The Left’s Self-Serving Hypocrisy On Immigration And Free Movement

Labour - controls on immigration mug - general election 2015

The Left’s extreme attachment to the principle of free movement of people speaks volumes about whose interests they really serve

This, by trade unionist and Blue Labour activist Paul Embery, really gets to the heart of the modern metro-Left’s extremist stance on immigration and free movement of people within the EU, so divorced from the fears, priorities and aspirations of the Labour Party’s traditional working class base:

“Access to the single market and freedom of movement are inextricably linked, and it would be wrong… to put the economy anything other than first,’ Diane Abbott told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Leaving aside that there is, in fact, no inextricable link between access to the single market and free movement (she may be confusing access with membership), what is most striking is that Abbott’s argument here – that everything must be subordinated to economic imperatives, that policies must ultimately be judged not by their impact on society or quality of life but according to whether they boost GDP or make someone somewhere a fast buck – is the very embodiment of market-obsessed Thatcherism.

Abbott isn’t a Thatcherite, of course. Anything but. She is, on virtually all things, on the side of the angels in a head-to-head with Thatcher. Yet it is weird how, when it comes to the subject of immigration, she and so many others on the Left are willing to suddenly embrace the philosophy of a woman they have spent their lives opposing.

When did it become the norm for the Left to put the demands of the market above what was right for wider society? To allow the dictates of the balance sheet to trump all? To know the cost of everything but the value of nothing?

When Thatcher closed the mines and destroyed whole communities, didn’t she do so because she wasn’t prepared to ‘put the economy anything other than first’?

We can argue until the cows come home about whether particular policies or strategies do indeed bring economic advantages. But, for the Left especially, that should never be the sole consideration – and certainly not when those policies or strategies give rise to profound consequences for society.

It is certainly very telling when the Left pivots from disparaging corporations and viewing business as evil (their standard M.O.) to fawning over multinational corporations and anxiously tending to the every care and concern of their CEOs.

I noted this point over two years ago:

Isn’t it funny how the voice of big business – usually the object of scorn and hatred from the left – suddenly becomes wise and sagacious when the short term interests of the large corporations happen to coincide with those of the Labour Party?

Labour have been hammering “the corporations” relentlessly since losing power in 2010, accusing them of immoral (if not illegal) behaviour for such transgressions such as not paying enough tax, not paying employees enough money, paying employees too much money and a host of other sins. In Labour’s eyes, the words of a bank executive were valued beneath junk bond status – until now, when suddenly they have become far-sighted and wise AAA-rated pronouncements, just because they have come out in support of Britain remaining in the EU.

(In fact, I wonder whether the Left’s eagerness to talk about the economics of immigration is actually a classic piece of misdirection designed to sway conservative or swing voters; that in actual fact, they don’t give a hoot about the economy but rather want to ensure maximum immigration levels for cultural and political reasons that they dare not speak out loud. Why else would Diane Abbott of all people, hardly the sort of person who you would picture fretting about a multinational corporation’s labour costs and investment decisions, be speaking about economics, well outside her comfort zone?)

Embery is quite correct, though – the Labour Party did indeed once value additional metrics beyond raw GDP when evaluating public policy. This formed a large basis of their objection to Thatcherism, bordering on hatred. (While this blog remains convinced that the Thatcher reforms were entirely necessary and hugely beneficial on the balance, it must be acknowledged that too little was done to ameliorate the harsh impact of deindustrialisation on many Northern, Welsh and Scottish communities – the Left actually has a valid critique here, and a reasonably strong moral point).

Yet large elements of the Left, driven mad by Brexit, now seem willing to squander any moral high ground they may once have held by openly contradicting their former principled critique of the Thatcher government. According to the new post-Brexit leftist playbook, Thatcher was completely correct to sacrifice close-knit industrial communities in order to save the overall British economy. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, after all, and if a few livelihoods have to be crushed in order that the City of London continues to prosper then so be it. These are strange sentiments indeed to hear emanating from people who usually won’t shut up about how kind and compassionate they are.

It continually astonishes me that so many leftists – the type of urban, metro-left progressive who wear their political opinions like this season’s latest fashion and consider themselves to be super woke and compassionate – can be so callously disregarding and downright heartless when it comes to acknowledging legitimate concerns about immigration from an important segment of their collective movement.

And yet it should not be so surprising. Britain’s membership of the European Union, and free movement of people specifically, has greatly benefited this class of people – the young creative professionals working in the city and the Labour MPs who share the same outlook. These people have an extremely consumerist outlook on politics, always asking what their country or government can do for them rather than dwelling on their own responsibilities and obligations as citizens.

