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Owen Jones’ Pointless, Self-Deceiving Journey Around Brexitland

Brexitland

Owen Jones’ pilgrimage to Brexitland tell us nothing new about Leave voters, but gives us another depressing insight into the sanctimonious mindset of an establishment Remainer

I have no great love or respect for Owen Jones. The Guardian’s sanctimonious boy wonder once tried to insult me by sneeringly describing me as a “self-described journalist” and a “patently dishonest man” for reporting fairly and accurately on an article which he himself had written (my, he gets upset when his left wing sanctimony and arrogance is pointed out to him), and his recent flouncing away from social media in response to receiving negative feedback after criticising Jeremy Corbyn is only the latest proof that when it comes to insults and ad hominem attacks, Owen Jones can dish it out but just can’t take it.

Therefore I now usually spend most of my time ignoring Owen Jones, but his current series of articles in the Guardian – under the banner of “Brexitland”, whereby the author trudges around the United Kingdom desperately trying to understand why people didn’t believe the Remain campaign’s lies, exaggerations and catastrophisations of Brexit and vote to remain in the EU – is too good to avoid at least passing comment.

The latest instalment takes Owen Jones to Fareham in Hampshire, which as Owen Jones solemnly informs us, somehow voted Leave despite being a wealthy town with a high proportion of homeowners. This, Jones suggests, is some kind of devastating rebuttal to the idea that only poor, disenfranchised working class people voted for Brexit – which nobody serious has ever claimed, other than with the proviso that it is a general trend and not a cast-iron rule.

Under the illusion that he is contributing something original and worth hearing to the discussion, Jones crows:

As elsewhere, the result defied any predefined class dynamic and confounded the stereotypes. While Fareham is cast as part of an anti-establishment vanguard, Tower Hamlets – which has prevalent child poverty and two-thirds of whose residents voted for remain – is subsumed into the caricature of a pampered liberal elite. Most working-class Britons under 35 opted for remain, while most middle-class people over 65 voted for leave. Most working-class people who are white went for leave, most working-class people from ethnic minorities went for remain. Consider that the next time the Brexit press imposes its simplistic narrative on a complicated reality. Applying their logic, black supermarket workers and young apprentices form part of the privileged remoaner elite.

Of course, the only thing this really proves is that Owen Jones failed to define the establishment properly (ironic, given the title of his second book), and constructed a straw man which would be most easily knocked down. Nobody is suggesting that supermarket workers or young apprentices form part of the pro-EU elite.

While the push to get the Leave vote over 50 percent was driven significantly by working class dissatisfaction with their economic and social circumstances – and with the political status quo – many working class people still voted Remain. They have free will, after all, and were every bit as vulnerable to the Remain campaign’s apocalyptic warnings and false assurances about the EU as any other voter. Owen Jones hasn’t somehow confounded the standard narratives around Brexit by finding a pocket of relatively wealthy people in Fareham who voted Leave, just as he has not achieved the impossible by identifying some working class people who voted Remain. The entire exercise is simply a cynical vehicle for Jones to trot out the standard self-exculpatory lines Remainers use when trying to rationalise their defeat (The Brexit bus! What about £350 million for Our NHS!)

The only thing that Owen Jones’ tour of Brexitland is really good for is getting another insight into the workings of the Remainer mind. This anecdote is particularly telling:

The divisions here mirror those in other affluent communities. Sometimes disagreement is amicable, often not. Henry Palk, 79, was polishing windows that were once plastered with remain posters. He took me into his extraordinary wood-beamed 14-room house, which dates back to 1294. “Hitler would feel quite comfortable here with a lot of the residents,” he said irascibly. Palk says he has fallen out with some of his neighbours, not to mention a leave-supporting relative. His cousin telephoned each week, but when they spoke the Sunday after the referendum, that arrangement came to an end. Palk told him: “I’m sick of you, and I never want to hear from you again.” Then he hung up.

