The Moral And Intellectual Cowardice Of The Pro-EU Left

Ken Loach - Another Europe Is Possible - EU Referendum

The modern Left loves the EU because having lost the public argument for socialist policies, they see in Brussels their last and best hope of imposing their left-wing ideology on an unwilling population

Tom Slater has an excellent piece in Spiked, in which he takes to task all of the big name lefties – some of whom previously toyed with supporting Brexit as they watched the EU’s antidemocratic behaviour with growing horror – who are now supporting the Remain campaign, and thus betraying democracy when it truly matters.

Slater writes:

The last few prominent Eurosceptics on the left have started to peel away. They’ve been confronted with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to smash power, to strike out for democracy and to put the future of European politics firmly in the hands of the people, rather than a faceless, byzantine bureaucracy. And they’ve bottled it.

First there’s Yanis Varoufakis, the flash stepdad of European leftism and the former finance minister of ailing Greece. This is a man who has experienced the tyranny of the Brussels set firsthand. His modest proposals for rescuing debt-laden Greece from EU-enforced austerity were ignored. ‘Elections’, he was told by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, ‘change nothing’. He quit government in protest as his Syriza comrade Alexis Tsipras signed an agreement that would once again shackle Greece to Troika diktat. What is the self-styled ‘erratic Marxist’ up to now? He’s touring the UK, telling Brits to say ‘Oxi’ to Brexit so that we can ‘reform the EU from within’.

Then there’s Owen Jones, the Corbyn choir boy who has followed the Labour leader’s transformation from Bennite Eurosceptic to apologetic Remainer. Last summer Jones called for the left to campaign for Brexit. After the horrors of Greece, he wrote, it’s time to ‘reclaim the Eurosceptic cause’. Now, just 10 months on, he’s joining Varoufakis on the campaign trail. His flirtation with principle over, he wants to ‘unite with people across the continent to build a democratic, workers’ Europe’. How propping up a democracy-thwarting institution puts you in line with the little guy is beyond me. Not least when said institution has effectively abolished workers’ rights in austerity-battered countries like Greece.

But perhaps the most glaring retreat of them all has come from Paul Mason. The former Channel 4 economics editor and ‘radical social democrat’ actually had the brass to pen an article titled ‘The left-wing case for Brexit (one day)’. One day. Those two, trembly words sum up the sentiment of these fair-weather Eurosceptics. Yes, yes, democracy – one day. Not now. Especially when, as Mason sees it, a Brexit would allow Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to ‘turn Britain into a neoliberal fantasy island’. He’s in favour of democracy, you see, just not when the pesky demos elects a government he doesn’t like. This is hypocrisy dressed up as strategic nous.

Tom Slater is absolutely correct to denounce each and every one of these reversals as a shameful failure of courage. His piece is entitled “The Progressives Afraid Of Change”, and regrettably that is exactly what we see from the supposedly ideologically pure Corbynite Left. Yet after having grown in prominence and power primarily by denouncing the compromises and betrayals of the centre-left, these virtue-signalling true believers are now selling out British democracy in exactly the same way, proving that they are no better than the Blairite New Labour government which they so despise.

This blog has also taken each of the prominent leftists identified by Tom Slater to task for their utter failure of courage and vision. My critiques of Owen Jones are here, herehere and here, Yanis Varoufakis here and Paul Mason here.

Slater continues:

In fact, it’s worse than that. It’s often said that the shift in left-wing attitudes towards the EU over the past few decades has been the result of pure political contingency. When, in the 1970s and 80s, the EU was seen as an avowedly capitalist project, Labourites and trade unionists took arms against it. Now that it’s been given a social-democratic lick of paint, replete with talk of workers’ rights and free movement, it gets the nod. But there’s something even more sickening going on here. These turncoat Remainers, these radicals for the status quo, don’t just bristle at the turn of public opinion, on economics or migration – they’re scared of it. Their Brexit-phobia is really a fear of the demos itself.