They are sworn adherents to the politics of Me Me Me. And a super-streamlined process for moving to another European country for work is to their great benefit, while the fact that many of the people for whom they claim to speak probably do not have glittering international careers in their future barely seems to register. This isn’t compassion – it is pure selfishness.

Embery goes on to make this very point:

How depressing it has been to witness so many on the Left fall into the trap of defending free movement almost unconditionally, presenting it as some kind of advancement for working people. One wonders whether they have ever stopped to ask themselves why the multinationals are so enthusiastic about it. In this case, they are guilty of defending a system which, in the quest for greater profits, commodifies humanity, uproots families and fragments communities. When that happens, the bonds of solidarity, mutuality and community are weakened, and instead we get loneliness, alienation and atomisation. ‘Migrants are not to blame,’ the free movement defenders will often retort. Well, of course they aren’t. But that was never the argument. It’s as meaningless as saying ‘The unemployed are not to blame’ as a response to opposition to unemployment.

A few other brave souls, such as Richard Johnson, have dared to tentatively make the same criticism of the Left:

People’s concerns about immigration haven’t been invented out of thin air. The real experience of immigration in Britain since the EU expanded into Central and Eastern Europe has been one of rapid change, over which people have felt little control. As Geoff Evans and Jon Mellon have shown, the salience of people’s concerns about immigration has closely tracked actual levels of net migration since 2004. Areas which saw the fastest increases in migrant populations were more likely to vote Leave. In areas where the migrant population increased by 200 percent or more between 2001 and 2014, there was a 94 percent chance of voting Leave.

[..] To oppose new controls on immigration is to speak for, at best, the 4 percent who want higher immigration and the 17 percent who are satisfied with current levels. It is not a 48 percent strategy; it is a 21 percent strategy. Too many in Labour seem to want the party to become the Lib Dems of c2005 – one which appeals to liberal, university-educated, cosmopolitans in big cities and university towns. It’s a fine strategy, but only if you want to win 60 seats in Parliament.

All too often, working class people only now exist in the eyes of the Labour Party to be used as convenient props when a political attack on conservatives needs to be made. The progressive left will happily get all weepy about the impact of gentrification and “social cleansing” on working class people, but then treat those same people like lepers if they dare to offer any political ideas or opinions of their own – especially those relating to Brexit and immigration. And almost nobody calls them out for this rank hypocrisy.

Thanks to Paul Embery for having the courage to do so. We may come from opposing sides of the political spectrum, but Embery clearly believes strongly in self-determination and the idea that British democracy should be accountable first and foremost to British people, not transnational elites or Labour’s progressive clerisy.

 

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The Hypocrisy Of Centrist Labour’s War Against Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn wants power so that he can do something with it. His rebellious centrist MPs also want power, but are unable or unwilling to articulate what they want to do with it

For a blog with solidly conservatarian credentials such as this, Semi-Partisan Politics seems to be spending an awful lot of our time defending somebody who is about as doggedly, severely left-wing as it is possible to be.

And yet I must continue defending Jeremy Corbyn against the onslaught of outraged centrist criticism and juvenile student-union style plots to unseat him, because this blog will always choose principle over self-interested triangulation. And because most of the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn emanating from centrist Labour reveal a lot more about their author than they wound their target.

The latest establishment type to come gunning for Corbyn is Nick Cohen, writing in The Observer:

Anyone can be against austerity and poverty, spin and the Westminster bubble, the bankers and the corporations, if there is no price to pay. Students can project their hopes on to the blank slate Corbyn offers them. Old soixante-huitards and the militants of the Thatcher era can refight the battles of their youth as painlessly as the Sealed Knot refights the Civil War. Wykehamist Marxists can stand shoulder to shoulder with exhibitionist celebrities; wild intellectuals with the justifiably furious shop stewards.

Empty leftism gave Corbyn control of the Labour party, but little else. He has the lowest popularity rating of any opposition leader in history. The public sees a political movement that doesn’t want to govern them and does not much like them either. Government necessarily involves the trade-offs the far left pretends need never trouble us. Labour’s founding constitution of 1918 said its first purpose was to establish and retain, in parliament and in the country, a political Labour party. The far left has to reject it because it can never win elections without losing its illusions.

As the opposition collapsed last week, Paul Mason insisted that Labour must be transformed from a party that seeks to govern into a “social movement”. Mason, along with Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Milne, is part of a group of journalists who have poisoned public life by taking braggart swagger and cocksure certainties of newspaper punditry into politics. But in this instance, he was authentically reflecting “the people” or, rather, that tiny section of “the people” who pay £3 and click on a link to show they agree with him.