How many times has that scene played out in the months leading up to, and following, the EU referendum? And how many times has the person severing contact been a Brexiteer? I would venture that the answer is “rarely, if ever”.  As a general rule, Brexiteers (by virtue of having to live with a status quo they despised, often for years) are more tolerant of opposing viewpoints and capable of hearing dissenting opinions about Britain’s place in the EU. A higher proportion of Remainers, by contrast, have almost zero ability to handle dissent or see the goodness in a person with a legitimate disagreement.

As a result of my campaigning during the referendum, I have personally been de-friended and told to do various X-rated things to myself by a number of people online, while at one particularly memorable dinner party the female guest seated to my right physically picked up her chair and moved it a couple of inches further away from me when she found out that I voted for Brexit (despite knowing nothing else about me or my motivations).

And so it is natural that Owen Jones finds someone on his travels who feels justified and morally superior for severing contact with a former acquaintance (a family member, in this case) because they disagreed over Brexit – apparently the country is brimming with such people on the Remain side.

Palk’s words, “I’m sick of you, and I never want to hear from you again”, basically sum up the feelings of “liberal”, metro-leftist, pro-EU, establishment Britain towards those dared to defy their better judgment. As pampered members of the Edwardian aristocracy treated their domestic servants, Remainers often looked with a kind and indulgent eye on their fellow citizens so long as they kept their mouths shut and didn’t rock the boat, but became full of horror and revulsion when they dared to speak for themselves. Now Brexiteers are viewed as being every bit as “deplorable” as those Americans whose dissatisfaction with the status quo led them to vote for Donald Trump (a highly unfair comparison), despite the self-interested attempts to discern their motivations by people like Owen Jones.

More:

The likes of Fareham seen through a media lens offer certainty, but in truth the lines blur here as elsewhere. It suits the media barons to portray Britain’s divide as being between a patronisingly depicted working class and a privileged layer of snobs. But that hardly facilitates the intelligent discussion we now need. Of course the referendum result must be respected. But attempts to shut down any scrutiny, let alone dissent about a hard Tory Brexit, have to be resisted.

The “intelligent discussion we now need”? Like perpetrating the insulting myth that we are only leaving the EU because the most gullible amongst us were tricked into voting against our own interests by a patently false promise scrawled on the side of a bus, while the honest and upstanding Remain campaign high-handedly dealt only in truth and never once descended to the gutter?

Even Jones’ own forays into Brexitland reveal the comforting tale Remainers tell themselves about Evil Brexiteers and their Bus of Lies to be a – well, a lie:

Ian Page, 72, is another lifetime Tory voter, save for a brief dalliance with New Labour. He worked in the computer and electronics industry before retirement and voted leave. “Distrust of Brussels,” he says. “I had no problem with immigration, it didn’t bother me at all.” Indeed, he resented the “very negative” immigration policies offered by the leavers. But he did it and he is upbeat. “I don’t have any fears about not getting a deal,” he tells me. “I think Europe needs us more than we need them.”

They were lied to like the rest of us. Never forget the sheer deceit of a leave campaign that promised £350m a week extra for the NHS. But I encounter few complaints of betrayal. Tony Coves, a 76-year-old former chartered loss adjuster at Lloyd’s, recalls the ads on the side of the leave bus: “That was a load of nonsense, we knew that. We still voted for it.”

The only ones who took the NHS-worshipping Vote Leave battle bus seriously are the Remainers who seem to think that it constitutes smoking gun evidence that the EU referendum was somehow unfair and stacked against them rather than hideously weighted in their own favour, as it was in reality. Well, I take the moronic Brexit bus and raise the Remain campaign a lying prime minister who abused his office and leveraged the full might of the state in an effort to get his way. And if you think that a deceptive bus slogan promoted by a team of obvious charlatans is somehow worse than our head of government debasing himself and his office then we really can’t have a fruitful discussion, because you are not engaged in a legitimate cognitive process.

