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Left Wing Self-Awareness Award, Part 2

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Jon Ashworth sees the light

More credit where credit is due to Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, who took a break from leading public worship of Our Blessed NHS (genuflect) to encourage Labour activists to see Conservative voters as potential hearts and minds to be changed rather than unconsionable, amoral degenerates.

From the Guardian:

The shadow health secretary has urged Labour to see Conservative voters as the party’s “friends and neighbours and relatives” rather than portraying those who are attracted to Theresa May’s offer as the enemy.

[..] He claimed that while there was no intention by Labour figures to portray Conservative voters in a negative light, the “febrile world of Twitter and social media can sometimes inadvertently convey that”.

Ashworth said his message was to stress: “Those who vote Conservative aren’t our enemies. They are our friends and neighbours and relatives. We need to be convincing them to switch to Labour where we can.

“They are people who live in our communities – we need to be persuading them as well as ensuring that those who voted Labour in past elections are sticking with us again.”

It’s a little bit cheeky of Jon Ashworth to suggest that there has never been any intention by Labour figures to portray Conservative voters in a negative light. The mere fact that prominent Labour politicians and activists choose to argue in such stridently moral terms about left-wing policies being altruistic and right-wing policies being motivated by base self-interest makes a clear implication that Tory voters are morally deficient – there simply is no other inference to be drawn from the rhetoric.

One might also consider the official Labour party leaflets distributed in the recent Copeland by-election, warning that a Conservative victory would literally “cost mums their children”.

The Guardian reported at the time:

A graphic Labour pamphlet warns voters in Copeland that a Tory victory in the by-election will “cost mums their children” in an open letter aimed at highlighting the risks of NHS cuts in the constituency.

The handwritten letter in support of Labour candidate Gillian Troughton, a St John ambulance driver and former hospital doctor, is from local mother Paula Townsley. The leaflet is the second posted through letterboxes by Labour activists to contain dire warnings about the closures of maternity services at West Cumberland hospital.

Accusing conservative voters of aiding and abetting in the death of babies doesn’t seem particularly inadvertent. On the contrary, it sounds like a deliberate attempt to make conservative policies seem not simply misguided and erroneous (as conservatives believe left-wing policies to be) but deeply, profoundly wicked. And presumably this election pamphlet was signed off by somebody with at least some authority within the Labour Party.

That being said, Jon Ashworth’s clear and explicit exhortation to Labour activists encouraging them to see the humanity in conservative voters (rather than Evil Tory vermin to be avoided or exterminated) can only be a good thing.

Not everybody agrees, though. A below-the-line commenter over at LabourList retorts:

What troubles me is the sacrifices in our values we have to make in order to appeal to Tory voters. What aspects of our manifesto would we have to dump? And how would that go down with our core vote?

None! At this point, you don’t have to make any sacrifices to your values. Just stop treating the other side as though they are pantomime villains, and you will be at least 30 percent of the way there. Dare to imagine that your opponent’s conservatism is borne of a legitimate moral framework and a sincere belief in what is best for society and the country, just as you believe that left-wing policies are the panacea. That’s all you have to do at this stage!

When it comes to toxic left-wing activism, it is the grassroots that do 80 percent the damage – on social media and through their coarse and vulgar protests. Jon Ashworth is correct to say that it is not usually Labour MPs themselves who are most responsible for whipping up anti-conservative hatred – or at least they tend not to do so while the cameras are rolling. Therefore Labour politicians have a responsibility to warn their more hot-blooded activists that treating Theresa May’s really very moderate centrist government as some kind of evil Nazi-like regime to be “resisted” is counterproductive and highly offputting to those who vote Conservative in good conscience.

Jon Ashworth’s conversion to the cause is therefore most welcome.

More, please.

