the other end of the scale.
I’ve not been moved or inspired by Jeremy Corbyn. Perhaps his idealistic approach mirrors some of the things I believe fundamentally but what good is that if he can’t win a general election. I firmly believe that he can’t. Survey after survey (such as ttp://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/19/britain-uncovered-survey-attitudes-beliefs-britons-2015 from earlier this year) will tell you that the UK is pretty much split politically 3 ways – roughly 33% describe themselves broadly as left wing, 33% describe themselves as right wing, 33% describe themselves as somewhere in the middle. No one can win an election from too far left & no one can win from too far right because the mass majority ultimately see themselves somewhere around the centre. Pragmatism is key.
On the morning after the last General Election I was devastated because my feeling was that the city I live in, similar to so many places in UK needed a Labour govt to turn round its decline (a decline I’m seeing more tangibly every day even in subtle ways – increased litter & graffiti is something I’m noticing more now because there are simply less people employed to do anything about it). My view is a Corbyn-led Labour would mean the chances of places like Hull getting the Labour govt it needs in 2020 will be greatly reduced if not completely decimated.
It has raised in my mind a pertinent question – what is more important, fundamental belief or winning? The answer for me isn’t a sexy one but it’s probably, I think, the right one. It’s somewhere in between. I felt at the time of Labour’s election defeat that what it needed was a leader that could unify the party, take a pragmatic approach that recognised the wide-ranging left spectrum of the Labour movement & ensure it was a strong opposition, ensure the party didn’t split down the middle, bring voters back on board & defeat the Tories in 2020. Unfortunately that looks unlikely to happen, not just because of Corbyn but because none of the other 3 candidates appear to fit that description either – a little more on them later.
What I see instead is relatively comfortable middle class Labour people throwing their lot in with Corbyn’s socialist dream. People whose lives aren’t actually materially effected very much by whichever stripe of government are in power, who can afford to go “fuck it, let’s just be principled opposition naysayers, not like we’ve got anything to lose”. They’ll still get their holiday abroad once or twice a year, they’ll still have a nice car, they’ll still be able to have a glass of wine with friends after a one-off showing of the latest Mike Leigh film in a quirky venue, they’ll still be able to agonise over just how free-range the chicken they are eating is, they can still own the first 3 Coldplay albums but now hate Coldplay while perversely they think Radiohead got rubbish after their third album. I know I’m being unfair. I know for some people it’s a genuine vote of principle. For others though, a lot of others, it’s a vote borne out of naivety, or at the very least wilful short-sightedness. They are the ones that will bang on about “hope”, that word is now my most hated in the English language. It is used almost exclusively by those self-same relatively comfortable middle-class people like they’re living in a township during apartheid-era South Africa rather than relative Western comfort in one of the richest countries in the world. “Hope Over Fear” – fuck off. And “Change” can do one as well. Meaningless platitudes have replaced political conversation & debate. “Hope” doesn’t pay the bills. “Hope” doesn’t tackle poverty. “Hope” doesn’t improve public services. “Hope” doesn’t bring down unemployment. “Hope” doesn’t heal the sick.
I live in a working class housing estate in Hull, my street could never be described as affluent, in the 10 houses around me, including mine, there are only 3 that have someone in full-time employment, including me. It may surprise you that none of them are talking about Jeremy Corbyn, none of them see him as the great white hope, in fact I’m not sure this leadership election has registered with many of them at all (next door are lib-dems to be fair). This isn’t about the working class & what’s best for them. This is about those with little at stake feeling good about themselves. Fuck the consequences.
I get it though. People feel disenfranchised by politics. They want to be inspired. They want something & someone to believe in. I do too. I really wish I could tell you who that was, where they are & where you can vote for them. I have no idea. So maybe you should all vote for Corbyn. I do see 2 up-sides to that, 1 fatuous & 1 not. First one, I’d personally find it interesting, possibly entertaining, to see him as leader. I’ve no doubt it would be a wonderful mess. Second one, if the Labour Party didn’t split then it would at least force it into a recognisable & solid middle ground between centre-left & far left. That maybe wouldn’t be a bad thing but it’d likely be 10 years for it to settle down & possibly make a positive impact. I personally don’t want to wait 10 years for a Labour govt. I suspect I won’t have a choice.
I want a political leader I can believe in, a leader that I can support & get behind. I don’t want a glorified protestor. However, the other contenders…….
Here’s what I think about them. On Jay-Z’s magnificent Blueprint album there’s a song called Takeover. It’s a diss song about Nas when they were feuding. The whole rap tears strips off Nas then there’s the last line, “And all you other cats throwing shots at Jigga / You only get half a bar – fuck y’all n*****”. That’s pretty much what I think about the other three. I suppose Corbyn is at least worth passing comment on.
So, as it stands, the likelihood is that I won’t vote for any of them. I love the Labour Party, the Labour movement. I love what it stands for. I love it’s history. It’s about more than how it is today or what it’s been in the last 5 years. As a movement it is the strongest advocate for left wing progressive politics, for social justice, for fairness but by necessity it’s members cover the whole spectrum of the left. My view is that anyone who thinks Labour should nail it’s colours to an extreme left pure socialism mast is wrong, never mind that those politics are unrepresentative of two-thirds of the country, they’re unrepresentative of the Labour Party as a whole. “By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone”, those words mean everything to me. I carry them with me in my wallet every day on my Labour membership card. That means standing together, solidarity. I worry about that solidarity right now. I worry about what division in the Labour Party would mean for the country & particularly those on the bottom rung of society.
The blindingly obvious thing to remember is that you can stand for anything you like. You can have as much conviction as you want. If you can’t convince enough people, if you can’t win the votes, if you can’t win power then none of it means a damn thing.
Finally, links to two articles that I read today that I found pertinent & interesting,