And why this continual belief that scrutiny and dissent about Brexit are being shut down? Is Hilary Benn not given free reign to indulge in any partisan whim he pleases as chair of the parliamentary Exiting the EU Committee? Are the establishment not still overwhelmingly personally in favour of remaining in the EU, even if those who are elected politicians have made peace with the result as a matter of political survival? Are the arts and creative industries, which do so much to influence our culture, almost lockstep in support of the European Union? Are tremulous, wobbly-lipped Remainers not given every opportunity to sweat their insecurities about looming fascism on every news bulletin and every edition of BBC Question Time? Show me where dissent is being suppressed, Owen, and I shall be very grateful.

Ultimately, Owen Jones can trudge from Lands End to John O’Groats trying to understand Brexit, but he would do far better to stand still and examine his own heart. At one time, his more sincere left-wing principles led Jones in the same direction as the late Tony Benn – opposed to the EU either for principled democratic reasons, or perhaps more likely out of self-interested fear that EU membership would thwart the imposition of Utopian left-wing policies in Britain. The tiresome phrase “Tory Brexit” originated from the perceptive idea (shared by Owen Jones and his onetime idol Jeremy Corbyn) that Brexit is not a bad thing in itself, and that the only thing bad for the British Left would be Brexit purely on perceived Tory terms.

What happened to the Owen Jones who looked at the European Union with a critical eye, saw it for what it really was and came close to supporting Brexit? What happened to the Owen Jones who saw the EU’s treatment of Greece during the euro crisis and realised how terminally unreformable and intransigent an organisation the EU really is, and how lethal to healthy nation state democracy? The answer is as clear as it is damning – that eurosceptic version of Owen Jones realised which side of his bread is buttered, and meekly got in line with the pro-EU establishment’s amen chorus, suppressing any doubts about the EU and cheering for a Remain vote which would have put the interests of the political class over Labour’s supposed working class base.

A pilgrimage through Brexitland will tell you nothing new about working and middle class attitudes toward Brexit and the EU. But it will tell you everything about the public’s attitude toward people from the political elite – politicians, journalists and commentators alike – who profess to respect and serve them only to second-guess their judgment on key issues like Britain’s place in the EU.

And surprisingly, it doesn’t matter whether you are a working class denizen of Tower Hamlets or a wealthy homeowner in Hampshire – having Owen Jones turn up on your doorstep to study you and write about your vote in the EU referendum as though it were a symptom of some pathological disease is pointless, insulting and utterly redundant.

Talking about “Brexitland” makes it sound as though those enclaves of the United Kingdom which dared to vote for secession from the European Union are somehow foreign and alien, and that their inhabitants require analysis and interpretation to be understandable to the majority. This is still very much the attitude of the pro-EU, pseudo-liberal media. But they, and Owen Jones, would do well to reflect on the fact that 52 is greater than 48. They are the minority. Their worldview was repudiated, quite forcefully, by many of the people they claim should benefit from it the most. Perhaps it might be worth reflecting on why that was, and on the failures and errors in their own thinking.

Because if anything, journalists should be making enquiring voyages deep into the heart of “euroland” to understand what could possibly motivate such a large minority of Britons to vote to remain in such a deeply unattractive union when 52 percent of their countrymen knew better.

 

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Top Image: Madeleina Kay

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NHS Heresy, Part 4 – Junior Doctors Would Sell Out The NHS In A Heartbeat, If The Price Was Right

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Brave and principled defenders of Our NHS? The junior doctors would knife Aneurin Bevan’s vision in the back and happily serve an Evil Tory privatised healthcare system (how awful) if the price was right

Few people have been pronounced more saintly in 2016 than the holy NHS Junior Doctors, whose brave, principled and not-at-all-about-money industrial dispute with Jeremy Hunt and the Evil Tor-ee government has seen these humble, altruistic folks fight bravely and against the odds to safeguard the future of Our Blessed NHS.

Oh, wait. Nope. Turns out that most of those cherub-faced stethoscope swingers would throw the NHS under the bus and see the National Health Service privatised if it meant more money flowing into their pockets.