[..] Vacuity leads not only to political impotence but political fear. Uncomprehending hatred fills the empty space where policy should be and brings with it the threat of violence that hovers above Labour like yellow cigarette smoke in a Munich beer hall. It was thought that the killing of Jo Cox might alter the mood. But the misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism, death threats, rape threats and insane conspiracy theories against Labour MPs endure. The foul climate shows that Corbynism has sociopathic consequences. When his supporters believe that all they need do to oppose austerity, the bankers, etc, is to say they are against them, then, by definition, their opponents cannot have honest objections, only evil intentions. Like sin, they must be purged.

There is so much to unpick here that it is difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with the stuff which we can agree on. Paul Mason and Seumas Milne are indeed nasty, toxic people and a scourge on British politics. They accrue cult-like followings based on peddling glib and superficial critiques of their targets (capitalism, conservatism, America, Britain, wealth, success or whatever else riles them up on any given day).

But for Nick Cohen to speak of the “vacuity” of the Corbynite Left is hypocritical in the extreme. The only reason that Jeremy Corbyn was able to come to power in the first place was that the mainstream, centrist Left had nothing – absolutely nothing, tumbleweeds – to say to their traditional working class base, or to those who are feeling the pinch from globalisation and a future filled with insecure, low-paying jobs.

Blairism in a time of plenty just about worked – one could simply shovel more and more people into the arms of the welfare state, declaring them unfit for work and then forgetting about them, while lavishing exorbitant sums on unreformed and terminally dysfunctional public servives like the NHS. And so long as economic growth continued at a fair clip, the day of reckoning could always be postponed, one more day, and another, and another.

But Blairite/Brownite/Milibandism simply doesn’t butter any parsnips when there is no money left. Because now you have a huge swathe of the population who have been raised to be dependent on government, even taught that such subsistence is their “human right”, up in arms because this support structure has either been ripped away from them or pared back due to more stringent means-testing or benefit freezes. And suddenly, hearing some well-heeled member of the metropolitan left-wing elite claiming to sympathise with your plight while not doing the first damn thing to change it doesn’t produce an overwhelming desire to vote for that leader (Miliband) or party.

Nick Cohen talks about the vacuity of Labour’s left-wing, but what about the centrists? These are people who, despite their continued denunciations of Corbyn and accusations that in less than year he has failed to flesh out a detailed and fully costed policy platform, haven’t come up with a single alternative policy platform of their own (just like Ed Miliband’s policy platform was a “blank sheet of paper” at this stage of his own leadership).

Surely if it is now such a crime for a Labour leader to not have a fully costed and worked out policy platform, the centrists vying to unseat Corbyn must be brimming over with whole policy suites and agendas of their own. Surely they know exactly what tax reforms they would enact, who would be punished and whose wallets would be fattened. Surely they know exactly what to do about the NHS, in more detail than simply shovelling more money at that insatiable organisation. Surely they have comprehensive plans for pensions, welfare, defence, education, trade and industry.

But we know that the centrists have none of those things. When Angela Eagle hit the TV studios last weekend to launch her leadership challenge, she failed to name a single area of policy disagreement with Jeremy Corbyn, despite being asked numerous times. Owen Smith was marginally better when he launched his own campaign a couple of days ago, but hardly came out of the starting blocks with his pre-printed manifesto ready to go. Why? If Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is so ideologically extreme, surely it should be the easiest thing in the world to highlight just a few clear examples where an Eagle/Smith led party would chart a different, more centrist course?

The fact that they do not is damning evidence that the centrists are every bit as vacuous as they accuse Corbyn of being. They, too, want to pretend that endlessly bountiful public services can be funded at no cost to anyone through the munificence of the magical money tree. They too want to make every citizen’s passing whim their immediate and sacred “human right”. They too plan to worship at the sacred altar of the NHS, singing endless hymns of praise to St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar without doing a damn thing to improve health outcomes for Britons.

Therefore, what we are now witnessing from Labour’s disgruntled centrists (and their media mouthpieces like Nick Cohen) is not some earnest, pragmatic criticism that Corbyn is failing to grapple with the real issues facing the country. No. It is simply an aggrieved and self-entitled howl of anguish that somebody other than them is getting a turn at calling the shots.

Given time, Jeremy Corbyn will undoubtedly come out with a manifesto just like every other party leader has done before him. This blog will doubtless disagree with nearly all of it. It will probably involve re-nationalisation of flagship industries like rail and energy, massive tax hikes on the wealthy and cuts for the poorest, massive injections of borrowed money into public services and infrastructure on the spurious grounds that such investment will “pay for itself”, the immediate cooling of the special relationship with the United States and much more power to the trades union. We may even see strengthened rights to strike and a greater emphasis on national collective bargaining as John McDonnell goes all out to recreate the 1970s.

