Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An Endorsement

So I have to do something that I don't think I've ever done in almost ten years at this blog - endorse a political party.  It's always easier to be a smart-arse if you never say that you're in favour of anything, and if there's one thing that I've done consistently, it's be a smart-arse.   

Nonetheless, over the last few days, I've realised that after everything I've said here, I don't really have any choice other than to support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party and to wish them all the best.

Corbyn's opinions on most of the big issues of the last few years - austerity and the financial crisis in particular - are closer to mine than any other recent high-profile politician's have been.  I was highly scathing on Labour's past refusals to fight their corner on issues that were once their bread and butter, such as welfare and human rights, but especially about their half-arsed efforts at resisting theTories' intentional vandalism of public services.

And now we have a senior politician who will actually fight, even if he'll probably lose.  I'd be a terrible hypocrite to complain about that, after years of calling for exactly this.

Corbyn's opinion on the use of military whizzbang is nearer mine than I'll get from any other party leader I'm likely to see in my lifetime.  He's pretty much the only one since I reached adulthood who even bothers to ask whether bombing campaign (x) has achieveable aims.  I rarely shut up about how my opinion on any given war is - as a last resort, when the only other option is disaster.  The choices available for that are Corbyn, or nobody. 

I've spent years asking for politicians to say what they think, rather than what they think other people want to hear.  I've whinged and wailed about how modern political speech amounts to windy ways of saying nothing at all, or saying the opposite of what you appear to be saying.  I've called a thousand times for the political class to stop pretending to be frightened by non-stories or outraged by not-scandals, and called for them to focus on just getting shit done, whether that was governing the country or opposing the headbangers that are currently running the place.

On every one of these points, Corbyn is hilariously better than any number of Blairs, Browns, Milibands or Camerons.

I'm well aware that he'll probably never be Prime Minister.  In fact, his leadership may well be a disaster.  I think that by the time Murdoch is done with Corbyn's Labour Party, they're going to look like they've been gangbanged by a herd of elephants.  I think the days when a geezer who looks and acts like a grumpy socialist geography teacher could run the country are long behind us.  

Even if everything goes right for the new leadership - and it's going to have to - the violent pushback they'll get will probably end in defeat, whether of the hard-fought or the self-inflicted type.  All told, it could even be pretty disastrous, and lots worse than electing one of the sexless New Labour politics droids. 

Given the ideal situation, I'd have preferred Corbyn's cabinet to have fewer rough edges and fewer skeletons clattering about in the closet.  Nonetheless, I'm only too well aware that it was the desire for politicians who have neither genitals nor body odour that gave us Tony Blair and David Cameron.

So who knows how it'll all turn out?  For now, I'll just note that I'd long since given up hope of any major political party ever espousing anything that looked very much like my politics.  And now, there is one.

This is a good and hopeful event from my perspective, and although there'll be a billion ways I'll disagree with them, I greatly approve.

Fingers crossed, eh?


Metatone said...

Fingers crossed indeed.

I'm in some bizarro world personally.
I'm quite middle of the road or milquetoast on a lot of issues.
Yet the modern consensus has reached a point where it has nothing to say on issues like housing, the balance of payments, why public sector reform so far has not worked, risk pooling, etc.
So Corbyn is the first politician in a long while prepared to talk about the problems I see us facing in the future. I'm not in agreement with a lot of his positions - but others don't even seem to want to talk about these issues. So if I want Britain to face up to the issues, how can I reject him out of hand?

ejh said...

Yet the modern consensus has reached a point where it has nothing to say on issues like housing, the balance of payments, why public sector reform so far has not worked, risk pooling, etc.

Point one: at least back in 1997 it was possible to offer something one might describe as "it's not much, it's very little of what you want, but it's something and it's real". This is very different from "we're going to go along with benefit cuts and crushing unions and persecuting immigrants and pursuing deficit reduction like a religion".

Point two: most of the people who advocate that latter course (employing terms like "credibility" and "narrative") do not appreciate that there's a difference, or at least how big that difference is.

Point three: in general this is because they're not at the sharp end, and one reason why they have so little traction among left-leaning people is that many or most of those people are.

organic cheeseboard said...

I'm a bit frustrated that people in the shadow cabinet are saying things like 'people voted for welfare cuts'. They did not - the Tories refused, during the election campaign, to say what they'd cut, and they specifically and repeatedly ruled out cutting tax credits, which they subsequently did.

It's fine to give anecdotal evidence, as Will Straw did, that doorstep discussions emphasised people's dissatisfaction with the ostensibly 'cushy' lives those on social security lead, but it's absolutely not fine to base policy on these discussions, especially since they're all about impressions. For instance, I'm fairly sure that his example - being told about a family who haven't anyone in a job but manage to run a car and have sky sports (from memory) - are probably in a sizeable amount of debt.