Kristian Niemietz of the IEA reports:

While I never believed for a second that the junior doctors’ strike was a People’s Struggle against the demonic forces of neoliberalism, I did believe that most junior doctors had convinced themselves of it. I was under the impression that they sincerely believed that that they were fighting The Just Cause on behalf of The People. Slogans like “Save our NHS” were everywhere, after all, and we always find it easy to convince ourselves that what is good for us also happens to be good for everybody, even if in roundabout ways.

And yet, in a recent survey of almost 10,000 junior doctors, 93% said they would accept “complete privatisation” of the NHS if it resulted in “substantially” increased salaries. Surely, some will dismiss these figures as a vicious smear, while others will accuse junior doctors of hypocrisy and opportunism. I think neither response is appropriate.

In practice, many doctors already act in accordance with the preferences expressed in this survey. Last year, about 8,600 UK-trained doctors went to work abroad, with Australia being a particularly popular destination. Australia has a universal public insurance system, in which the government commissions and pays for most healthcare, but in which the delivery is largely private and market-based. They are not doing anything immoral, because there is nothing immoral about private, market-based healthcare; in fact, the Australian system produces some of the best outcomes in the world. Come to think of it, even in the UK, most GPs are self-employed, not NHS employees. This means that technically, they are part of the dreaded – whisper it – private sector.

It would, however, suit junior doctors to quit the populist, anti-capitalist posturing. And the rest of us should try to keep our anti-capitalist knee-jerk responses in check. Even when it comes to healthcare.

My emphasis in bold. And you read that correctly – 93% of all those doctors who love to paint the NHS logo on their faces and protest Jeremy Hunt would happily live in an Evil Tory dystopia of privatised healthcare if it meant they were paid a market wage.

Niemietz is kinder and more understanding in his piece than I am inclined to be. Personally, I think that the junior doctors’ strike was just another example of the NHS Industrial Complex – that vast connected web of connected special interests who have a direct stake in the world’s fifth largest employer continuing to operate along broadly the same lines as it does at present – flexing its muscles and throwing the entire country under the bus for their own economic gain. But that’s just cynical old me.

There is no disputing, however, that nearly every tawdry public (and private) sector dispute in modern history has been justified by the protagonists on the supposed grounds of “public safety”, whether it is London Tube drivers suddenly becoming concerned about safety on the Underground in time to tack an extra day onto their Christmas holidays, Southern Rail train drivers convinced that taking over responsibility for opening and closing their train doors will lead to regular platform bloodbaths, or the sainted junior doctors.

We have known since May that pay was the only real red line for junior doctors, though surprisingly none of their placards made reference to the desire for more cash – they chose instead to go with their “Save Our NHS” angle instead, to elicit maximum public sympathy (by whipping up maximum public fear). We have also known, thanks to the steady stream of junior doctors moving abroad to work for other, better healthcare systems than our own anachronistic NHS, that their supposed high-minded commitment to socialised, government-provided healthcare is often outmatched by the desire for a bigger pay cheque and a larger slice of finite taxpayer funds.

But now we find out that not only would many junior doctors consider abandoning the NHS and selling their services to hospitals in other countries, but that they would actively support the tearing down of Our Blessed NHS and its replacement with a privatised system here in Britain. The commitment to socialised public healthcare is literally tissue paper thin with these people, even more flimsy than the home-made banners on which they proclaim themselves to be tireless warriors fighting to defend the Best Healthcare System in the World.

Will the revelation of this hypocrisy change anything? Probably not. The Guardian and other sycophantic leftist outlets will no doubt continue to gush over the various vested interests within the NHS Industrial Complex, as instructed by High Priests like Owen Jones:

Ask a striking junior doctor why they’re taking this action, and you won’t simply hear an eloquent spiel about their contracts. It’s the very future of the NHS – which they have committed their lives to – which they fear is at stake. There are the government’s policies of marketisation and fragmentation – yes, accelerating what previous administrations did – stripping the “national” from NHS.

“Committed their lives to”? Heavens, you would think that these people had pledged themselves as members of the Swiss Guard, the Night’s Watch or the Order of the Phoenix, the way that Owen Jones talks about them, rather than simply signing up as employees of the fifth largest bureaucracy on the face of the planet.