You see this in their panic-stricken talk of the furies Brexit might unleash. ‘We don’t know… how the plebeian end of the Leave campaign will react if they lose. My instinct says: badly’, writes Mason. Varoufakis, meanwhile, is even more pessimistic. Only fascists and racists, he says, will profit from the demise of the EU. A Brexit now would mean ‘anti-migrant racism, pandered to by the political establishment for decades’, writes a commentator in the New Statesman. There is constant talk of chaos. Democracy is seen not only as disagreeable, but as dangerous. The left, once intent on stirring the passions of the people, now wants to keep a lid on them at all costs.

This is why you shouldn’t take the left appeals to ‘reforming the EU from within’ seriously. Not only because Cameron’s paltry renegotiation revealed an EU incapable of making even minor concessions. Not only because the only salient proposal Varoufakis’s Democracy In Europe Movement has managed to come up with is livestreaming council meetings. But because the cowardice of the left in the face of Brexit is bred of the very same fear of an unshackled demos that forged the European Union in the first place.

Devastating, and utterly correct. For the European Union itself was deliberately designed to muffle and constraint the voices of national electorates, replacing them with the cool, cerebral and detached government of a supranational European elite, which is exactly what the pro-EU Left now want – a tool to suppress what they see as the “dangerous” authentic voices of the people.

Slater concludes:

The modern left’s detachment from the masses, its sneering distaste for our habits and desires, has fostered a profound fear of change itself. Their paranoia about where unleashed public passions might flow has led them to cling to the status quo for dear life. These are progressives terrified of change – and terrified of us. Faced with the opportunity to demolish an anti-democratic order, they are standing athwart, yelling Stop. History will not be kind to them.

But it is worse than a mere lack of vision and fear of change. Most offensive of all is the grubby desire of the pro-EU left to bypass democracy altogether, to give up on trying to persuade national electorates of the value of left wing policies and simply impose them from the EU’s unaccountable, supranational higher level of government.

As this blog recently put it:

The Left look around and see free markets accepted and delivering prosperity in nearly every country, including those who have sworn eternal opposition to capitalism. And despite the Corbynite takeover of the Labour Party in Britain, there is still no evidence of a groundswell of public longing for 1970s style statist economic policies to be brought out of mothballs. What chance, then, does the Left have to bring more of the economy under state control other than the extreme long shot of seizing control of Europe’s supranational layer of government on the back of the supposed European left-wing popular movement (DiEM25) talked up by Varoufakis and Jones?

As Varoufakis admits, “the retreat to the nation state is never going to benefit the Left”. The Left can only advance their cause by sidestepping nation states altogether, which means taking control of the EU, where national legislatures are bypassed and unpopular and even hated policies can be imposed on the peoples of Europe with very limited opportunity for effective resistance (see Greece). This may seem laughably unrealistic – and it is. But it is the Left’s only remaining hope, and so they cling stubbornly to their delusion even if it means betraying democracy and supporting the EU in its current form (and with its current policies) until the time comes for their popular revolution.

And that, to my mind at least, is the most disappointing thing of all. Even pugnacious, articulate left-wingers like Owen Jones and Paul Mason are unwilling to achieve their desired ends by first winning the public debate and then winning a national election. Their commitment to democracy is so feeble that they would rather see their preferred policies foisted on an unwilling British people from above by the European Union rather than do the hard work of winning support for those policies among the British electorate.

Of course, they don’t explain it this way themselves. Talk to Owen Jones and Paul Mason and you’ll get an earful about their deep concern for workers’ rights or some other emotive issue. But when push comes to shove, they would rather live in a country where their minority opinions were forced on the majority by Brussels than do the hard work of convincing voters of the necessity for left-wing policies.

And the Left are perfectly entitled to that opinion. They are entitled to advocate for Britain to remain in the European Union because they do not trust the British electorate to support what they see as essential policies at the ballot box. They can do all that. But they cannot any longer call themselves supporters of democracy.