Such a manifesto will, it hardly needs to be said, not win Labour a general election against anybody, least of all a Conservative Party which continues to hew shamefully to the centre under the leadership of Theresa May. But it will at least be ideologically coherent, even as it is scorned.

What will the centrists’ alternative Labour manifesto contain? We don’t know, because they haven’t told us yet. And why haven’t they told us the kind of policies which they will advocate? Because their focus groups haven’t told them yet. And because their PR people haven’t worked out quite how the likes of Angela Eagle and Owen Smith can best continue advocating for the unacceptable status quo while making it sound like they are being fearsome, revolutionary reformers and champions of the poor.

The day that this blog will give the time of day to some self-entitled, born to rule centrist from Labour’s metropolitan middle class clerisy is the day which they come packing a serious, heavyweight alternative policy agenda which amounts to more than Cameron/May centrism with an added dash of sanctimonious waffle about equality and fairness.

Until then, and so long as the current Labour leadership stands for demonstrably different values and policies to the stale centrism which has led us to this present cul de sac (and no matter how much this blog may disagree with those values), this blog remains planted in Jeremy Corbyn’s corner.

 

Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

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The Arrogant Labour Party Pathologises Pro-Brexit Working Class Sentiment

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The modern Labour Party, totally unable to relate to its alienated working class base, now seeks to pathologise overwhelming working class support for Brexit rather than question their own blind devotion to the European Union

To truly understand the gulf between the modern, metropolitan Labour Party and its increasingly alienated core working class vote, one need only read the latest column by Owen Jones, in which the “Chavs” author frets that “working class Britons feel Brexity and betrayed”.

Brexity.

Jones’ column in the Guardian doesn’t say that working class people have conducted a rational assessment of their social, material and economic interests and decided that Britain would be better off outside the European Union, in the way that a middle class professional might deliberate and weigh their options. No, when it comes to working class people, they just “feel Brexity”, like babies might feel gassy after feeding, or tetchy while teething – a simplistic emotion or reflex, not a considered thought.

In other words, when a “good” middle-class left-winger (the only kind of person that the Labour Party now much cares about) decides that the EU is simply wonderful, that Brussels is only about “trade and cooperation” and that we should stick around to reform the EU because “Another Europe is Possible!“, they are acting rationally and sensibly. But when working class Britons decide overwhelmingly that the European Union is a bad thing for their interests and kryptonite to our democracy, they must have been wildly misled by nefarious forces (read: Nigel Farage) into voting against their obvious true interests.

Let’s dive in to Owen’s piece:

If Britain crashes out of the European Union in two weeks, it will be off the back of votes cast by discontented working-class people. When Andy Burnham warns that the remain campaign has “been far too much Hampstead and not enough Hull”, he has a point. Even Labour MPs who nervously predict remain will scrape it nationally report their own constituencies will vote for exit. Polling consistently illustrates that the lower down the social ladder you are, the more likely you are to opt for leave. Of those voters YouGov deems middle-class, 52% are voting for remain, and just 32% for leave. Among those classified as working-class, the figures are almost the reverse: 36% for remain, 50% for leave. The people Labour were founded to represent are the most likely to want Britain to abandon the European Union.

A political movement with the smallest shred of humility might look at these numbers and wonder whether maybe the working class voters know, or are attuned, to something which the middle classes are not, rather than automatically assuming that the middle classes are right and the working classes wrong. And a political party capable of introspection might be alarmed to find itself diametrically opposed to “the people Labour were founded to represent” on so fundamental an issue as Britain’s independence and place in the world.

Needless to say, the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Jones (and Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson too) has no such humility and no such capacity for introspection. When confronted with evidence that the metropolitan intelligentsia have gone marching off in a completely different direction to the base, the only instinct is to furiously question how the plebs could possibly  have gotten it wrong, and who led them astray.

Owen Jones continues, becoming even more offensive with every paragraph:

A Conservative prime minister lines up with pillars of Britain’s establishment with a message of doom – and it makes millions of people even more determined to stick their fingers up at it.

The leave campaign knows all this. It is Trumpism in full pomp: powerful vested interests whose policies would only concentrate wealth and power even further in the hands of the few, masquerading as the praetorian guard of an anti-establishment insurgency dripping in anti-immigration sentiment. It is political trickery long honed by Ukip, a party led by a privately educated ex-City broker that claims to be the voice of the little guy against a self-interested powerful clique. If Donald Trump succeeds across the Atlantic, the terrible cost of leaving millions of working-class people feeling both abandoned and slighted will be nightmarishly clear. The same goes for this referendum.