But it is sneaky what Owen Jones does here, suggesting that people become doctors out of a desire to work in a large government bureaucracy rather than feeling the call of a vocation to heal. Other countries seem to manage to recruit and train doctors without danging the carrot of getting to work for a massive state-owned bureaucracy in front of them, but Jones would have us believe that we only have doctors and nurses because people are so dreadfully inspired by Aneurin Bevan’s rusting 1948 vision. Nonsense, of course, but very effective propaganda from the NHS Industrial Complex.

The NHS Industrial Complex is made up of many different actors, all with their own motivations. One has the ideological leftists like Owen Jones, whose entire worldview relies on supporting a monolithic state healthcare provider churning out a precisely equally dismal service to every postcode in the UK. Then one has the worker bees within the organisation itself, whose medical or bureaucratic expertise rarely qualifies them to pass judgment on the optimal healthcare system for a country of 65 million people. And then one has the vast supply chain serving the beast, which is motivated primarily by a desire to preserve and expand existing revenue streams and avoiding risky disruption.

How fortunate that this cast of villains and useful idiots is able to hide behind the junior doctors – most of whom are eminently decent people supporting a superficially worthy cause – as they press for the preservation of the status quo, the scuttling of reform and a wider pipeline direct from the bank account of every UK taxpayer direct to the fifth largest organisation in the world.

But perhaps now that we know that the NHS Industrial Complex’s most photogenic spokespeople are actually more than happy to upend the whole system, spit on Britain’s national religion and see the NHS fully privatised so long as the pay rise outweighs the public vilification, the junior doctors’ collective halo might tarnish a bit.

Still, there are always the nurses. Everyone trusts a good nurse.

 

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Top Image: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Owen Jones Doesn’t Get It

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There can be no left-wing populist movement so long as the modern Left continues to openly despise such a large segment of the country

The leftist boy wonder Owen Jones has had a good long think about the implications of Donald Trump’s election victory, and has come to the airy conclusion that the Left needs a “new populism” of its own.

From his latest Guardian opinion piece:

Trump’s victory is one of the biggest calamities to befall the west and the effect is that every racist, woman-hater, homophobe and rightwing authoritarian feels vindicated. This rightwing populism can no longer be dismissed as a blip. Indeed, without an urgent change in strategy, the left – perhaps all progressive opinion – will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance. Our crisis is existential.

Multiple factors explain this calamity. First: racism. The legacy of slavery means racism is written into the DNA of US society. The determined efforts by African Americans to claim their civil rights has been met with a vicious backlash. The exit polls suggest that Trump won a landslide among both male and female white non-graduates: only white women with degrees produced a majority for Hillary Clinton.

Second: misogyny. Trump – who brags of sexually assaulting his victims – ran a campaign defined by hatred of women. Clinton was self-evidently an establishment candidate, but a male candidate of the establishment would have been treated differently. Some American men feel emasculated by two factors: the demise of skilled secure jobs that gave them a sense of pride and status, and the rise of women’s and LGBT movements, which some men feel undermine their rightful dominance.

But there is a factor that cannot be ignored. Centrism, the ideology of self-styled moderates, is in a state of collapse. In the 1990s, the third way project championed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair could claim political dominance in much of the US and Europe. It has shrivelled in the face of challenges from the resurgent populist right and new movements of the left.

Yes, political centrism is dying, or at least under grave threat. And this is a good thing. It brought us nothing but dull, remote managerialism and technocracy, and enabled the elitist gravy train which so greatly enriched those with access to power while punishing those without. We should all be looking forward to dancing on centrism’s grave.

But sadly, Jones couldn’t leave it there. He continues:

Whenever the economic insecurities that fuelled Trumpism are mentioned, several objections are raised. It’s an explanation, some say, that fails to account for the large majority of working-class Americans from minority backgrounds who vote Democrat. Then there is the issue of culpability. Many insist that working-class Republican voters must take responsibility for electing a racist, misogynist candidate. True, some will be racists and misogynists beyond redemption but others have the potential to be peeled away if the lure is attractive enough.

