Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why (x) Means That We Should Support My Politics - Part One

So, a slim Tory majority it is, and it's impossible to see this as anything other than a mandate for five years of greatly increased viciousness, legislative insanity and crackdowns on phantom problems.  

Assuming that you support policies that are at least mildly humane and would prefer to make Britain a more pleasant place to live, rather than nudging it closer to becoming a series of Croesus-rich gated communities surrounded by a churning ocean of mutual suspicion and recrimination...  Well, it's a screaming disaster.  

It's such a screaming disaster, in fact, that it's going to take two posts for me to make a case for Why Everyone Should Now Agree That It's Time To Support My Politics. 

To England and Wales first of all, where it's long been obvious that a substantial section of the electorate isn't at all interested in programmes that will make their own lives better, but are very keen indeed on vows to smash everyone else into jammy paste. 

Even up here in our supposedly socialist, humanitarian Scottish enclave, there are hundreds of thousands of people who think like this, drawn from every class and creed.  

I've met numerous single mothers and low-wage workers who go to the polls to ask for more violent beatdowns on workshy neds, only to receive even shittier treatment themselves as a direct result, and then return five years later to ask for even more violent beatdowns on workshy neds. Scotland is full of towns and villages where you'll hardly see a non-white face, and yet their inhabitants will regale you for hours about the tidal wave of immigrants blighting their lives.  

And let's not get into a rammy about how this is the fault of, like, the media, innit.  Nobody's forcing anyone to visit the Mail's website every day or to watch Benefits Street, yo.  

People who keep telling you that they want spiteful, resentful policies are going to vote for the most spiteful and resentful candidates that they can find.  And that's in Scotland, where we're all repeatedly told how garrulous and fucking friendly we are, rather than down south where fewer people bother to pretend.

These people don't want Labour or the Lib Dems or the Greens or anyone else, for that matter, to offer a fairer benefits system or to tackle crime* more aggressively.   They don't want to hear those parties' plans for "new controls on immigration", or for anything else. 

What they want is to elect the meanest, most sadistic motherfuckers that they can find, and for all of the touchy-feely parties to fuck off.  

I can't say this strongly enough - if certain voters keep telling you that they want you to turn the DWP into the Gestapo and seal the borders, and you have no intention of doing either, then why in the name of God would you imagine that those voters will prefer your proposals to those of the parties that will beat the poor and shut out all the immigrants? 

Even worse, when you try to court these voters by going on TV and vowing to personally behead seven Romanian benefits claimants a day or whatever, you are alienating your own core voters, potentially forever.  

The viciousness voters will never believe that you're serious, and your own voters always will.  Whatever you gain on the swings of Robust Policies For Hard-Working Families, you immediately lose on the roundabouts of basic human decency.  

Which tells me that the best thing to do is much like that hackneyed piece of advice for getting girls to like you - be yourself, act natural, don't try too hard by faking it.  It's easier to convince people that you're being truthful if you're telling the truth, you see?  

And I'm not even talking about, oh, renationalising the universe here.  I'm saying that you should do what you think is right, and not just what you think people will want to hear.  Sales jobs are a lot easier if you believe that you're selling a good product and - call me hopelessly naive, if you will - I've always found that sincerity has a way of selling itself.

When most people can spot a fraud, putting on an act becomes counter-productive.  I'd say that it's better to just be what you are and to do your best to try to bring the electorate to you.   And if they never come on board, well, at least you'd be able to look at yourself in the mirror.**

Which brings me to yesterday's statement by Tony Blair in which, if I can do great violence to his argument, he is basically saying - if Labour wants to win again, it must stand around noisily advocating for a more polished version of Thatcherism-lite and threatening to kill the workshy, in the hope that sooner or later, the Tories will make an arse of governing.  

And you know, he's probably correct about that, but it calls to mind one of the best descriptions of Littlefinger in Game of Thrones - He would see this country burn, if he could but be king of the ashes.  

It may be true that the quickest, easiest path to power is by triangulating and modernising and all of those other funky-sounding strategies that basically mean "doing the very opposite of what your party is supposed to do".

Whether there will be anything worth governing left at the end of it, that's the question I'm more interested in. 

Next up - Scotland, where the scale of this disaster is actually worse, if anything.


*One of the strangest things about this election, and possibly the last one too - crime was barely an issue.  As you'll recall, crime used to be front and centre, but no longer.  I suspect that this is because the electorate have been fapping so hard, for so long, at the far more hardcore issues of immigration and terrorism that frankly, even the most erotic of stories about serial burglars and muggers and so on are now too vanilla for most folk to work up even a semi-rager.

**Note here that I'm not a member of any political party and I'll probably never be one.  If you are one yourself, then feel free to take my advice, or to immediately bin it.  I'm usually surprised when anyone listens to me for five seconds, and I don't expect any of my suggestions to ever catch on.


ejh said...

Which tells me that the best thing to do is much like that hackneyed piece of advice for getting girls to like you - be yourself, act natural, don't try too hard by faking it

The thing is, though, that the Labour Party has spent the last thirty years internalising the opposite advice, that it order to appeal it has to disguise what it is, deny it, forget it. And to be fair it has a little bit of experience to that effect.

There's no way that Labour, in general, is going to rediscover itself. Even if manages to avoid electing the Para from Progress or Chuka the Fucker, it's lost that capacity. Perhaps reasonably so. Perhaps it is the way to win, going to what is laughably referred to as the "centre". But at any rate, a Labour Party at ease with its own beliefs is never going to happen again.

flyingrodent said...

Or, even worse... The really worrying thing here isn't even the possibility that they're capable of being more sincere about their ideas and so on, and just aren't doing it because of some horrible Third Way rulebook.

It's the possibility that this is it - this is all they've got.

organic cheeseboard said...

Something I've been struck by in the Blairite response to this election has been just how massively incoherent it is. Whatever you thought of Blair back in the day, he knew his core message and stuck to it. But the advice he, Mandelson et al are providing now is pretty much for Labour to run exactly the same campaign as thy did this year, with more or less identical policies, but somehow to do so 'in the centre', as if the campaign didn't try to do exactly that (immigration mugs perhaps the best example of this).

From what I can tell, Labour lost, often pretty narrowly, in a few English marginals (and that is genuinely what happened - this isn't a landslide outside of Scotland, and the tories are going to struggle to achieve all that much) primarily because of economic trust, which demonstrates, again, the incoherence of central Labour approaches to Tory economic policy - signing up to the idea that they overspent when they didn't, and thus signing up to Tory austerity, when they could never outflank the tories on it. Problem is, that every single Blairite thought that was a fucking great idea, and the alternative makes them look deluded. This wasn't, I don't think, a winnable election for Labour, with the benefit of hindsight.

andrew adams said...

There was actually a significant difference between Labour and the Tories' spending plans. Labour would have stuck to the Tories plans for the current financial year but after that their plans allowed for only minimal cuts. The problem is that they were so intent on not conforming to the public's perception of them as reckless spendthrifts that they were unwilling to spell out this difference and really make a case as to why their own policy was the same and moderate one and the Tories' was reckless and probably unachievable. They also, for some strange reason, did very little to attack the coalition's economic record.

I guess this is partly due to them not doing more in the past to challenge the Tory narrative on Labour's economic record (starting to argue the case with a week to go was…brave). But also because of the general lack of confidence and inherent defensiveness that Justin identified above. Their default stance on any issue seems to be the defensive cringe - they appear to accept that the Tories get to dictate the narrative. The result was that they allowed the "Labour wants more borrowing" charge to stick but still left many people on the left believing that they were promising Tory-style austerity.