 

Postscript: Look at the image at the top of this article, showing a quote by filmmaker Ken Loach, in which he openly boasts that the chief advantage of the European Union is that it thwarts the will of democratically elected national governments. This is the toxic, antidemocratic position which left wing favourites like Owen Jones and Paul Mason have decided to embrace. Shame on them.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 37 – Whisperings Of A Revolt

NUS Disaffiliation Campaign

Has the NUS finally gone too far?

All tyrants, petty or otherwise, eventually go too far and overextend their vast authority. Maybe they get cocky. Maybe they surround themselves with so many Yes Men that they lose the pulse of the people. But inevitably, somehow or other, they will at some point find themselves overextended, and see their exalted position threatened as a consequence.

It is delightful to see such a thing now happening to the National Union of Students, that censorious, moralising platform for embryonic leftist politicians and demagogues, which long ago gave up any pretence at advocating for students, preferring to exercise paranoid control over them instead.

Now, some students are fighting back. A number of smart, more liberty-minded students have realised that since most Student Unions derive their democratic “legitimacy” from a vanishingly small slice of their respective student populations, it should be relatively easy to mount a small insurgency of their own to topple the Social Justice and Identity Politics cultists in charge, and make their local unions work for the students rather than simply trying to control their thoughts, behaviour and speech.

Hence the brilliant NUS disaffiliation campaigns now springing up at campuses around the country.

Spiked’s Tom Slater reports in The Spectator:

In a move that has left student union politicos across the country clinging to their therapy dogs, the University of Lincoln Students’ Union has voted to disaffiliate from the NUS. Springing from the new, anti-NUS sentiment that is brewing on campuses across the country, Lincoln students voted 881 to 804 to leave.

This was a big breakthrough, putting wind in the sails of disaffiliation campaigns currently being fought at York, Oxford, Exeter and Manchester. And though this was all sparked by the election of new NUS president Malia Bouattia – the overgrown student fond of waxing lyrical about the ‘zionist-led media’ – the gulf between NUS leadership and its members has been growing for years.

After Lincoln’s vote, outgoing NUS president Megan Dunn said she was ‘sorry this decision was made by such a small number of students’. Which was a bit rich, seeing as she was elected in 2015 by a whopping 413 NUS delegates, and turnout at campus NUS elections – which select those delegates – is notoriously low.

Lincoln’s vote is significant. Not least because so many felt so detached from the NUS they didn’t even turn out to vote. And, in an interesting twist, Lincoln SU’s own president appeared to approve of the move, telling the Independent that ‘for some time… the NUS has been far removed from the issues our students tell us are important’.

And now Newcastle University has followed suit:

Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) has become the second to announce it is to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS) following a controversial National Conference in Brighton last month.

The move has come as a double blow for the national student campaigner after Lincoln University announced on Monday it, too, will be breaking away from the NUS at the end of the year.

NUSU confirmed on Thursday that 1,469 total votes had been cast in the referendum by Newcastle University students, with a majority of 67 per cent voting in favour of disaffiliation.

Brilliant. While this blog contends that the power and influence now wielded by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics can only be truly broken when those with most authority – professors and university administrators – finally rediscover their backbone and begin to defend academic freedom and free speech rights, it is heartening to once again see students in the vanguard of the resistance.

For in truth, it is in the interests of almost no students – save the Identity Politics priests who derive power and influence from policing the culture of their institutions and the behaviour of their peers – to allow the NUS to continue along its present, authoritarian path. As Tom Slater argues in The Spectator, students deserve local unions which fight for their interests as students, rather than a union which wastes its time fighting a culture war and playing off different groups of students against one other based on an arbitrary judgement over how “oppressed” they happen to be.

The growing NUS disaffiliation movement should be encouraged and helped to spread like wildfire, burning through the rotten foundations and (ideally) causing the whole organisation to topple. And now is the time to strike, when the enemy is dangerously overextended, making very specific and highly controversial claims (pro-censorship and the identity politics agenda) on behalf of all students when in fact they speak only for a small but noisy illiberal minority.

First Lincoln, then Newcastle. Who will be next to throw off the puritanical, totalitarian shackles of the National Union of Students?