So believing that Britain should leave the dysfunctional and deliberately antidemocratic EU is now apparently a symptom of “Trumpism” – a zesty blend of brashness, proud ignorance and overt prejudice. This is Owen Jones trying to be understanding and win people over, remember. And he does so by comparing them and their sincerely held political beliefs to the egotistical ranting of Donald Trump. Not a great start to the outreach effort there, Owen.

In Owen Jones, here we have a walking, talking mascot for the Labour Party’s refusal to understand why they are not more popular and why the working classes continue to vote for conservative parties and conservative policies. A generation ago, faced with Margaret Thatcher’s three general election victories, the British Left was unable to admit to itself that the Tories won fair and square because people preferred their sales pitch of individualism and opportunity. And this denial continued until late-stage Neil Kinnock and a still youthful Tony Blair finally delivered the harsh dose of reality required to make Labour electorally viable again.

Fast forward to 2016, and a Labour Party beaten back to its fortresses in the city and university campus simply cannot fathom why working class Britons might not like the idea of an increasingly powerful supranational government of Europe seeking to take over more and more competencies from its member states, and ultimately supplant them on the world stage, or why the working classes are stubbornly unwilling to participate in their carefully laid-out left-wing delusion that it is really just about trade and cooperation, honest.

Jones concludes:

It is certainly true that Labour’s coalition is fracturing. The Labour left – which has now assumed the party’s leadership – is in large part a product of London and its political battles from the 1970s onwards. London, of course, has increasingly decoupled from the rest of the country, economically and culturally. As the commentator Stephen Bush puts it, Labour does well “in areas that look like [the] UK of 30 years hence”: in particular, communities that are more diverse and more educated. In many major urban centres Labour thrives: witness the victory of Labour’s Marvin Rees in Bristol’s recent mayoral election. It is in working-class small-town Britain that Labour faces its greatest challenge. And it is these communities that may decide the referendum – as well as Labour’s future.

That’s why Labour’s remain effort needs to bring voices that resonate in northern working-class communities to the fore, such as Jon Trickett, who represents Hemsworth in West Yorkshire. These voices need to spell out the danger of workers’ rights being tossed on to a bonfire; to emphasise the real agenda of the leave leadership; and to argue that we can build a different sort of Europe. It would be foolish for either side to call this referendum. But unless a working-class Britain that feels betrayed by the political elite can be persuaded, then Britain will vote to leave the European Union in less than two weeks.

Well, at least Jones is able to concede that the London-centric leadership of the Labour Party might not be conducive to winning support from outside the middle-class clerisy. This is a start, but the problem will not be truly addressed until the likes of Owen Jones dare to concede that the working classes might have something to teach people like him about values and policy.

At present, even Owen Jones – the media’s standard bearer for defending the working classes – is still at pains to set himself apart from them on the issues. Sure, he will happily empathise with their frustrations, but he will never concede that they might be right on points of policy. He has an elite education, after all, while they work at places like Sports Direct (ew).

Take immigration. In a million years, you will never get Owen Jones to admit that the scale of immigration into Britain over the past decade has been problematic. He will do a better job than almost anyone of saying in that ever so ‘umble tone of his that he sympathises with those who do have concerns about immigration. But then watch him pivot to explain that the real problem is the Evil Tories and their failure to enforce a £10 minimum wage, or build sufficient new schools and hospitals and doctors surgeries to cope with 300,000 net arrivals a year, or to create magically appearing jobs.

In other words, while middle class leftists are allowed to speak for themselves, working class Britons must be “interpreted” by trained interlocutors like Owen Jones. And even when they directly say “I think that there is too much immigration, and it is causing problems”, we should not take it at face value, because really they mean all of these other things, but are not articulate enough to properly express themselves.

And so it is with the EU referendum. Working class people are saying in record numbers that they dislike the EU and want to leave. But the Labour Party, whose true masters and beneficiaries love the EU and are determined for entirely selfish reasons that Britain should remain, is unable to accept that the working classes might be right. And so they wheel out people like Owen Jones, who then tell them exactly what they want to hear – that the party’s working class voters don’t really mean it when they say they want Brexit, that what they really mean is that Britain should stay in the EU to reform it with the help of the Magical Brussels Reform Unicorn.

Don’t mind Kayleigh from Stoke-on-Trent, she’s just feeling a bit Brexity today.

Oh, how a noble political party has fallen. A party that once boasted deep roots in the industrial towns of Britain, and in the trades union movement, has now become a shallow and debased party designed to make London-based creative professionals feel good about themselves while their privileged lifestyles diverge ever more widely from those at the bottom. A party led by the affable-looking Jeremy Corbyn is still very much the party of professional politicos like Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger.