 

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Left Wing Self-Awareness Award, Part 1

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An award to honour the courageous few on the British Left who have come to realise that blindly screaming “Tory Scum!” at half the country might not be the surest path to victory, and who instead risk life and limb (or at least their careers) to propose speaking to conservatives as though they are human beings

Credit where credit is due to Peter Ormerod, who foresees the British Left’s imminent collision with reality on June 8, writing in the Guardian:

It seems many on the liberal left are determined to repeat the mistakes of the 2015 general election, the EU referendum and the US presidential race. There is a widespread failure – perhaps even a refusal – to understand the reasons May and the Conservative party are so popular. Until we try to do so, we will always lose.

We will break this cycle only by condemning less and understanding more. If the appeal of May’s Tory party eludes us, we surely need first to appreciate that we are relatively unusual, and then try and see what all those others see. This is not to say that they are right and we are wrong, or to ditch any of our principles; only that May evidently represents something that huge numbers of people in our country want, and that it is worth our while to analyse that and take it seriously.

Only then can we win back the people whose support we need. This is something the New Labour project, for all its flaws, understood: we must meet people where they are, not where we would like them to be. Only then can we take them with us. It just takes some emotional imagination on our part. And this brings us to the heart of our problem.

For all our supposed touchy-feeliness, many on the liberal left seem to forget that elections are fought not only on the grounds of reason but also on the battlefields of emotion. It should be obvious that responding with snark and hostility to people with whom we disagree just raises defences and entrenches beliefs: after all, we know how we react when we are mocked and insulted. But we should also have learned by now that facts in themselves are often unpersuasive too. If we have not grasped this from experience, then there is plenty of scientific research to make that clear. We can recite statistic after statistic, pointing to failing after failing, and they’ll just bounce off our intended target because Theresa May gives them a sense of confidence that Jeremy Corbyn does not. You can win a hundred arguments and change not a single mind.

This is also good, on the role of the media in influencing public opinion – one of this blog’s pet peeves:

We can believe that these millions of people are wrong, but we cannot say they are stupid. Nor are they all zombies, or all brainwashed, or all unenlightened. And it’s not enough to blame “the media”, either: newspapers are commercial operations and if the public mood changes, the media often changes with it. This was the case in 1997 and continues to be the case today: it is why, say, the political position of the Scottish Sun may differ from that of its English counterpart. It would obviously be naive to underestimate the extent to which some newspapers shape public opinion, but these publications would not exist if they failed to reflect it.

Peter Ormerod’s conclusion? Listen more, judge less. Meet the people where they are, not where the Left would like them to be. Dare to imagine that a political disagreement may be borne not out of a catastrophic moral failure on the part of the other person, but from a legitimate different perspective on life, one worth exploring and understanding if not necessarily accepting.

One can still quibble with parts of Ormerod’s article – despite the general thrust being correct, he still manages to accuse conservative-leaning voters of irrationality in the opening paragraph. But to focus on likely rhetorical slips like this would be churlish, particularly when so few others on the British Left – either among the political leadership, the commentariat or the grassroots – are willing to be so introspective or make such a concession.

Ormerod admits that it will take a “concerted effort” from his ideological colleagues to “lay off the sneering”, and right now I’m just not sure that the appetite is there. Certainly not before the general election on June 8. For better or worse, the two main parties will butt heads on election day more or less screaming their current war cries – “strong and stable leadership!” from the Conservatives, and something about the Evil Tories being worse than Hitler from the Left. The only question remaining is precisely how many voters this petulant strategy will manage to alienate by polling day.

There will then doubtless be a period following Theresa May’s victory – as there was when David Cameron vanquished Ed Miliband in 2015, breaking the hearts of many a Tumblr Milifandom blogger – when the red mist descends even deeper over the British Left. We will hear about how the stupid working classes voted against their own interests for Goebbels to be prime minister, and for the government to wage a deliberate holocaust of the sick, the disabled and the otherwise perpetually “vulnerable” (a term which the British Left have conveniently extended to cover over half the country).

But every such outburst is only a further step taken in the wrong direction; one which must be re-trodden when the fever cools, the temper abates and the Left finally decides that they want to make up with the British people rather than continue to bitterly rage at them.