Owen just doesn’t get it. Keep peddling in identity politics, keep making identity politics the battleground on which issues are debated and elections fought, and the white working class will organise and begin acting like a cohesive minority group themselves – because it is rapidly becoming clear to everybody that so long as the Left persists with its “divide, stoke resentment and conquer” approach, emulating their tactics is the only way for opponents to prosper and defend their own interests.

Note the sheer condescension of Jones’s arrogant claim that some Trump voters may, just may have the “potential” to be redeemed, as though voting for Trump was an endorsement of the worst allegations levelled against him rather than a self-interested choice between two candidates. The equivalent would be to claim that Democratic Party voters were endorsing secretive email practices, closeness to Wall Street, dubious charitable practices and shady financial dealings with their vote for Hillary Clinton. This is ludicrous on its face – and so it is to accuse most Trump voters of making their selection based on the worst utterances and behaviours of Donald Trump.

Owen Jones has clearly learned nothing. He has marinated and festered in toxic identity politics for so long that he knows no other way of thinking. And the new “left wing populism” he seeks to create will never come to pass because by definition it will always exclude and be violently antagonistic towards the white working class, the very people the Left needs to pull it out of terminal decline.

 

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Top Image: Miquel Garcia, Wikimedia Commons

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In Furious Denial Over The Failure Of Leftist Economic Policy, Owen Jones Misrepresents Conservatism

Owen Jones continues to use his Guardian column to peddle lies and misrepresentations about conservative economic policy, in a Herculean effort to save British leftists from having to come to terms with their failed economic policy dogma.

In praise of John McDonnell’s unabashedly left-wing conference speech, Jones whines:

It was a speech not lacking in concrete proposals: a tax transparency and enforcement programme; a £250bn investment programme in infrastructure and clean energy; a national investment bank, backed up by regional investment banks, to support small businesses; legislation to stop the emergence of Philip Greens by reforming companies – preventing them from “taking on excessive debt to pay out dividends” and ensuring company takeovers protect workers and pensions; the promotion of cooperative and worker ownership; protection for self-employed people; plans for a universal basic income and the reintroduction of collective bargaining to stop the levelling down of wages.

The critique writes itself: Labour lost the last election because it was not trusted with the nation’s finances. How on earth do these speeches address those concerns? There are two points to make. Firstly, Labour’s failure to defend Blair and Brown’s spending record – with the Tories revising history to claim that the investment they backed was at the root of Britain’s economic woes – is critical to understanding the party’s election loss. That’s why the Tories’ line – “why hand the keys back to the driver who crashed the car?” – was so devastatingly effectively.

My emphasis in bold.

Sorry, but this is complete balderdash from Owen Jones. The conservative / small government criticism of New Labour economic policy is not that runaway government spending *caused* the economic crisis – that is clearly false, when we know that the crisis was precipitated by a bad credit-fuelled housing bubble which undermined a grasping and improperly regulated banking sector. The conservative position is that by spending money like it was going out of fashion and running budget deficits even in the good years, there was absolutely no “rainy day” fund or financial buffer available when the bottom fell out of the economy and tax revenues dried up.

That is the real reason for today’s so-called “austerity” (meaning slightly reduced increases in government spending compared to earlier baselines). Jones later goes on to charge the Tories with “the failure to eliminate the deficit as promised, a rising national debt” – well, what would his preferred spendthrift policies have done? If Owen Jones is seriously suggesting that the forsaken economic recovery resulting from continued or increased government spending from 2010-15 was so great that it would have paid for itself, eliminated the deficit and taken a chunk out of the national debt then he is treating his readers like they are stupid. And he is holding the Tories to a standard of economic miracle-working which he would never expect of his own beloved Labour Party.