And so it will remain, until Labour – and the British Left in general – learn to stop pathologising those with different political views, particularly those who are supposedly on their own side. Because quite frankly, it is becoming rather grating to hear the self-proclaimed party of equality and opportunity bleat on about how progressive and democratic they are, while percolating in a closed information loop of self-reinforcing metro-left platitudes and furiously ignoring the fact that they increasingly have absolutely nothing in common with those whom their party was founded to represent.

Owen Jones was supposed to be better than this. But none of them are. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has started making noises about pushing back on the free movement of people issue a bit more, but you can bet that he wouldn’t be doing so if he (and the people he is really fighting for) didn’t have a referendum to win. The fears and concerns, hopes and dreams of working class people are only ever something to be mollified, contained or exploited for electoral gain, certainly not to be used as direct input to the policymaking process.

Right now, with the Parliamentary Labour Party slavishly cheerleading for a European Union loathed by many of its own supporters, the only thing standing in the way of Labour’s complete destruction south of the Scottish border is UKIP’s capacity for self-immolation. If the Remain campaign prevail and win the EU referendum, working class fury at the result (and the way in which the campaign was waged, in which Labour are fully complicit) could see many more defections to UKIP. The only thing likely to prevent this is the chaos which may engulf UKIP when Nigel Farage steps down or is deposed.

With the Labour Party living on borrowed time, one might expect a little humility from its leaders and chief supporters in the media. But these people don’t do humility. They have expensive educations and patiently-acquired groundings in all the right-on progressive values. They earned their right to sit at the top table of the Labour Party and call the shots. And the working classes? They exist to be referred to in speeches and soundbites, or sometimes to be used as a backdrop for media events so long as the event is tightly controlled and they don’t try to speak.

Funny. While the Conservative Party is consumed by a profound crisis of confidence and character within its own leadership, right now it is the Labour Party and British Left – even including poster boy Owen Jones – who most exude the stench of born-to-rule arrogance.

Never let it be said that this EU referendum campaign has not been instructional.

 

Postscript: It’s fair to say that Owen Jones isn’t best pleased with being called out for his condescending attitude towards working class Brexit supporters. He engaged with me on Twitter, taking great umbrage that I had briefly quoted from the headline – though he did not disavow the term “Brexity”

Jones is throwing his toys out of his pram, and has baselessly slandered me in the process – though frankly, being insulted by Owen Jones is a badge of honour which I shall wear with pride. There was no attempt to misrepresent or sensationalise what he wrote. The sub who produced the headline (if indeed it wasn’t Jones) did an excellent job of channelling the overall tone and content of his message – that working class people only support Brexit because they are the dumb victims of “political trickery” – and all of the quotes in this blog post reveal the same rotten attitude towards working class Brexiteers.

It is quite telling that Owen Jones popped up to smear me on Twitter before disappearing without actually defending his tawdry, condescending little piece in the Guardian. He knows that comparing Brexiteers to Donald Trump (as he did) is an unconscionable insult to working class voters, and more evidence of the Labour Party’s growing disconnect from its roots. But more than that, he knows deep down that he is wrong to support the Remain side in the EU referendum. Last year he showed promising signs that he might lead a left-wing awakening and uprising against the undemocratic European Union, but since then Jones – like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – has fallen dutifully into line praising the EU and furiously pretending to himself that “another Europe is possible”.

This is why Owen Jones is so sensitive and reacted so furiously to being called out on Semi-Partisan Politics. Whether Jones coined the term “Brexity” or not is immaterial – his attitude toward left-wing Brexit supporters, as evidenced by every single word in his Guardian column, is conclusive evidence that he views working class euroscepticism as a pathology, something to be treated, rather than a legitimate political viewpoint to be engaged with (and perhaps adopted as policy).

 

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Only The Brave Now Dare Admit To Being Conservative Or Eurosceptic

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When ordinary people with perfectly mainstream opinions are hesitant to express themselves for fear of being accused of racism, prejudice, stupidity or worse, our democracy is in real trouble

If you voted Conservative or UKIP at the 2015 general election, you could be forgiven for wondering where the other fifteen million people who made the same choice are currently hiding themselves. David Cameron’s leadership may be uninspiring and his government’s achievements few, but these are hardly the paranoid, dying days of the Brown government – ordinarily there should still be a level of authentic, spontaneous support to be found out and about the country.