As things stand, though, every angry leftist outburst on Twitter, every snarky and sanctimonious meme shared on Facebook, every slanderous anti-conservative status proudly shared, every “Tories are vermin” t-shirt proudly worn around the streets of London, every weepy Huffington Post article about how some precious little “citizen of the world” can no longer bear to look at the parents who raised and sacrificed for them simply because they dared to vote for Brexit – all of this must be paid for in a lump.

Peter Ormerod is one of the few to sense the impending crash before it takes place. Perhaps, before long, he will be joined by others.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

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Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal?

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The vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory seems to have wrongly convinced an entire army of snarling, leftist authoritarians that they are actually the virtuous defenders of liberalism

Is anybody else getting mighty sick of the constant parade of left-wing, Big Government-supporting authoritarians suddenly rushing to cloak themselves in the veil of “liberalism” as they struggle to process what they see as successive defeats in the EU referendum and the US presidential election?

I can’t think of a word that has been more overused by pundits since everybody got together a couple of years ago and decided that the related N-word (neoliberalism) was this season’s hottest fashion statement, and started accusing everybody whose views they dislike of being an Evil Neoliberal, as though it were some devastatingly intellectual insult.

Here’s the FT, weeping into their cornflakes about the supposed death-throes of liberalism:

Mr Trump’s victory, coming after the Brexit referendum vote in Britain, looks like another grievous blow to the liberal international order. Mr Trump must decide, by his actions and words, whether he intends to contribute to the great unravelling, at incalculable cost to the west.

And the Independent:

Democracy is changing, and not for the better, but those who believe in liberal values, tolerance and protecting the environment can learn from this setback and fight back.

The Independent, of course, promotes liberal tolerance through its courteous and magnanimous treatment of those who dare to dissent from its positions on social issues, climate change and global governance.

Here’s the Spectator:

In her concession speech, Clinton said her goal had been ‘breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams‘. This is the dream of liberalism, which seeks freedom from any social or economic constraint. Elites like Clinton feel confident that they can navigate a deregulated society in which class, gender, and race are all fluid. They support deregulated markets as well, confident that free trade and open borders will serve their own interests in the near term and the whole country’s in the longer term.

Freedom from any social constraint? Only if one happens to agree with the elite.

And the Spectator again, covering itself in even more glory:

The challenge to liberalism is still seen as an argument to be won rather than an irreversible sea-change. But, if anything, the scale of the problem has been understated. The core tenets of liberalism are freedom and equality, ideas that are under siege.

Oh, and let’s not forget the prime minister herself, Theresa May, speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday evening:

Change is in the air. And when people demand change, it is the job of politicians to respond.

But it’s also the job of all those in positions of influence and power – politicians, business leaders and others – to understand the drivers of that demand too.

And I think that if we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.

Let’s be clear: those forces have had – and continue to have – an overwhelmingly positive impact on our world.

It really has come to something quite strange when Theresa May – a flinty eyed authoritarian who gives me pause any time I check a book out of the library, lest her government use my borrowing history as a pretext for throwing me in jail next week – seeks to wrap herself in the mantle of small-L liberalism.

But now everyone seems to be at it, suddenly claiming that they are terribly “liberal” while the people they dislike are not. Politicians and pundits who only months ago could be found calling for people to be banned from entering the country due to their political beliefs are now rending their garments at the election of a man who suggested that people should be banned because of their religious ones. And in so doing, they declare themselves to be the defenders of liberalism, while utterly oblivious to the irony of it all.

People who wanted to usher in national ID cards, strengthen the surveillance state, extend pre-charge detention, ban UKIP voters from fostering or adopting children, throw people in jail for their Facebook and Twitter posts, arrest people for singing the wrong songs at a football match, ban advertisements for being offensive, hike taxes even higher on cigarettes or alcohol or ban them altogether, levy regressive taxes on soft drinks, erect safe spaces on university campuses, slap trigger warnings on academic syllabuses, shame or punish people for the Halloween costumes that they choose to wear, get people fired from their jobs for holding or expressing the wrong opinion, strangle religious freedom and force people to violate their faiths by positively affirming the actions and lifestyle choices of others – these people are suddenly all over the airwaves, lamenting that it is actually those Evil Brexiteers and Donald Trump supporters who have supposedly brought our previously-idyllic liberal age crashing down in flames.