The reason that nobody trust the Labour Party on the economy – the reason that Labour MPs are laughed out of town whenever they even make a claim to economic competence – is that New Labour’s remorseless cranking up of the size of the state, together with their endless expansion of government spending and determination to hook more and more people on government welfare, meant that Britain was uniquely badly positioned among advanced nations to weather the global financial crisis.

The charge is not that idiotic PPI contract-delivered hospitals and shiny new school buildings in Britain actively caused a global credit crunch and recession. The charge is that this ignorant spendthriftery weakened Britain’s financial position, meant that the slightest cuts in government spending would immediately impact public sector workers or those encouraged to be dependent on various benefits, and made our subsequent economic pain that much more brutal – the cost of which can be counted today in lost and stunted lives. This is what Labour “compassion” hath wrought.

So no, the Tories do not suggest that electing a Labour government would be akin to “handing the keys back to the driver who crashed the car.” For all their faults, Labour did not deliberately crash the vehicle. But they did set out on treacherously icy roads having previously cut the brake cables, and that is just as bad, however desperately Owen Jones tries to spin it.

 

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Still No Sign Of Introspection From Labour’s Defeated Centrists

Day +1 of Jeremy Corbyn’s reconfirmed reign as leader of the Labour Party, and while there is much self-indulgent and self-involved wailing and gnashing of teeth among those who opposed Corbyn about what horrors may now befall them, there is still precious little introspection as to why the forces of centrist Labour were so thoroughly routed in the first place, twice now in the space of twelve months.

There are, however, a few green shoots of realisation in the left-wing media that it is no longer sufficient to blame the rise of Corbyn on far-left “bullies”, social media “abusers”, Marxist infiltrators or the “party within a party” Momentum. Finally, we are starting to see greater acknowledgement of something that this blog has been saying for months – that people are abandoning the bi-partisan centrist consensus because it was a failure; because it failed to speak to their hopes, aspirations and problems, while it was simultaneously undermined by more ideologically compelling offerings on the Left and the Right.

Here’s Owen Jones, continuing his epiphany from last month and belatedly coming to the same conclusion that this blog reached over a year ago, during the last Labour leadership contest:

Corbyn’s most ideological opponents should also take time to reflect on their own failures. Lacking a coherent and inspiring vision, they left a vacuum and are furious it was filled. When New Labour triumphed in 1997, social democrats were on the march across western Europe. Today, the German social democrats – whose leader promotes Blair-type third way politics – hover between 18% and 22% in the opinion polls. Spain’s social democrats have a telegenic leader, but haemorrhage support to the radical left. If Labour’s right had an obvious route map to power, they would not been in such a parlous state.

Also taking the Labour centrists to task is Dr. Eliza Filby, King’s College historian and author of “God and Mrs Thatcher”, who writes in the Guardian:

So, what now for Labour centrists? They may choose to sit and wait for Corbyn to fail. But by then it might be too late and a split inevitable. Collaboration with Corbynistas might be too hard to stomach and impossible to maintain. One thing that centrists could do is stop blaming Corbyn for everything and take a long look in the mirror. The foundations of leftwing centrism have completely crumbled and fresh thinking is required.

What should be at the forefront of their minds for both MPs and members is the future of the Labour voter. Ukip will redouble its efforts in Labour heartlands and, with the possible resurgence of the Lib Dems and the strength of the SNP, Labour MPs of all shades might find there is no longer a loyal electorate on which they can draw.

Quite. For too long, Labour’s centrist MPs have acted as though the path back to political power for a broadly centre-left social democratic party is quite simple – that all they need to do is tack slightly to the left of the already-centrist Tories while making sure to drone on endlessly about “fairness” and “equality” so that voters know that they are the more compassionate of the two options. But this is a dangerous nonsense.

The Tories under David Cameron (and likely continuing under Theresa May) have pursued a relentlessly centrist course, essentially “Blairism with an empty Treasury”. The so-called austerity which the Left screeches about is largely a figment of the imagination, being largely comprised of reduced increases in year-on-year spending rather than flat-out budget freezes or cuts. George Osborne set a relatively unambitious deficit reduction target, failed to meet it and then lied about the government’s progress during the 2015 general election campaign. It’s hard to see what less the Labour centrists would have done had they been in charge over this period – the NHS and international aid were already ludicrously ringfenced from cuts at the expense of core functions like national defence.