Equally, you may wonder how on earth it was possible for Ed Miliband and Labour to have lost that election, given the fact that social media and popular culture roar their hatred of the Evil Tories louder than ever, that it is almost impossible to find kindred spirits willing to admit to voting Conservative or UKIP, and the fact that conservative policies and beliefs are routinely derided as ignorant and selfish at best, and violent and vengeful at worst.

The current political environment can be quite lonely for anybody with conservative leanings – and it makes one wonder why the people who delivered David Cameron his House of Commons majority and propelled UKIP into a remarkably strong third place are so desperate to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

There have been a couple of worrying pieces in the media this week which highlight the fact that furious open hostility toward anything vaguely conservative or eurosceptic – often emanating from a small but determined band of opposing activists – is having a chilling effect on the political discourse and preventing small-c conservatives from openly articulating their opinions.

First, the Independent carries a letter from former Labour MP Tom Harris, who only felt able to “come out” as a eurosceptic after having left elected office. Sounding as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, Harris writes:

I was never a fully paid-up member of the Euro team. Early signs of unsoundness manifested themselves in my outright opposition to British membership of the euro when it was first launched. The whips’ office had its eye on me after I added my signature to a letter, back in 2002, warning the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to resist committing to abolishing the pound. And once you’ve decided to oppose that central mechanism for the creation of a European superstate, it’s a fairly short step to being painted as “anti-EU”.

But my instinct to vote Leave (probably running at 53 to 55 per cent right now) is not something that can be confessed in polite middle-class company. Such an admission might too easily be interpreted as a dislike of foreigners or, worse, a tolerance of Nigel Farage.

[..] The question is precisely the same one we were asked in 1975: should we stay or should we go? In the meantime, if asked over dinner how I intend to vote, I’ll do the sensible thing and change the subject to the range of breads in the Marks & Spencer food hall. Or The Archers.

And follows up in the Telegraph:

As for me, I will continue to pursue this enigma known as “the normal life” by having, expressing, then rejecting various opinions. No doubt they will be variously correct, wrong, misplaced, insightful and dangerous. I may believe in all of them, some of them, or none of them.

What’s it to you?

But among Labour circles and much of the wider Left, it is simply no longer “permissible” to hold eurosceptic views, or to believe that Britain’s democracy and vital national interests would be better served by leaving an explicitly political and ever-more closely integrating union which we never realised we were joining in the first place. The Tories are perceived to be eurosceptic (even though many of them are not), and so the prevailing dogma has it that one must be pro-EU to be anti-Tory.

Aside from the few brave (and mostly decidedly retro) souls who form Labour Leave, the question of Britain’s ongoing EU membership simply is not up for discussion. And to express any doubt whatsoever about Britain playing an enthusiastic part in this European political union is seen as treachery, automatic disqualification from membership of the movement.

Look at Jeremy Corbyn’s reversal on the issue. Love or hate Corbyn, he has been willing to stand up to a mostly hostile Parliamentary Labour Party on issue after issue, from military action in Syria to the Paris attacks to the question of Trident renewal. On all of these issues, the Labour leader has proven himself willing to enrage many of his MPs by holding firm to his deeply held convictions.

But what of his eurosceptic convictions? Jeremy Corbyn has been a lifelong eurosceptic, and voted for Britain to leave the European Community in the 1975 referendum. Corbyn holds this view about as strongly as any other, and yet it was on this issue alone where he instantly capitulated to the establishment and became a pro-EU advocate. What should rightly be a non-partisan issue pertaining to sovereignty and self-determination is instead imbued with nearly the same cultural weight and quasi-religious fervour as one finds in the American culture wars. Such is the power of the Left’s infatuation with the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn - EU Referendum - 1975 - Eurosceptic

The second article of concern is this worrying testimonial from a conservative-leaning history supply teacher who found himself drummed out of the school where he taught because colleagues complained when he failed to join in their frequent denunciations of the Tory government and all things conservative.

Joe Baron writes in The Spectator:

After keeping schtum for two months, I finally challenged a colleague’s view of the Tories. ‘Why are Tory voters thick?’ I asked. ‘Is it just because they happen to disagree with you?’

‘No,’ he replied. ‘Because they voted for cuts’.

‘Perhaps they saw the cuts as necessary,’ I said. ‘Surely it’s better to make savings now, rather than keep spending money we don’t have, go bankrupt and, like the Labour government of 1976, be forced to make even deeper cuts after going cap in hand to the IMF.’

‘That’s rubbish!’ said another colleague. And so it continued, though no one actually raised their voices, until they brushed off my argument with a blasé ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ before gesturing towards the office door as if dismissing a recalcitrant child.