Well sorry, but this pious, self-aggrandising argument is complete baloney. I can’t speak for Donald Trump supporters, not being one myself, but I am very adamant that my vote for Brexit was a liberal vote for strong, globally-engaged nation state democracy. I and millions of others voted to leave the European Union because it sought to impose a degree of supranational government upon us which far outweighs the limited extent to which most Britons consider themselves European and consent to such governance. I did so because I judged that my inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are to this day best defended by a strong nation state with a reinvigorated national democracy, and not a remote supranational union with some of the superficial trappings – but none of the spirit – of democratic accountability. Voting for Brexit was perhaps the most profoundly liberal thing I have done on my thirty-three years on this good Earth.

And yet now I am supposed to sit back while every two-bit authoritarian with a newspaper column publishes tedious identikit dirges alleging that I, a staunch libertarian conservative, am supposedly at the vanguard of a dystopian new illiberal movement sweeping across the world and shrouding humanity in darkness and uncertainty? Hell no.

If liberalism is so great – and by and large, it is – then it would be nice if some of liberalism’s new fair-weather friends tried to remember the ideology’s core principles once they have finished weeping about Trump and Brexit and turned their attention back to more mundane political events. Perhaps they might care to remember the term they so glibly appropriated next time they call for something they disagree with to be banned, or for somebody who offends them to be punished by the criminal justice system. What do you think are the chances that this will happen?

After a week of this incessant, tedious refrain about the “death of liberalism” from the commentariat, I have just about had enough of my liberalism being culturally appropriated by the snarlingly authoritarian Regressive Left. It is only in the reflection of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage’s wildest rhetoric that their own paternalistic, control-freakish, coercive instincts can be even semi-plausibly pitched as being remotely liberal, and those of us with long memories and functioning brains know these pearl-clutchers for what they really are – persistent, deadly enemies to true liberalism.

 

Postscript: In this excellent piece, Pete North slaps down the idea that the West is somehow turning its back on liberalism, drawing a crucial distinction between genuine small-L liberalism which is as popular as ever and its decadent, identity politics and victimhood culture-infused cousin which has indeed been rejected by the electorate.

Money quote:

In a liberal society we appreciate that we all have our distinctions and limitations and we recognise that nobody should endure discrimination or punishment for those facets which cannot be changed. Gender, sexual preference, skin colour. But it goes further than that. We try to open doors for people os that people can break out of predetermined roles and destinies. That to me is social progress, where nobody is limited by class and physical attributes.

But when liberals begin to attack the very foundation of our morality and our values and seek to replace them with an ultra-permissive, anything goes morality we lose any kind of cohesion and moral authority. Moral relativism takes hold to such an extent that we can no longer defend those things we value.

What the left have done is to identify all social norms as inherently evil – which has given rise to the cult of the self which in turn has spawned the now toxic brand of feminism we see on the internet and the perverse social justice movement which processes everything through the prism of identity. It centres around a certain narcissism whereby individual rights become entitlements on the basis of one’s sense of victimhood. From this is born the right not to be offended or triggered – and with that goes the death of free speech. Opposition is inherently oppression it seems.

And this is why the culture war of the last decade goes so heavily with what is happening on a more visible level in politics. In what is now seen as a backlash against political correctness, there is something more seismic happening.

And North’s conclusion:

But then this tyranny of what is laughingly known as progressivism is on borrowed time. It always was a moral and intellectual perversion and it was always a minority view. How it came to be one of the most powerful ideas of a century is for the historians but now it seems the majority have finally lost patience and stood up to the left. In this we are not turning our backs on liberalism. We are merely putting an end to the gradual erosion of those, dare I say it, traditional values on which our modern and open society is built. I think this is what makes Theresa May, herself a church and shires Conservative, the right lady at the right time.

