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?

 

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Owen Jones Has An Epiphany, Figures Out The Root Of Jeremy Corbyn’s Appeal

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Owen Jones has an epiphany: centrist Labour MPs are responsible for the rise of Jeremy Corbyn

One of the annoying things about being part of Britain’s marginalised political blogging community (see what I did there?) is the regular insult of seeing ideas first expounded on this blog being subsequently “appropriated” by high profile, celebrity journalists who come late to the party and then claim all the credit (and pageviews) for ideas that they did not originate.

I stay up late into the night ranting sometimes (I hope) semi-original analysis into WordPress, and then three months later some SW1-dweller pops up on the Sky News paper review making the same point as though it is astonishingly fresh insight, getting paid for being late to the party and taking all of the credit.

[Pauses]

Meanwhile, on a completely unrelated note, Owen Jones has worked out that Jeremy Corbyn did not sweep to the leadership of the Labour Party in a vacuum, and that the rise of Corbyn was only made possible because of the accumulated failings of Labour’s centrist MPs.

From Owen’s totally original Guardian column (my emphasis in bold):

There are many decent Labour MPs, but it is difficult to think of any with the stature of the party’s past giants: Barbara Castle, Nye Bevan, Ernie Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Margaret Bondfield, Harold Wilson, Stafford Cripps, Ellen Wilkinson. Machine politics hollowed out the party, and at great long-term cost. If, last year, there had been a Labour leadership candidate with a clear shot at winning a general election, Labour members might have compromised on their beliefs: there wasn’t, and so they didn’t.

[..]  Corbyn’s harshest critics claimed superior political nous, judgment and strategy, then launched a disastrously incompetent coup in the midst of a post-Brexit national crisis, deflecting attention from the Tories, sending Labour’s polling position hurtling from poor to calamitous, and provoking almost all-out war between Labour’s membership and the parliamentary party: all for the sake of possibly gifting their enemy an even greater personal mandate. They denounce Corbyn’s foreign associations, but have little to say about former leader Blair literally having been in the pay of Kazakhstan’s dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose regime stands accused of torture and the killing of opponents. Corbyn’s bitterest enemies preach the need to win over middle-class voters, then sneer at Corbynistas for being too middle class (even though, as a point of fact, polling last year found that Corbyn’s voters were the least middle class). They dismiss Corbynistas as entryists lacking loyalty to the Labour party, then leak plans to the Telegraph – the Tories’ in-house paper – to split the party.

It is the absence of any compelling vision that, above all else, created the vacuum Corbyn filled. Despite New Labour’s many limitations and failings, in its heyday it offered something: a minimum wage, a windfall tax on privatised utilities, LGBT rights, tax credits, devolution, public investment. What do Corbyn’s staunchest opponents within Labour actually stand for? Vision was abandoned in favour of finger-wagging about electability with no evidence to back it up.

Jones concludes:

Corbyn’s opponents have long lacked a compelling vision, a significant support base and a strategy to win. When Labour fails at the ballot box, its cheerleaders are often accused of blaming their opponents rather than examining their own failures.

The same accusation can be levelled now at Corbyn’s opponents. They are, by turns, bewildered, infuriated, aghast, miserable about the rise of Corbynism. But they should take ownership of it, because it is their creation. Unless they reflect on their own failures – rather than spit fury at the success of others – they have no future. Deep down, they know it themselves.

Slow hand clap. Finally, acknowledgement from a “mainstream” political commentator of what this blog has been saying consistently, even back when a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the leadership election was seen as an absurdity.

Jeremy Corbyn did not become leader of the Labour Party in a vacuum. A cloud did not suddenly descend on Labour Party members, making them crazy and amenable to markedly more left-wing politics. There was no extraneous event on which blame can be pinned, save Ed Miliband’s disastrous tenure as Labour leader, culminating in the 2015 general election victory. The problems are far more deeply rooted, and go way back beyond Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown.

Good job, Owen.

Of course, readers of this blog will know that I have been consistently making the same point, repeatedly, stretching back well before the 2015 general election:

Why Isn’t Labour Working?

Why Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Leadership Candidacy Matters

No, Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership Candidacy Is Not A Disaster

In Memoriam – Labour Party: 1900-2015

Stop The Anti Jeremy Corbyn Hysteria – ‘Entryism’ Is Not A Dirty Word

Why Is The Right Suddenly Scared Of Jeremy Corbyn

Is Jeremy Corbyn The Cure For British Conservatism’s Centrist Virus?

Are You A Populist Simpleton?

Labour Has Lost The Ability To Persuade Its Own Members, Let Alone The Voters

Time For Jeremy Corbyn Detractors To Put Up Or Shut Up

What Are The Aims And Values Of The Labour Party?

The Latest Victim Of The Labour Purge: The Party’s Soul

Stop Worshipping ‘Centrist’ Voters

The Labour Party’s Soul Searching Exercise Is Off To An Unpromising Start

In Defence Of Jeremy Corbyn

The Hypocrisy Of Centrist Labour’s War Against Jeremy Corbyn

 

So well done Owen. You got there in the end, nearly a year late.

But now that this blog’s ideas have been given voice by the boy wonder, maybe they will actually receive some due consideration and debate.

Who needs acknowledgement or recognition or money or credit, anyway?

 

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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).

 

Owen Jones talks back on the EU referendum - European Union - Brexit

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