If Joe Baron had been loudly and forthrightly expressing his views in favour of Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, he would have been met with a chorus of approval and the respect of his colleagues. But in choosing to defend conservative ideas like government fiscal responsibility and personal self-sufficiency, Baron chose another path. A darker path:

I was called into the head’s office and told that, after a complaint from colleagues in my department, the school would no longer require my services. So I was effectively being dismissed for holding the wrong views, though of course the head dressed it up in a different garb: it was my manner rather than my opinions. Apparently I was ‘too assertive’.

As I remember it, my interlocutors were both red-faced and angry, and more than willing to use inflammatory language. I was told, at one point, that I was unfit to teach.

Interestingly, the head of department who refused to work with me — effectively calling for my dismissal — had several weeks previously decried the cruelty of zero-hours contracts. Where was her left-wing compassion when it came to sacking me, a married man with two children to support?

I suppose I’ve only got myself to blame. For a brief moment, I deluded myself into believing that schools actually encouraged tolerance and the questioning of orthodoxies through intellectual exploration, freedom of thought and speech. How silly of me.

Both cases – Tom Harris the former MP and Joe Baron the supply teacher – are examples of the visceral, real-world retribution which is threatened (and sometimes carried out) by those on the Left against people who have committed the thought crime of being a conservative. And this climate of anti-Tory hate-mongering not only distorts our political discourse, but undermines the health of our democracy, whose proper functioning relies on people with political differences being able to speak their consciences in good faith.

My own personal experience of this phenomenon has thrown up more depressing anecdotes than I can relate here. Friends who have sat next to me on the couch shouting at the television when one smug-faced Question Time panellist (or audience member) after another have deliberately misinterpreted and sanctimoniously condemned Nigel Farage or David Cameron, but who fall fearfully silent when the inevitable anti-Tory hate mobs form around the water cooler or on social media.

Or the senior PR executive I was chatting with at a recent event for the launch of Dan Hodges’ excellent chronicle of the 2015 general election, “One Minute To Ten”, who furtively looked around and dropped her voice to a hushed whisper before confiding to me that she actually voted Conservative, picking David Cameron over Ed Miliband.

Or the look on the faces of people I speak with in my hometown of Harlow, Essex, at the precise moment when a voice in the back of their head tells them to self-censor their speech and hold back their real opinions, for fear of ridicule or attack. They may have re-elected an excellent local Conservative MP in Robert Halfon, but few are willing to proudly and publicly stand by their decision months later, away from the privacy of the polling booth.

You just don’t see this same reticence on the other side. For a political movement which makes a great performance of supposedly being the voice of the voiceless and most marginalised people in the country, left-wingers have a near monopoly in many areas of the public discourse, particularly in the arts and entertainment sectors. And there are far fewer occasions or settings where it is necessary to pause and “read the room” before confessing one’s left-wingery than there are situations where conservatives have brutally learned the wisdom of self-censorship.

The problem is that it is not just the unhinged crazies sharing misspelled memes on the internet and typing in ALL CAPS below the line on news website articles. People like that exist on all points on the political spectrum from left to right, and the misogynistic ranting of one barking CyberKipper no more represents UKIP than the conspiratorial, anti-Semitic sermons of a self-declared Corbyn supporter reflect on Labour.

No, the real problem is the softer bigotry of bien-pensant public opinion – the arrogant assumptions of the dinner party set, well-heeled professional people in the office or having dinner at Carluccio’s – the middle class clerisy, Brendan O’Neill called them. Their willingness to lazily believe and repeat hysterical left-wing smears about conservatism and to virtue-signal in front of their friends by flaunting their vague and incoherent opposition to the Evil Tory government are the problem.

And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more that left-wingers openly flaunt their views while attacking or shunning anybody who thinks differently, the more likely they are to only ever hear ideas and opinions which chime with their own worldviews, and falsely assume that they are universal.

But it’s not true. The 2015 general election proved that there is no silent left-wing majority in Britain, and there will be no “rainbow coalition” of left-wing political parties coming together to kick the Evil Tories out of office any time soon.

In fact, the only question is how much longer the Left can continue to punch above their rhetorical weight before the British people finally tire of the sanctimonious yapping of a bunch of ideologically incoherent, virtue-signalling, anti-aspirational opportunists and the temper tantrum they are throwing in the face of a very mild and utterly unremarkable centrist government.

How much longer will the silent majority-makers of this country be willing to silence themselves, censor their speech and edit their public opinions solely to avoid the screeching disapproval of these losers?

Right now, it may be hard for some to “come out” as conservatives. But the Left are loudly and brazenly overplaying a very weak hand, and the sooner that more of us start calling them out on it, the easier it will be for more people to stand up and take pride in not being just another centre-left drone.

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