The sad part of this is that there will inevitably be a tiny minority who think we are going back to the old days where rampant and open homophobia is acceptable and we will no doubt see an unfortunate spike in racist incidents. But it is a typical left wing lie to say that mainstream society has suddenly become intolerant and racist. That trick might have worked for the last twenty years but the election of Trump tells you that the majority no longer care what you call them. The more offensive to the left the better.

And it is so telling that across the USA we now see the left spitting venom. We now see the true face of the “tolerant” left in all its bile. We can see that it was never about advancing a better society for all. It was about the minority wielding power over the majority – to impose a twisted morality on society without its consent – from the United Nations to the local primary school.

I repeat: genuine, small-L liberalism has not been rejected by the people, and is only under marginally more serious threat from ignorant authoritarians like Donald Trump than it has been over the past decades from highly learned progressives who sought to impose their “progressive” worldview on an uncertain population while actively criminalising dissent.

Those weeping most loudly today about the supposed death of liberalism have often themselves done as much as anyone to damage liberalism themselves through their decidedly illiberal and intolerant past behaviour.

 

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The New Statesman Is Preaching Hatred And Fear Of Conservatives

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Be tolerant and respect the sincerely held political views of other people. Unless those people happen to be Tory Scum…

Apparently, as we seek to move on from the EU referendum in the post Jo Cox era, we are all supposed to be more civil to one another and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

We know this, because the New Statesman high-mindedly told us so:

I believe the horrific killing of Jo Cox is a moment for this New Generation of us to speak more openly about what has gone wrong and how we must, collectively, tackle it. Fundamentally, I believe we must see this as a moment in our history to re-covenant our respect as a society for politics done well. Democracy can ultimately only be as good as the society it represents. We must all learn once again to value free speech and civilised debate, led by open, accessible and accountable Parliamentarians. We must pledge ourselves to continuing the fight for freedom, for tolerance and for understanding between individuals, nations and peoples. We must ensure that love, hope and understanding will always triumph over hate, fear and despair.

We must reject the politics of alarmist language, personal attacks and fear.

A noble sentiment which surely we can all take to heart – it should certainly be possible for all of us to watch our rhetoric in the heat of debate, as none of us benefit from the current toxic political climate.

So why, then, is the New Statesman now actively trying to whip its readership into a quivering fear at the prospect of Andrea Leadsom winning the Conservative Party leadership contest and becoming prime minister?

Having apparently forgotten their own edict to respect people with different political views, the New Statesman instead lists nine reasons why its readers should be terrified – yes, terrified, that emotion which would be more appropriate if masked intruders had just smashed down their front doors – by this relatively unknown politician.

From “9 reasons you should be truly terrified of Andrea Leadsom becoming prime minister“:

With polls suggesting Andrea Leadsom will be one of the two Tory leadership candidates put to a vote of the members, it’s only natural to be curious about what this potential prime minister believes.

Luckily, she’s been busily keeping a blog for the last decade.

It turns out she has strong views on babies’ brains, and thinks she may have discovered the secret to preventing a repeat of the riots which plagued London in 2011.

So far they seem to be trying harder to make Leadsom seem ridiculous than terrifying.

There then follows a list of generally banal and uninteresting statements which Leadsom has made, or policy positions which she has taken, including:

1. Gay couples to the back of the adoption queue

Back in 2009, Leadsom used an adoption case – in which the two children of a heroin addict were given to a GAY couple (!?!?) – to question just when enough is enough when it comes to gay rights. “And if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”

and

2. Watch out for those single parents

In 2006, she wrote that “the child of a single parent family is 70 per cent more likely (than the child of a two-parent family) to have problems at school, and even to become a drug addict or a criminal.”

and

3. And that anti-marriage media

“The self indulgence and carelessness of non-committed adult relationships is proving fatal to the next generation,” she wrote in 2008.

and

5. Those baby-brained rioters

“I explained how secure attachment or parental love literally hard wires the baby’s brain,” Leadsom wrote in 2012.

and

6. No money for wind farms

“I completely welcome the announcement from the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for winds farms,” she wrote in 2014.

and, particularly ludicrously

8. Those US presidents getting invites before us

“How can France be hosting the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings with Sarkozy and Obama (neither of them a twinkle in their father’s eye in 1945) in attendance, and yet the Queen of Britain, Canada, and Australia (who was not only alive, but who also served in the war) was not invited until two weeks ago?”