So given this context, what is the Super Secret, Super Awesome centrist Labour plan to get back into power? We don’t know, because they never told us, even as they raged against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. And they never told us because they don’t actually have a plan. The Labour centrists have singularly failed to articulate an alternative agenda for government, or to explain what they would do with their beloved big, activist state at a time of limited public funds. If “austerity” is so bad, how much of it would the Labour centrists cancel? They never told us.

All we really know is that the Labour centrists desperately want to overturn the result of the EU referendum, thumbing their noses at democracy and asserting the Westminster establishment’s right to do as it pleases and act in its own interests. And this isn’t a tremendous vote-winning stance, with more than half of Labour-supporting Brexit voters now so enraged with the antidemocratic murmurings of the centrist MPs that they now no longer plan to vote for the party, as LabourList reported:

More than half of Labour voters who backed Brexit in June’s referendum no longer support the party, according to a new poll.

The news will reiterate the scale of the challenge for whoever is announced as the winner of the Labour leadership contest tomorrow – widely expected to be a comfortable re-election for Jeremy Corbyn. The leader will be faced with the prospect of a divided party and an increasingly insecure support base.

Times/YouGov polling released this morning shows that 52 per cent of people who backed Labour in 2015 and a Leave vote in the EU referendum have doubts about their continued support for the party.

Around a third of Labour voters supported an Out vote in June, meaning that over 1.6 million Brexit backers have abandoned their support for Labour.

Many of the biggest margins of victory for Leave came in some of Labour’s traditional heartlands, with areas across the North East, North West, Wales and Midlands seeing large votes to leave the EU.

So in other words, what little we know of the alternative centrist agenda for the Labour Party is that they would immediately take action to drive 1.6 million of their core working class, Brexit-supporting base into the arms of either the Tories or UKIP. That doesn’t sound very politically astute to me, particularly from a group of machine politicians who take every opportunity they can to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of political amateurism.

But that’s all they have right now. The centrists of the PLP know that they hate Jeremy Corbyn because he is “unelectable” (as though the Overton window of British politics has never been moved before, when the right circumstances align with the right person to exploit them), but they don’t have a clear alternative of their own.

The arrogance of the centrists is shocking beyond measure. They exploited a period of political turmoil in Britain to knife their own leader in the back for being too left-wing, and yet not one of them could be bothered to do the homework to come up with an alternative vision for Britain or programme for opposition. They simply expected their chastened party members to submit to their authority as high-and-mighty MPs, asking them to overturn their recent endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn while failing to offer them a meaningful alternative (Owen Smith spent the leadership campaign pretending to be every bit as left-wing as Corbyn, while Angela Eagle whined about being “my own woman” but failed to enunciate a single policy of her own). No wonder the party membership told the PLP to go take a hike, in the clearest possible terms.

Thankfully, there are a few signs that left-wing thinkers are becoming sick of the centrists’ arrogance and their “born to rule the Labour Party” mentality. But it needs to be far more widespread. Instead of chummy, collegiate sympathy with Labour’s centrists-in-exile, the Westminster media need to start asking what Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents would actually do differently, and what their vision for Britain really is. They need to be put under pressure and shamed until they either articulate such an alternative vision or skulk away into the corner of British political life where they currently belong.

At present, Theresa May’s Conservatives hold the centre ground (albeit with a paternalistic, authoritarian leaning) while Jeremy Corbyn holds the Left. If the Labour centrists are as politically astute and as great a potential election-winning force as they want everybody to believe, they shouldn’t have any trouble outlining for us their compelling, alternative centre-left policy prescription for Britain, a manifesto so challenging and inspiring that it will deliver a 1997-style landslide if only they are given the chance to take back control of the Labour Party.

So come on, then. Where is it?

 

Jeremy Corbyn - PMQs

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