I think that Corbyn's more or less proved me right so far - the right ideas but the wrong bloke to enact them. So much basic cack-handedness already. Great to have principles, but don't actively feed the press stuff to attack you with.

Having said that, the Europe stuff is pretty interesting. I'm all for staying in, but Corbyn seems potentially pretty canny about how to disunite the Tories over it. If it is the case that he won't let Labour do the running on promoting the yes vote, it means that eurosceptic tories will sense a chance, and will lead to a UKIP resurgence which won't go away if the country does vote yes. That'll mean that all the Tory leadership hopefuls will be forced to tack very hard to the right, and as Blair says, how do elections get won...?

gastro george said...

"I'm a bit frustrated that people in the shadow cabinet are saying things like 'people voted for welfare cuts'."

Similarly Cruddas' ridiculous poll.

The Europe stuff is interesting. It shows that Corbyn may have a decent political brain.

PMQs today was at least innovative. My advice would be to bring more "real life" into the debate somehow. Nothing would cut deeper into Tory dissembling than a few poignant examples. Maybe something like this.

Larry Teabag said...

Great to have a leader who prioritises policy and content over PR and spin. Slightly less ideal to have one who gives *so* little of a fuck about PR that he waggles two fingers at her maj and the glorious fallen on day one.

septicisle said...

Larry, I doubt old Liz gives even the slightest fuck, just as I doubt she cares if people courtesy to her or not. I didn't vote for Our Jez, but they would have gone after him over something else even if he had sang. Listening to intelligent adults last night debating whether or not he should have sung, when the only other people who care are those who would never vote for Corbyn in a million years anyway, I felt myself getting stupider by the minute.

Igor Belanov said...

"Listening to intelligent adults last night debating whether or not he should have sung"

There's a nice, easy answer to that, which is for them to mind their own sodding business and stop trying to claim ownership over someone else's conscience and opinions. I think there must be a sizable constituency for common sense in the country.

Larry Teabag said...

I'm sure she doesn't, and nor do I. On a personal level I actually quite admire JC for refusing to sing. But I'll take a lot more persuading that "They're going to shoot me anyway so I may as well load their guns for them and paint a great big bulls-eye on my forehead" is a workable strategy.

Igor Belanov said...

You're missing the point. If Labour's membership had wanted someone who would refuse to cause offence to anyone except those on the left, and who would cosy up to the establishment and the media, then it would have chosen someone else. The whole motive for Corbyn's election was that he wouldn't apologise for being a socialist, republican, pacifist, etc. The very fact that these issues are getting publicity is success in itself.

Larry Teabag said...

It's not about cosying up to the establishment, it's about choosing your battles sensibly (or at least sanely). Corbyn said at an early stage that yes, he is a republican, but that's 'not a fight I'm interested in' while in charge. I thought that was both honest and commendably sensible at the time, since it's a fight he'd be 100% guaranteed to lose (unless the Queen keels over). So, I'll admit that I was somewhat dismayed that having said all that he then went out started that fight anyway.

flyingrodent said...

It's an odd one alright. Personally, I have a strongly-held dislike of flags, anthems and public displays of patriotism of any stripe - the proper place for these is at sporting venues, and nowhere else.

It makes sense for JC to get out his republican views now, so that OMG Labour Leader Doesn't Much Like the Queen is a non-story a few months from now. I'm reminded of how Noel Gallagher always used to be open about his drug use, so that Oasis in drugs shocker was never really much of a scandal. On the other hand, it's actively clownish to do a reverse-ferret on it now, because it shows that you're scared of bad headlines.

All in all, badly handled and needless. I expect to see a lot more in the way of this kind of ham-fisted nonsense, from the Labour Party and from the hacks.

organic cheeseboard said...

Am I the only one who thinks he might not have sung along just because he couldn't be bothered/voice was tired/didn't really think about it very hard? It was an ultra-obvious Tory set-up, as you can see from Fallon gurning at the cameras, of a piece with the Ed Miliband wreath bullshit trick they pulled.

Thing is, there will come a time - probably in the aftermath of the euro referendum, and before the Tory leadership election, when Statesman Cameron is on his way out to be replaced by Loltastic Boris or Creepy Osborne - when the press stops lapping this sort of stuff up and starts calling out the Tories for e.g. using war memorials as political footballs.

Given the genuine offence caused to the Queen by Cameron discussing his conversations with her to all and sundry, I'm not sure she'll give a flying fuck about Corbyn. But as Larry says, don't give them extra ammo, there's just no need.