 

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Arrogant MPs Want To Turn Political Debate Into Their Own Safe Space

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Being heckled and pilloried by obnoxious online trolls is a regrettable part of the job description for any 21st century MP. But the right answer is to ignore the idiots and move on, not to impose draconian codes of conduct or prison sentences for insulting speech

When Britain is in the midst of debating great issues of war and peace, it is frankly astounding that much of the media seems more concerned with the hurt feelings of Labour MPs threatened with deselection by angry constituents than the consequences of British military action in Syria.

In the aftermath of the Syria vote in parliament, I saw one newspaper headline in particular that represented such an unhinged piece of self-aggrandising hyperbole that it made me do a double-take:

Jeremy Corbyn has made us targets for jihadists - shadow cabinet - Syria vote - ISIS.jpg

Apparently, by failing to assume direct control of the hearts and minds of every single one of his supporters – and physically preventing them from blowing off steam in the aftermath of the Syria air strikes vote in Parliament – Jeremy Corbyn is personally responsible for endangering the lives of those MPs who voted with the government for military action:

Jeremy Corbyn has made his MPs targets for home-grown jihadists in the wake of the vote to back Syrian air strikes, a shadow cabinet minister has warned.

The accusation that MPs are being left open to revenge attacks came as a backbencher made a formal complaint to Labour’s chief whip over Mr Corbyn’s “despicable and deliberate” threats over the Syria vote which he said will lead to “personal violence” against MPs.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote, which saw 66 MPs defy Mr Corbyn to back David Cameron’s plans for military action, Labour Unity, a hard-left organisation linked to the party leader, released a “traitor list” of backbenchers who should be targeted for de-selection.

Mr Corbyn and his allies have been directly accused of “aiding and abetting” the intimidation of Labour MPs by leaking the names of MPs preparing to back the Government in recent days.

This is not a joke. A member of the Labour Party shadow cabinet – a fully grown adult with an important constitutional role to play in our democracy – serious believes that by expressing his scepticism about air strikes on Syria, Jeremy Corbyn has made dissenting MPs vulnerable to terrorist attack. They believed it strongly enough – or hated Corbyn enough – to give these quotes to a national newspaper.

First of all, Jeremy Corbyn needs to identify who this self-aggrandising crybaby is, and kick them so hard out of his shadow cabinet that they end up back in local government debating bin collections and street lighting. Such brazen disrespect of the leader is absolutely intolerable in a serious political party.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, tolerates self-important asides from whiny, self-entitled members of his own shadow cabinet every single day, which suggests that he has the patience of a saint, whatever his many other flaws. But no leader should expect to be confronted with daily leaks and insubordination of this kind from their own shadow cabinet, particularly scurrilous juvenile fantasies that he is somehow endangering the lives of his colleagues simply by disagreeing with them.

This blog agrees with almost none of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist platform, but this open defiance of the leader has to stop if the Labour Party ever hope to be taken seriously as a cohesive force in British politics. Right now, the only hope for the Labour centrists is that Corbyn proves himself to be so unelectable in the London mayoral, local and devolved assembly elections that real momentum builds for him to be replaced.

By constantly snarking and running to their media sources in the media every time Corbyn’s leadership style hurts their pwecious wittle feewings, Corbyn will be able to point to all of this insubordination later on, when he is on the ropes, and say that he is failing not due to a popular rejection of his policies but thanks to disloyalty from his own shadow cabinet. This is the last thing that the centrists should want, but in typical myopic fashion they are totally incapable of looking more than one step ahead.

Syria Vote - Trolling - Online Abuse - MPs

But it’s not just the fifth column within Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet who are at fault. An increasing number of MPs from all parties (but particularly Labour) are speaking out, claiming that robust and sometimes distasteful criticism of their political views and voting records is somehow tantamount to “bullying”.

This has now reached the point where even expressing the view that your MP is doing a bad job and should be deselected as their party’s candidate at the next general election is also being described as “bullying” by some self-entitled and wobbly-lipped MPs.