Now, one can disagree vehemently with one or many of these points. This blog certainly does not share Andrea Leadsom’s reflexive opposition to gay couples adopting children, for example. But sincere political disagreements on social, cultural and economic issues – the full range cited throughout the New Statesman’s tawdry hit piece – should be possible without us becoming physically afraid of one another.

Yet the New Statesman presents these rather pedestrian conservative positions and then exhorts its readers to be “truly terrified” by what they see. The magazine does not encourage them to challenge the validity of Leadsom’s views, much less offer its own point-by-point rebuttal. The fact that Leadsom is wrong is taken for granted, which is bad enough, but worse still is the fact that the New Statesman seeks to provoke an emotional rather than an intellectual reaction.

This is exactly what so many commentators (including that magazine) were telling us we should not be doing in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP. Less than a month ago we were being told to respect one another’s opinions and engage in calm, rational dialogue. Yet when it comes to confronting conservatives, many opinion leaders on the Left are more than happy to provoke angry, confrontational responses – whether they take the form of hateful mobs outside the home of Boris Johnson on the morning after the EU referendum or articles instructing people to actively fear conservatives.

This is an exclusively left-wing phenomenon. While there are plenty of nasty, stupid reactionaries on the conservative side, rarely do they treat left-wingers as a physical or emotional threat. The murderer of Jo Cox, to the extent that he was motivated by politics rather than madness, is the great exception to this rule. The Left, by contrast – particularly that part of the Left which has been captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics – are starting to treat anybody who does not agree with and actively validate their ideas as enemies, literal enemies who mean them harm. If this atmosphere persists, how long will it be until some mentally unstable left-winger, taught by the commentariat to believe that political disagreement is akin to an act of harm, lashes out at an opponent with potentially tragic consequences?

One way or another, we are all going to have to coexist on this island – at least, those of us who are not bizarrely reacting to the Brexit vote by flouncing off to independent countries without an NHS will still have to deal with each other. Treating half of the country as actively dangerous people of whom we should be terrified is about the least conducive thing to bringing about that spirit of tolerance, and the New Statesman should be ashamed for its part in feeding this atmosphere of hysteria.

And look at some of the things which the New Statesman wants its readers to be terrified about. Andrea Leadsom celebrated the potential end of subsidies for wind farms – how scary! Leadsom wants to invest in “psychotherapeutic support for families struggling with the earliest relationship with their baby” – why, she’s just like Genghis Khan! She didn’t take kindly to President Barack Obama interfering in our internal EU referendum debate, and dared to say so – what an awful, America-hating isolationist!

The disbelieving hysteria which greeted Ed Miliband’s 2015 general election loss and now the 2016 EU referendum result shows that much of the modern Left is already utterly incapable of empathising with those holding other viewpoints – and in some cases simply cannot conceive of their existence. Time and time again we hear tearful sob stories from disappointed lefties that they don’t understand how they lost, because everyone they know voted the “right” way.

But with tawdry articles such as this, the New Statesman seeks to turn that gulf of incomprehension into a gnawing, corrosive and dangerous fear of conservatives, and of any ideas outside of the insular leftist orthodoxy. And this could potentially be disastrous for our country, not to mention for individual conservatives currently being demonised as terrifying, two-dimensional cartoon bogeymen rather than thinking, decent people who just happen to have a different outlook on life.

So how should we respond to opposing political views in the post Jo Cox era? Here’s a tip for the New Statesman and everyone else in the media:

If your article encourages people to learn more about those opposing views, or presents an intellectually grounded rebuttal of them, then you’re doing it right.

If your article is a smug, self-satisfied and fundamentally uncurious exercise in confirmation bias, designed to delegitimise and vilify the sincerely held political views of others, then you haven’t learned a damn thing.

 

Trigger Warning

Top Image: Herald Scotland

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