Igor Belanov said...

The whole point of the National Anthem furore is that Corbyn has messed up by capitulating and saying that he'll sing the anthem in future. He has already lost some of his credibility when it comes to integrity.

All he needed to do was to say that abolishing the monarchy was not party policy, but as an atheist and republican it was a matter of individual conscience not to sing the anthem, like attending a church wedding and not singing hymns, and therefore not a concern of anyone else. That way, hounding him would look like the anti-democratic intolerance that is undoubtedly is.

As for people saying the issue doesn't really matter, the reaction of the establishment has proved that it clearly does.

Magistra said...

I prefer Ed Milliband’s views on foreign policy to Jeremy Corbyn’s , but Corbyn’s still vastly better than Blair on foreign policy. Corbyn also strikes me as the only left-winger who might be able to build a successful popular movement, because of an unusual quality. He’s positive towards other people and generally unantagonistic; he even had some nice things to say about Liz Kendall after his defeat. If you’re going to build a party which can win an election without appealing to swing electors, you need to get everyone who’s even vaguely left of centre on your side. The idea is to get some grand alliance of progressive forces to vote/act against the Tories: it may not prevail, but at least it’s got some chance.

The problem is that a substantial proportion of Corbyn’s supporters don’t seem to want someone to create a grand alliance; they want a firebrand, who will denounce the forces of evil, which means everyone who is to the right of them. They haven’t learnt the lesson of Liz Kendall in the Labour election: don’t insult or piss off the people you want to vote for you. If Labour is going to get anywhere near power, it’s not just going to have to get new voters, it’s going to have to keep the voters it already has. Which means that telling anyone who voted Labour this time (let alone any Labour MPs) to bugger off and join the Tories is unutterably stupid. In the same way, if you want to get anyone who previously voted UKIP to vote Labour, you do not denounce them or the party as racist.

The left wing has rightly pointed out that Blairites have spent years sneering at socialists/anti-war protestors and as a result their targets chose not to vote (or vote for other parties). Left-wingers need to learn that lesson: that the point of politics is to persuade people over to your point of view and that simply telling them that they’re ignorant, wrong or evil does not have a good track record of getting them on your side. It’s much more satisfying, of course, to denounce the forces of evil, but it’s less effective as a tactic.

I think it is worth looking at the SNP, because whatever their faults, they have realised this basic rule: don’t denounce people who might vote for you. Their main attacks, therefore are on ‘the English’ or ‘Westminster’, i.e. people whose votes they largely don’t need; in contrast, ‘the people of Scotland’ are collectively presented as a uniquely caring bunch. This may be baloney, but it’s vote-winning baloney. There are only a limited number of political masochists, who will stay loyal to a leadership or a party that persistently insults them. If you want enemies to denounce, stick to a small well-defined class of people who wouldn’t vote for you anyhow (so ‘city bankers’ rather than ‘the bourgeoisie’ and ‘the 1%’ rather than ‘the rich’).

As for “God save the Queen”, the point is that it’s the national anthem and lots of people would think of it as that more than as a monarchist hymn. I think it’d be better for Corbyn to have sung it and if asked say that he respected it as a national symbol, even if he didn’t agree with its words. You don’t have to be a jelly-bellied flag-flapper but I suspect that ostentatiously refusing some minimal patriotism comes across as churlish more than principled to many people.

Igor Belanov said...

The analysis of Magistra depends on this idea that 'the party' is what matters above all, and it must be sustained if Labour is to win the next election.

The whole problem with this approach is that it completely ignores the dysfunctional nature of the Labour Party. The relative calm of the party between the late 1980s and recently was due to the overwhelming anti-Tory attitude, the marginalisation of the left within the professional politicians, and the decline of the unions. Now that the party's elite has demonstrated its unpopularity with the electorate and has almost run out of anything approaching left-wing principle or ideology, the automatic loyalty and patience of the membership has expired.

Under present conditions, with 'traditional' party politics discredited and in crisis throughout Europe, it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect the left to capitulate again in the vague hope of installing a coterie of professional politicians in power. Corbyn was elected with an overwhelming mandate to pursue anti-establishment politics. This is inevitably going to offend and alarm many of the party's establishment. They will have to do what Labour's left did for so long- buckle under or drift away from the party. 2020 is a red herring. The choice is whether to accept things as they are or strike out in a new radical direction. It remains to be seen whether Corbyn is the man to make this a success, but it is the time to be decisive and not to cobble together unsustainable compromises that pull in opposite directions and do nothing to address the problems.