The BBC reports:

Ann Coffey, who has represented Stockport since 1992 was told: “Get behind the leader or kindly go.”

In response, she said she will “await the assassins to come out of the shadows”.

Assassins? What Ann Coffey is referring to is the great fear now stalking the Parliamentary Labour Party – deselection.

While the Metro reports on the party establishment’s hurt response:

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who voted against air strikes, called on Mr Corbyn to show ‘no tolerance’ of abusive behaviour within the party and said a code of conduct was needed for members’ use of social media.

He was particularly disappointed with the treatment colleague Ann Coffey had received after voting for the strikes.

‘She has served Stockport, her constituents and our party for many years with distinction, and people need to have a look at themselves before they go around throwing threats at people like that,’ he told BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire Show.

Whether Ann Coffey has served her constituents and her party well or not is beside the point – it is not for Andy Burnham, a fellow MP, to decide on behalf of Coffey’s constituents whether or not she should continue to be their Labour Party candidate, nor to shield her from public criticism.

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This is a ludicrous state of affairs. MPs are grown adults, serious people who should be capable of participating in the rough and tumble of democratic debate without needing some higher authority to step in and moderate the debate to spare their delicate sensitivities.

Spiked’s Tom Slater agrees, writing:

Let’s get a few things straight. First of all, if you’re over 16 – let alone a prominent politician – you’ve got no right to claim you’re being bullied. Bullying is what happens in the playground. And most kids put up with far worse than a few nasty emails. It’s pathetic. Secondly, being called a ‘baby killer’ isn’t nice, but it’s not abuse or intimidation. It’s political critique – asinine, sixth-formerish, idiotic political critique, but it’s political critique nonetheless. And as for those who have claimed to have received death threats, they’re just not credible. Neil Coyle MP contacted the police, all because someone tweeted three knife emojis to him. Jesus wept.

[..] This is bad news for politics. The war on trolling, we were told, was all about protecting poor, vulnerable people from being hounded out of the public square. Now, 40-plus politicians are using the same language to protect themselves from criticism. In these strange political times, we need more conflict, more argument and, yes, more abuse-hurling. Politicians crying foul when someone disagrees with them – that’s what the ‘kinder, gentler’ politics looks like.

It is bad enough that our universities – supposedly places of intellectual rigour and ‘no holds barred’ debate – are turning into soft cornered safe spaces where delicate snowflake students insist on being protected from ever having to encounter a dissenting or provocative opinion. But apparently the disease has not been contained and has spilled over the borders of academia into the very heart of our democracy, the political sphere.

This is exceedingly dangerous. Angry, safe space-dwelling students are proving themselves more than capable of stifling debate, changing whole curricula and agitating for decent staff to be fired, despite having almost no formal power in the university hierarchy system. How much more damage, then, can elected MPs do to our already-weakened free speech rights when they are the ones setting the political agenda and making the laws that we must follow?

Enough is enough. Being told that one has blood on one’s hands because of a vote for military action may be jarring, unsettling and nasty. But MPs should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and engage with those constituents who engage with them respectfully, whilst either ignoring or belittling those who are rude or aggressive.

In fact, Labour MP Stella Creasy herself – usually leading the charge to criminalise Twitter abuse – inadvertently demonstrated how best to handle mean Twitter insults in the aftermath of the Syria vote when she responded to a member of the public who swore at her and called her a witch:

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Highlight the idiocy, publicly smack it down and move on. Or simply ignore the haters altogether. That’s all an MP has to do.

This should be the model which all MPs follow, all the time. Engage with the genuine constituents, especially when they are legitimately angry. Ignore those who are gratuitously mean, insulting or belligerent. But only report to the police those who make serious and credible threats of physical harm.

This is how anyone who has ever worked in a private sector customer service job would handle their interactions with the public every single day. Ask any London bus driver if they call the police every time they are demeaned, insulted or “bullied” while at work, and they would laugh in your face. When you work in a tough job like that, you grow a thick skin.

We should expect no less maturity (in the face of occasional public immaturity) from our elected representatives in Parliament.

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